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. — Matt Malone, S.J.
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 Tom Kolon
This morning on Montserrat was another “My God!” moment. The view from the monastery at dawn of the sun burning off the morning fog and clouds that had crept halfway up the mountain was spectacular. I was reminded of the Canticle of Zachariah that we pray in morning Lauds: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Today that prayer held special meaning. The dawn from on high guiding our feet. I’m sure Ignatius (and every pilgrim thereafter) must have felt the same way praying with the monks, looking out from on high.
Yesterday, Father Malone spoke about the institution of the Spiritual Exercises and how initial inward inspection and growth must eventually be turned outward to be a contemplative in action. I was reminded of the Transfiguration when Peter, James and John traveled with Jesus up the mountain. The apostles were awestruck at the splendor and joy, which caused Peter to want to build three tents so that they could stay there. However, that was not Jesus’ plan and they had to go back down the mountain and continue the ministry. It was the same for Ignatius and it is the same for us. We may want to stay up high with the beauty and peace of Montserrat, but we must all travel back down the mountain and experience our own Manresa—our period of surrendering ourselves fully over to God and allowing Him to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Pray: God’s love for us can come in many ways. We can rest in God’s love in reading Scripture, be fed by God’s love in the Holy Eucharist. We can realize God’s love in the gift of being alive, and by using our talents and strength for good. We can be touched by God’s love in the middle of struggle or darkness. Our personal history, the network of relationships in our lives, all speak of God’s love. Our lives have been populated by people who have manifested God’s love to us, even if they did not know it. At Manresa, Ignatius came to know much more deeply how God loved him. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” the prophet Jeremiah says. As you look back over your own life, where have you seen signs of God’s love for you? Can you thank God for these gifts?
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:
It was a very privileged time. As friends in the lord, we walked along the Cardoner sharing our vocation stories. We discovered differences, mainly cultural, but mostly similarities in the how and the why we came to follow Jesus; evidence that “grace builds on nature.”God calls in many languages, but the call to serve is universal.
I had not read the Autobiography of Ignatius, his letters and Spiritual Journal for four decades. Suddenly, I was asking myself “what was my Pamplona—the bone crushing, life changing experience of Ignatius?