Sunday, September 04, 2011

Two days following St. Ignatius.

Truth be told, I am too tired to write right now after two long days of tourism at Montserrat and then Manresa, following in the footsteps of St. Ignatius in northern Spain. Here, however, are some photos to share of our visit to these places.

I hope that you enjoy them!

Monserrat, The Shrine of our Lady, where St. Ignatius laid down the sword of a knight:

Manresa, where he wrote the Spiritual Exercises:

(Disclaimer, I only friend people that I actually have met in person on Facebook for a measure of security and privacy. I am glad to share these two albums from Facebook with everyone, but please don't be offended if I don't respond to friend requests if we haven't met in person. )

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Road in Reverse.

In front of the Barcelona Skyline.

The road from LaStorta was a journey that began for Ignatius in the foothills of northern Spain, near the town of Azpetia. Eventually, after journeys through Spain, the Holy Land, and France, Ignatius ended up at LaStorta praying in a small chapel by the side of the road in sight of the walls of he eternal city. Today I have arrived in Spain, along with the rest of my classmates at the Gesù to being to trace the Spanish part of that journey in reverse. We landed in Barcelona, are staying in Manresa, and eventually will make our way towards Loyola for our retreat and a mass with Fr. General. In these days we are retracing our steps, to find where the road began. Even as we, like Ignatius, approach the final moments leading up to the end of one journey, the journey towards ordination. This seems to be a constant theme of my summer, going back to the foundations of my family, going back to the foundations of my Order, and going back to the foundations of my vocation. That's a picture of me with Barcelona behind me, I have come to Spain for the "Arrupe Month," amidst the Jesuit pilgrimage sites. This time in Spain isn't just a pilgrimage, it is a time which the Society of Jesus sets apart to think and pray about what it is to be a priest. Heading towards ordination, it seems to be a blessed time to get back to basics.

I was talking to my spiritual director the other day and his advice was that we find God at the foundation of ourselves, and when we can genuinely appropriate God's presence there, when we can admit to the wonderful and fearful fact that God dwells and operates in each of us, we can finally come to the fullest realization of ourselves. To do that, though, we sometimes need to retrace our steps.

For St. Ignatius, just like for so many of us, there were wrong turns. I write this from the house built over the cave where it is said that he was in such despair that he contemplated suicide. He was also, even after his conversion, thrown into prison and because of stubbornness, threatened with excommunication. Somehow, he is a saint. I would suspect that his sanctity is born out of precisely this sort of moment, a moment of going back to the roots of who he was, and where his journey began. Once in his life he even went home after he had resolved to leave the world behind to set things right in Azpetia. I am sure that the incredible work that he did on the Spiritual Exercises, which he began in the house I am typing this from and finished in the house that I normally live in, were a recounting of those experience of God's trust and care in his life. As it is, he always reminds us to go back to earlier graces received when he writes about prayer.

The Bridge over the River Cardiner.. taken from my window.

So often things get confusing. There can be a million and one desires which flood our hearts, a billion worries and little cares. That's precisely when we need to follow the breadcrumbs back and take the road in reverse. That is when we need to get back to basics, and to the most basic thing, which is of course our relationship with God. This is not to get back to it in the hustle and bustle of daily life, sometimes we just need to get back to where it all began, drink it in, and be grateful for it. When we can do that, we can loudly proclaim with Mary that "The almighty has done great things for me, from this day forth, all generations will call me blessed," because then we can be bold enough to proclaim that God is actually working through us, and all of the other things, no matter how lost we may have been, in light of God's forgiveness and love, don't seem to matter much. So here I am on the road in reverse, and I have been going backwards all summer, to find my family, my order, my vocation, and hopefully along with Mary be able to really understands what it means to have my soul magnify the Lord.