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, and a boys’ choir since 1223. The monastery has long been home to a legendary statue of Mary, called the Black Madonna.

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. — Matt Malone, S.J.

From the “Autobiography” of Saint Ignatius

When he arrived at Montserrat, he passed a long time in prayer, and with the consent of his confessor he made in writing a general confession of his sins. Three whole days he employed in this undertaking. He begged and obtained leave of his confessor to give up his horse, and to hand up his sword and his dagger in the church, near the altar of the Blessed Virgin. This confessor was the first to whom he disclosed his resolution of devoting himself to a spiritual life. Never before had he manifested this purpose to anybody.

The eve of the Annunciation of Our Blessed Lady in the year 1522 was the time he chose to carry out the project he had formed. At nightfall, unobserved by any one, he approached a beggar, and taking off his own costly garments, gave them to the beggar. He then put on the pilgrim’s dress he had previously bought, and hastened to the church, where he threw himself on his knees before the altar of the Blessed Mother of God and there, now kneeling, now standing, with staff in hand, he passed the entire night.”


Reflection from pilgrim Jamie Clark

Note: Barbara McCooe planned on joining her good friend Jamie Clark on this pilgrimage, before her husband Jack passed unexpectedly. Barbara and Jack have been in our prayers, and today at Monserrat we celebrated a special Mass for their family. Here is a message from Jamie to the McCooe family on behalf of the pilgrims.   

This morning as you prepare yourselves to bury Jack, please know that we journey with you in prayer and spirit as we travel on our pilgrimage to Monserrat.

All along, we have remembered you in prayer: at Loyola, at Xavier and now later this day at Monserrat where we will join together in celebrating Mass specifically dedicated to Jack. It is fitting that as you offer Jack back to God in Ridgewood we will be doing the same here in Spain.

I feel the fact that this will take place in Monserrat is not by chance. Monserrat is where Ignatius laid down his sword and surrendered himself to God. In essence, our Jack has done the same. Drawing his last breath at Villa Marie Clare was Jack’s physical surrender. But, today at his funeral mass, we too are asked to surrender Jack. That is no easy feat.

I think, however, Jack would be touched that this humble boy from upper Manhattan would be commemorated by name,  half way across the world, in Spain where his beloved Jesuits set out to inflame the hearts and minds of men.

Know of my admiration and fondness for Jack. Know also of my love and prayers for each of you.



Pray: Many people come to this holy shrine seeking a blessing from God, from Our Lady. They seek a blessing for themselves or someone else. They bring a need, or ask for a healing of body or spirit. Is there someone, something you want to bring to Mary, bring to God on this holy mountain? Can you bring to God all in your life that needs blessing? Can you bring to God all the people in your life who have given you love; whom you love; who need God’s blessing?


Further Reading

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.