.- Yesterday, the Holy Father and the Roman curia entered into their annual Lenten retreat, which will last through the week. The Vatican commented today that annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins back to Pope Pius XI.
In December of 1929, the then-Pope marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical "'Mens nostra,' On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises" which he 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, which continues today. 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."
In the Encyclical "Mens nostra", presented at the end of that year, 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”, he said, “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 wrote at length on the history of "Sacred Retreats," citing many thoughts on the subject from his predecessors, from Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, "whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises."
On July 22, 1922, the Pope went so far as to have, "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."
Pope Pius XI expressed the "joy" and consolation" he found in Spiritual Exercises and commented, “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."
The Pope made a strong point to admonish however, "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."