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