POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

The Pontifical Swiss Guards today inaugurated a new website in four languages. Here’s the English: https://www.guardiasvizzera.ch/paepstliche-schweizergarde/en/about-us/

And here is the Guards’ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gsp1506/

Enjoy both! By the way, if you are a Swiss male who has done his military service, you may apply to be a Pontifical Swiss Guard on the website.

POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there was generally little if any news during such a retreat, given that the Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “’Mens nostra’,” On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which was addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.”

In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent.

Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”

He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”

In 2014, the spiritual exercises for Pope Francis and members of the Curia marked the first time that they were held outside Vatican City, specifically in Ariccia, not far from Rome, in a religious house.

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