Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Letter to Cardinal Cushing

by Pope Saint Paul VI


In this message to Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, Pope Paul VI imparted his apostolic blessing on the National Catholic Laymen's Retreat Conference, which took place in the Archdiocese of Boston during the month of August 1966.

Publisher & Date

Vatican, July 25, 1966

To Our Beloved Son, Richard J. Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston:

We are happy to learn that the National Catholic Laymen’s Retreat Conference will take place this year, during the month of August, in your Archdiocese of Boston.

In recent years, religious orders and dioceses have conducted fruitful retreats for men and women in more than 400 retreat houses in the United States of Amer¬ica. Although these have involved over half a million retreatants, much still remains to be done: for the words of our venerable predecessor, Pius XI, are still applicable: “We regard it as certain that most of the ills of our day start from this, that no man thinketh in his heart.” (Const. Apost. Summorum Pontificum 1922).

Of the several laudable methods for conducting retreats for the laity, the method based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola is, since their approval by Pope Paul III in 1548, the most widely used. Retreat directors, however, must never cease to deepen their understanding of the doctrinal and spiritual riches of the Ignatian text, and to express those riches in terms of the theology of the Second Vatican Council. The retreat is not to become a study of Conciliar documents, but the director should present the insights of the exercises, or of any other method he may use, in a theological context with which modern laymen will be familiar.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to dilute re¬treat exercises with innovations which, however good in themselves, would reduce the efficacy of a closed retreat. Such activities as group dynamics, religious discussions and seminars in religious sociology have their place in the Church, but that place is not in a closed retreat, in which the soul, alone with God, gen¬erously welcomes the encounter with him, and is by him wonderfully strengthened and enlightened.

Of such souls the world has great need, as the Conciliar Constitution On the Church in the Modern World says: “The intellectual nature of the human person is perfected by wisdom and needs so to be. For wisdom gently attracts the mind of man to a quest and love for what is true and good. Steeped in wisdom, man passes through visible realities to those which are unseen. Our era needs such wisdom more than bygone ages, if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser men are forthcoming . . . it is, finally, through the gift of the Holy Spirit that man comes by faith to the contemplation and appre¬ciation of the Divine plan.” (Gaudium et Spes 15).

We pray that this year's conference may impart to the retreat movement a new and lasting impetus, and to all participants revived enthusiasm and zeal: and in pledge, of richest divine graces, we lovingly impart to you, beloved son, to the Episcopal modera¬tor, directors and members of the conference, our special apostolic benediction.

From the Vatican, July 25, 1966

Paul PP VI

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