Video excerpts for each site were recorded in 2015

Our day began in Montserrat as we learned more about the struggles, intense prayer, and torment that Ignatius endured in his time at Manresa. Later we made our way down from Montserrat to Manresa in order to visit the Cave of St. Ignatius. There we were able to spend time in prayer and reflection in the same place where Ignatius had received so many spiritual graces.

A view of the mountain peaks of Montserrat from Manresa

A view of the mountain peaks of Montserrat from Manresa

When he left Montserrat, Ignatius had hoped to set out for the port at Barcelona so as to embark for Italy and from there continue his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He learned, however, that there was a plague in Barcelona, so its gates were closed to travelers. He went instead to a nearby town, Manresa. Ignatius would remain in Manresa for 11 months. This place became a real school of his own spiritual and growth, and, as he later wrote, “God treated him as a schoolmaster treats a child whom he is teaching.”

During the day, he attended Mass and Vespers (usually at the cathedral), begged for his food and then spent seven hours in a cave where he could be alone in prayer. The Cave of Ignatius was a natural grotto facing Montserrat in the distance. Over time, a church, a Jesuit residence and center for spirituality were built over the cave. In the late 17th and early 18th century, an elaborate alabaster altar and other decorations were added to the cave.

He also sought out people for spiritual conversations, so that he could learn more about God and the spiritual life. The months in Manresa were a time of great grace and a deepening of his relationship with God, but it was not without its temptations and struggles. In his fervor, he went to excesses in fasting and penances and did damage to his health. He had to learn from others and from his own experiences. He wrote down his experiences and these notes became, in large part, the basis for his classic work, the Spiritual Exercises.

From What is Ignatian Spirituality? by David L. Fleming, S.J.

We might look at Ignatian spirituality as a set of basic attitudes about the pilgrimage we are on. Our response to God is not a one-time, settled thing. Circumstances will change and new opportunities will open up. God will point in new directions. We need to always stay alert and seize the opportunities we have every day. The tools of Ignatian spirituality keep us attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit (p.33).

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Reflection by pilgrim Annette Wright

Some of the conversations today brought back many memories for me. Fr. Malone talked about the times we struggle with desolation, when we wonder if God is even present. In his homily at Manresa he related a moving story about his own struggles when his mother passed away. It brought back a flood of memories for me because I also lost my father when I was younger. I struggled to comprehend that he was really gone for some time. I imagined that he was a CIA operative in hiding and wasn’t really gone. Then one day I had a dream that he was happy and having fun in heaven. My Dad alway liked to have fun, so seeing him having fun was the thing that really reassured me. I was ok with the fact that he wasn’t going to come back and it was all going to be ok. I call these moments, these experiences of God in our lives, God moments.

Montserrat Gudiol, Ignatius in Manresa, 1991

Montserrat Gudiol, Ignatius in Manresa, 1991

I’ve had a lot of moments that I like to call God moments. Even so, I often have a hard time remembering them when I am stressed or going throughout a hard time. But today, I’ve been remembering many different God moments. One of the moments I remember is when my husband’s uncle was dying. His uncle was a priest and I was helping to care for him in our house. About a week before he died two bishops came to the house to celebrate mass at his bedside. He was going in and out of consciousness. As we all replied, “Thanks be to God” after one of the readings, he opened his eyes, turned to me, and staring straight into my eyes said, “You’re welcome!” I was taken aback. I felt that God was talking directly to me through this man. It was a powerful experience; it was a God moment.

In times of stress I tend to forget those God moments, those times when I feel his presence. I start to feel alone and I forget to hold onto those little moments. My prayer is that we can all find ways to remind ourselves of those God moments in the storms that will come. God is always there, sometimes, we need that flash, that shocking “You’re welcome” to remind us that we are not alone and we are not making this pilgrimage by ourselves.

Further Reading

John P. Schlegel, S.J., reflects on his time sitting on the banks of the Cardoner as one of 34 individuals participating in an International Immersion Course on Ignatian Spirituality in Manresa:

In his Autobiography St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote: he sat down for a little while with his face to the river—Cardoner—which was running deep. While he was seated there, the eyes of his understanding began to be opened; though he did not see any vision, he understood and knew many things, both spiritual things and matters of faith and learning, and this was with so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him. It was as if he were a new man with a new intellect.” Keep reading here