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MISSIONS AND RETREATS
1. Missions are a course of sermons and other religious exercises conducted by able priests, for the purpose of giving a fresh impetus to the spiritual life of a community or congregation.
The home missions are quite distinct from foreign missions; they are held for the most part by Religious, the Jesuit, Redemptorist, or Lazarist Fathers, who are specially trained for the work, since the constitutions of their Order specify giving missions as part of the duties of their calling. These missions effect an immense amount of good. Being something out of the common, they make more impression on the parishioners, and the sermons coming “close upon one another, exercise a potent and gentle influence on the heart, as a soft spring rain does upon the dry soil. The Holy Ghost speaking through the mouth of His servants imparts to their words an unction calculated to soften the hardest heart. Many persons also make their confession more freely to a priest who is a complete stranger to them. Missions are generally seasons of grace to a parish; how many feuds are ended, disputes settled, bad habits eradicated; how often is restitution made of property wrongfully acquired, how many souls are won for God, sinners converted and just persons incited to progress in virtue!
2. Retreats have much the same effect as missions.
Retreats, or the spiritual exercises, consist of a series of discourses and religious services held in convents or any other place, for a certain class of persons, whether priests, teachers, or men and women living in the world. The retreat ends with the reception of the sacraments. The exercises, which require the retreatant to labor with greater fervor at the work of his salvation, conduce signally to quicken faith and inspire morals. A clock, although it is wound up daily, after a time needs to be cleaned and repaired; it is the same with the soul, it must ever and anon be stimulated to increased exertion by the spiritual exercises. The saints were wont to withdraw into solitude for a time; Our Lord Himself spent forty days in the desert. The Holy See has frequently urged upon the faithful to make diligent use of the spiritual exercises.
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