“And he said to them: ‘Come aside, to a lonely place, and rest for a while’. In fact, there was a large crowd that came and went and they no longer even had time to eat” (Mk 6:31). This text is the one usually quoted to exhort a time of personal reflection on one’s life and future. There are obviously other passages that send us to this, such as the parable of the “prodigal son” (Lk 15: 11ff): after various hardships that force him to hunger and loneliness, this son: “then he returned to himself”, and then the story continues as we know.
Maria Valtorta details the first episode much more. The Apostles had preached and worked miracles, but suddenly, through Mannaen, the news arrives – expected, but in any case terrible – that St. John the Baptist was murdered by a “satanic triad: Herod, Herodias and Salome”. Jesus is warned of this and, after hiding to pray to the Father, as dawn breaks he takes the disciples, who are also pained and physically tired, and after listening to them he decides: “Very well. And you will always do better. We will be together next week. In the meantime… Simone, go get the boats ready. You too, Giacomo”. The dialogue continues with Mannaen: “‘Master, are you going far?’. ‘I don’t know yet … They are tired and in pain. Me too. I count on going to Tarichea, in the countryside, to isolate ourselves in peace…’. ‘I have the horse, Master. But, if you allow, I come following the lake. Will you be there for a long time?’ ‘Maybe the whole week and no later than’” (“The Gospel” 4, p. 322 – Italian edition). Since the apostles are tired from the crowd and beaten down by the bloody death of the Baptist, Jesus shows them the way to resume the path of evangelization with good vigor: “we will be together”, “next week”, “in the countryside, to isolate ourselves in peace”. It looks like a course of spiritual exercises: ‘together with Jesus, in an isolated place, in peace”.
It is my invitation to everyone, all of you. Even though I may not know you personally, I still know – because it is an obvious truth for everyone – that you too need peace, rest and intimacy with Jesus. Our Spiritual Exercises, which by the gift of Divine Providence and Divine Mercy we can organize, are at your disposal. Rest assured: Jesus wants to speak to your heart, and the Exercises are a tool. Certainly not the only one, but one of the concretely possible.
They are of two types, but on the same scheme. This is typically Ignatian and pushes towards a “full immersion” in eternal life with Jesus. As for the differences: one repeats the Spiritual Exercises according to the method of Father Vallet (in Maguzzano – BS); the other follows a Valtortian route (in San Cerbone – LU). Both of them want to guide and lead to physical and spiritual intimacy with Jesus: one is together with him, and everything else is an instrument aimed at this. If someone comes to mind the word: “conversion”, he has understood perfectly. But it is only a question of language: there are spiritual retreats of Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, or many others; the only thing that matters is to live physically – I don’t know how to use another stronger way to say it – with Jesus, because He alone is “way, truth and life”, forever, for eternity.
Perhaps this invitation of mine seems only a “murmur of a light wind” (1 Kings 19:12), but in this light breeze it is God who wants to manifest himself to your heart. And yes, I have to say: time is short for everyone, don’t wait for tomorrow for what you can providentially do today.