Today we visited the large and impressive Sanctuary (or Basilica) of Loyola in the municipality of Azpeitia, including the actual castle tower in which St. Ignatius was born and where he grew up. Ignatius was born in Loyola in 1491, the youngest of 13 children. His mother died soon after he was born and he was nursed by the wife of the local blacksmith. When Ignatius was 16 years of age, his father sent him to work in the court of the King’s Head Treasurer and he stayed there until he was 26. He then went to work at the court of the Duke of Navarra. In 1521, the French army invaded Navarra and Ignatius, along with one of his brothers, rushed to Pamplona to defend the city. There, he was badly wounded and was brought back to the family home at Loyola to recuperate. He was 30 years old.

The Chapel of Conversion: In this room St. Ignatius recuperated after sustaining a life-threatening injury defending the town of Pamplona. During his weeks-long recovery he began his spiritual conversion after reading about the lives of the saints.

In this room St. Ignatius recuperated after sustaining a life-threatening injury defending the town of Pamplona. During his long recovery, inspired by books about the lives of the saints, Ignatius took his first steps on a journey of spiritual conversion.

The interior of the building has been restored to approximate the rooms that he actually knew in his lifetime. We celebrated Mass together in the room where, during the long recovery from the injuries to his leg, Ignatius had a conversion experience and experienced a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child. For him, it was an awakening to a new way of life.

Across town from the Basilica and the boyhood home of St. Ignatius we visited the Hospital and Hermitage of la Magdalena. Some 15 years after his conversion, in 1535, Ignatius returned to Loyola for a few months from Paris because his doctors advised him that the native air would be good for his health. Despite the insistence of his family, he chose not to stay with his family because he wanted to do public penance for his bad example as a younger man. He sojourned instead at the Hospital de la Magdelana, across the street from the Hermitage of la Magdalena, where he cared for the sick and was known for his preaching.

From the “Autobiography” of Saint Ignatius

[during his convalescence] When he was thinking about the things of the world, he took much delight in them, but afterwards, when he was tired and put them aside, he found that he was dry and discontented. But when he thought of going to Jerusalem barefoot and eating nothing but herbs and undergoing all the other rigors that he saw the saints had endured, not only was he consoled when he had these thoughts, but even after putting them aside, he remained content and happy…. Little by little he came to recognize the difference between the spirits that agitated him, one from the demon, and the other from God.



Photo Gallery (click to scroll)

Message from pilgrim Margie Carroll

Dear Friends,

Know you are with us in spirit and prayer from Loyola, Spain, as we begin our Ignatian pilgrimage! It has been an extraordinary journey so far, especially today as we celebrate the sainthood of Archbishop Romero and Pope Paul VI.

Reflection by pilgrim Lauren Hackman-Brooks

My flight was delayed. This was not how I wanted my pilgrimage to start.

As I sat in the international terminal waiting to meet up with the rest of the pilgrims, failing in my attempts to wait patiently, I recalled the advice sent to us by James Cappabianca, a member of the America team, just before our departure. His final instruction was to think of the pilgrimage as an extended retreat, beginning from the moment we leave our homes.

I wondered what it would look like to enter into this waiting as if on a retreat rather than any other trip. And so, as I ate dinner alone, I resisted the temptation to distract myself with my book or journal or phone. Instead, I looked at people. So. Many. People.

A man wearing very large headphones… A toddler trailing his parents… A woman in a leather jacket…

I remembered something my mom used to ask aloud to me in crowded places, “Where are they going? What’s their story?”

I began to wonder these things about each person who passed. I found myself imagining their lives, and as I created stories for these people, little by little, they became more real to me.

Once together in Bilbao, Father Matt Malone, S.J., welcomed us, inviting us into the story of Saint Ignatius. He was intentional in his emphasis—this is not just Ignatius’ story, it is our story.

For the past 10 years, I have imagined Ignatius’ story. And while his story has long resonated with me, I have observed it as if he were some holy passer-by. But now, I am entering into it, and it is not only becoming more real to me, his story also is becoming my own.

Further Reading 
An excerpt from The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, by James Martin, S.J., on St. Ignatius’s injury during the siege of a castle by the French military in Pamplona and subsequent recovery:

…. During his subsequent convalescence, Ignatius was unable to find books on what he most enjoyed reading: adventure stories and tales of chivalry. The only things available were a life of Jesus and the lives of the saints. To his surprise, he found that he enjoyed the tales of the saints. Thinking about what the saints had done filled him with a sense that they would be “easy to accomplish.” Keep reading here.