There has been a settlement on the site of Barcelona for several thousand years. It was a major Roman port, and the name is very old, but its origin is disputed. It was the center of the region of Catalonia, and its rulers grew very strong as the Counts of Catalonia. Eventually through dynastic marriage it merged with the Kingdom of Aragon and then with the united monarchy of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile, which became united Spain. It maintained its identity, however, and its Catalan language, not without determination and struggle. It is the sixth largest metropolitan area in Europe and the largest port on the Mediterranean.

In Manresa Ignatius had drawn the attention of a number of upperclass women who took care of this obviously holy man. Once he got to Barcelona, he received hospitality from Ines Pascual, who gave him accommodation in a small room in the garret of her home. Her son, Juan, later told how he had heard Ignatius at his nightly prayers whispering: “O my God, how infinitely good thou art, for thou bearest with a man who is so wicked and corrupt as I am.”

During this time Ignatius met Isabel Roser, who became a faithful friend and helped him on his return to Barcelona after Jerusalem. In fact she, with two others, some years later were in fact members of the Society of Jesus for about a year. From Barcelona he arranged his passage to Jerusalem; after Jerusalem he returned here and stayed about two years as a student. — Ed Schmidt, S.J.

From the “Autobiography” of St. Ignatius

In the beginning of the year 1523… he set out for Barcelona. Many [from Manresa] offered to accompany him, but he refused, as he wished to go alone. He expected to derive great advantage from placing his whole trust in God alone.… If he took a companion, when hungry he would look to his companion for food; if exhausted, he would call on his companion for help; and so he would confide in his companion, and have some affection for him: whereas he wished to place all this confidence, hope, and affection in God alone. These words were not a mere expression of the lips, but they were the true sentiments of his heart. For these reasons he wished to embark not only alone, but even without any provision for the voyage.

When he arranged about his passage, the captain agreed to take him free, as he had no money, but on condition that he should take with him as much sailors’ bread as would suffice for his sustenance. Were it not for this condition imposed by the captain, Ignatius would have refused to take with him any provision at all.

When he thought of procuring bread, he was much troubled with scruples. “Is this your hope and faith in God, who, you were sure, would not fail you?”  The force and violence of the temptation were such that he was greatly distressed. Good reasons on both sides presented themselves. Finally, in his perplexity, he determined to leave the matter to his confessor.… His confessor decided that he ought to beg what was necessary and take it with him.… When he had secured the bread, before going on board he took care to leave behind him, on a bench on the wharf, five or six Spanish coins, which had been given to him as alms.

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Reflection by pilgrim Donna Gann

As we’ve travelled on our pilgrimage, I have reflected on the pilgrimage Ignatius made almost 500 years ago—and the journeys of the men who followed him through the centuries. Without them, we would not have his words to guide us, through that place of becoming “between already and not yet,” as Father Malone describes it.

donnaAnd, we are not alone. We’re also carrying the intentions of family and friends—and the many prayer requests you have sent us online—as well as our own intentions.

The spiritual journey, letting go of self and letting things happen as God wills, is a life-long journey. But, we are graced by the guidance and prayers of Jesuits through the centuries—contemplatives in action—to accompany us on our way.

We also have each other. Companions were important to Ignatius, and as Jamie, a fellow pilgrim, put it, those on this journey have become “companions of faith.” We met on the plane and discovered many connections between us, connections that have expanded and strengthened day by day as we share our observations, insights, experiences, tears, joy and faith. We have been blessed by so much unexpected grace from the God of surprises but our “companionship of faith” may be the most unexpected and treasured surprise of all because it enables us to share all the others. Thus our pilgrimage has been filled with light and laughter and love. Anthony Mello, S.J., put it well: “You can only be as joyful as you are grateful.”

Pray: Ignatius’s religious conversion led him to some extreme ideas. He suffered from deep  scruples. Friends said he should take a companion for his journey; but he thought this would dilute his trust in God alone. He was determined to go to Jerusalem but hesitated when the ship’s captain said he had to bring bread with him. Fortunately, his confessor relieved his anxiety. Even in everyday life, religious conviction can produce conflict. Do my religious ideals agree with my political ideas? How do I juggle demands and duties that call me in different directions—concern for unknown others or real needs of my family? Does every beggar I pass on the street as I take my nightly walks have to make me feel guilty?

Further Reading 

James Martin, S.J., reflects on the ways in which Pope Francis’ Jesuit spirituality may influence the direction of his papacy:

One of the most popular shorthand phrases to sum up Ignatian spirituality is “finding God in all things.” For Ignatius, God is not confined within the walls of a church. Besides the Mass, the other sacraments and Scripture, PopeFrancis-washing-feet-young-people-God can be found in every moment of the day: in other people, in work, in family life, in nature and in music. This provides Pope Francis with a world-embracing spirituality in which God is met everywhere and in everyone. The pope’s now-famous washing of feet at a juvenile detention center in Rome during the Holy Thursday liturgy underlines this. God is found not only in a church and not only among Catholics, but also in a prison, among non-Catholics and Muslim youth, and among both men and women. Keep reading here.