While working among early document of the Passionist Congregation the author discovered many interesting items about the lay retreat work.
In the work of St. Paul of the Cross with lay retreats there was one basic idea which unified all his activity. It was especially by means of MEDITATION that he aimed at the reform of the Christian world.
He knew from personal experience the transforming power of meditation. He wanted others to share in this rich “treasure hidden in a field”.
The instruction he gave to Passionists and spiritual directors was “Take this as a rule: work to instill but a grain of prayer in souls, and then you can lead them where you wish.” (POR, f, 611).
In order to spread the practice of meditation more efficaciously, St. Paul of the Cross wanted retreats to be given in the same solitude which he enjoyed.
The tradition continued in the Passionist Congregation. In praise of Father John Baptist of St. Vincent Ferrier, it is written:
“In all our retreats he kept up the custom of gathering together, for a prudent space of time, laymen who desired to make the spiritual exercises. By having them remain thus in solitude, with frequent hearing of the Word of God, the reading of good books, and other devotional occupations, the fruit gained was greater than that of missions.” (Passionist General Archives, The Life of the Servant of God Father John Baptist of St. Vincent Ferrier, P. IV, n. 14, p.298)
[Lay Retreats in the 18th Century, Frederico Minegazzo, C.P., The Passionist October 1957, p. 336]