The retreats for priests at the time of Eugene usually followed the Ignatian pattern of focusing the person on the realities of death and judgment and eternity as a means to lead the person to conversion and new life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

A strange thing! In this retreat I have not given time to a consideration of the eternal truths that constitute the regular, normal fare of the ordinary retreat. God’s Spirit focused me on myself. I was never done with the reflections or rather with the feeling this topic gave me, for I produced very few external acts; but I continually experienced the desire to renew myself wholly and I repeated interiorly many times this prayer: Spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis (ed. Psalm 51:10” Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.’).

Eugene was clearly focused on what he needed in this retreat: deepen his journey of conversion and transformation.

I have an explanation why I did not feel drawn to meditate on the great Truths. I came on this retreat already decided on the reform that was necessary in my inner self. This thought was uppermost in my mind, my heart embraced it and went with it with all the strength of its affection and desire, there was no need for me to convince myself, whether by seeking to consider my last end or seeking to focus my attention, move me to make resolutions by the sight of death, the fear of judgment, etc. My God’s grace had prepared my soul, I was so to speak already at the point of “the conclusion” when I entered into solitude. Whatever about that, this is what happened.

Retreat notes, May 1824, EO XV n. 156

“Being a Christian is not just about following commandments: it is about letting Christ take possession of our lives and transform them.”        Pope Francis

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    As I reflect on this I also think of the past few days of my own retreat. The title said it all – Discovering and Practicing the Presence of God; Catholic Spirituality for Every Day Living. It sounds incredibly ordinary and paradoxically incredibly exciting. It carries the image of night and day – in the dark of the night the incredibly intimacy of being wrapped and protected in God’s embrace and then with the day, the slow dawning of light and just as the flower’s petals begin to unfold and spread out to share it’s glory with the rest of creation, so to the light allows for the transformation as God’s embrace opens, not to let go, but rather to invite and allow that intimacy to be shared and include the rest of creation.

    I came not heavily burdened but knowing and trusting and expecting God to give me more, to breathe new life into me before continuing on with my own personal journey. And as always I was not disappointed. It came to me as I slept, as I arose and greeted each day, it came as I spoke and listened, shared with everyone else here. It came in being able to see God opening his embrace and see the breath-taking beauty of His love in others. I received this incredible gift of renewal and life, not in the solitude of my room, or the chapel, or in strolling through peaceful grounds – yes through that but somehow I the gift came in the talking and eating with the others, in praying and listening with the others. I “knew” before that it is always with others that I find the reflection of my God – but this time, a new and deeper awareness of this. Not a fireworks exploding wow, but rather a slow dawning of the light wow that permeats every dark corner of my being with the light that doesn’t fade.

    Is this what I came here for – in a word – yes. Is this what Eugene was speaking of? Is this what Pope Francis was talking about? I know only that today with the coming dawn I find the light of gratitude seeping in and permeating my being. I have been nourished and now will go out to share what I have been given – however that might look like.

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