Video excerpts for each site were recorded in 2015

On our way to Montserrat we stopped in the small town of Verdú, the birthplace of St. Peter Claver. With the encouragement of another Jesuit, St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, Claver became a missionary and spent much of his life ministering to the slaves in Cartagena, a major 17th century slave trading hub in Colombia.

After Verdú we wound our way up the hillsides into Montserrat. The name Montserrat means “serrated-mountains.” The mountains and the monastery have a deep appeal to all Spaniards, not only Catholics. There have been monks at the monastery since the 9th century. When we arrived we were lucky enough to catch the end of evening prayers and listen to the L’Escolania boy’s choir. The choir dates back to 1223 and is the oldest boy’s choir in Europe. The monastery has long been home to a legendary statue of Mary, called the Black Madonna.

In 1522, after an all night vigil in front of the Virgin of Montserrat, Ignatius dedicated his whole life to God.

In 1522, after an all night vigil in front of the Virgin of Montserrat, Ignatius dedicated his whole life to God.

Following his conversion experience at Loyola, Ignatius was filled with a desire to go to the Holy Land as a poor pilgrim. To get to the Holy Land, Ignatius had to get to Barcelona so that he could sail to Rome, because anyone wanting to go the Holy Land needed the pope’s permission. To mark the beginning of his new life, Ignatius planned to go from Loyola to Montserrat, the famous shrine of the Black Madonna, which was very popular in the region. On his way, he stopped in several places, including Zaragoza where there was another famous shrine to Our Lady. Leaving Zaragoza, Ignatius went to Montserrat, where he spent the night in vigil before the statue of the Black Madonna and dedicated his whole life to God.

Just before he arrived at the shrine, Ignatius made a very symbolic gesture: he took off his fine gentleman’s clothing and gave it all to a beggar. Then he put on the rough tunic of a pilgrim. In doing so, he imitated what Francis of Assisi did at the start of his conversion.

Photo Gallery (click to scroll)

Reflection by pilgrim Kathy Maguire-Zeiss

When I saw the advertisement for the 2016 Ignatian Journey to Spain I thought, “I am going on this trip.” I have a growing interest, fondness, and respect for St Ignatius and I wanted to see the places I had read about in his autobiography.

Pilgrims from all over the world visit the shrine, lighting votive candles for their intentions.

Pilgrims from all over the world visit the shrine, lighting votive candles for their intentions.

But as we were reminded today on our way to Verdú and Montserrat, Ignatius would not have wanted our attention on him, but on Jesus. And yet, immersing myself in Ignatius’ journey feels right. Ignatius began this journey at point in his life when he was filled with a desire to serve God, but in his own words “he never considered anything about the interior life, nor did he know what humility was, or charity, or patience.” This fills me with great consolation. Here is a saint that started out knowing only one thing, that he wanted to be a knight in service to the Lord. Ignatius, who would one day be a saint, still had so much to discover about himself and God. I can totally relate to this man.

I think that is why I am drawn to Ignatius; he understands my desire to better know, love, and serve Jesus. He understands my need to use my head and my heart in this pursuit. His insight, that God desires a deep personal relationship with each one of us, has changed the world one conversation, one person at a time.

So here I am. Ignatius and I are traveling together on this journey, this pilgrimage. And as Fr. Lingan said to us today, “this pilgrimage has a destination – a life with God.” And God is waiting for us at each stop along the way.


Further Reading

Quoting Howard Grey, S.J., Matt Emerson explores the meaning of “Life as a Pilgrim.”

The pilgrimage metaphor also meant a patient willingness to find God through the journeying. It also meant a willingness to risk a process of trial and error, of successes and failures, of some triumphs but also many humiliating defeats. The pilgrimage, finally, meant taking the journey to God by working for the kingdom in the midst of the world, not secluded from it. Keep reading here

Most people who know the Jesuits are familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Fewer know much about the Jesuit Constitutions, writes John Coleman, S.J.:

In his hermitage at Manresa, Ignatius learned, by trial and error, the delusions of self—how a seeming angel of light could disguise inordinate attachments or mislead. He called these the promptings of ‘ the evil spirit’. He also came to know that God could and would lead the devout pilgrim soul to consolation and deep desires coming from the profound human thirst for God. He also saw that ultimately God presupposes and calls for a profound human freedom. That same honoring of freedom is seen in The Constitutions. Keep reading here.