In the summer of 2015, I had the privilege of following the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola on the Camino Ignaciano in Spain from Loyola to Barcelona. It’s a pilgrimage similar to the Camino de Santiago, except Ignatius literally journeyed in the opposite direction of the other pilgrims of his day #classiciggy.
The Fascinating Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Along the way, my classmates and I were blessed to visit places like the Loyola family home, the room where Ignatius recovered after a cannon ball shattered his leg in battle, and the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Montserrat where he laid down his armor and life as a soldier, promising his service to God.
We visited the cave at Manresa and the River Cardoner and even flew to Rome to visit la Storta and the Church of the Gesu. T
he details of his story and the significance of these locations can be fleshed out with a simple Google search or a chat with alumni of the hundreds of Jesuit institutions around the world. But I don’t think that is what Saint Ignatius would want us to be focusing on. In fact, Ignatius greatly protested the writing of his autobiography. He feared focusing on his own story would lead into the sin of vainglory. It was only after the persistence of his brother Jesuits and their insistence that his life journey could bring others to Christ that he agree to have it recorded.
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The Camino Ignaciano
I embarked on that 200k Camino hoping to know more about this Saint who I’d been learning about for nearly 10 years. I hoped to grow closer with him and to learn to more fully understand his heart. And to my frustration, throughout the long days of mile after mile in the record breaking heat, I felt nothing for Ignatius at all. If anything, with each step I felt myself moving further from him.
What I did notice, however, was an increased appreciation for those first two hours of silent prayer in the morning as the journey began each day. I noticed each gentle breeze and every sliver of cooling shade. I gave praise for the nourishment of a simple meal or a satisfying sip of fresh water.
Relationships were formed with my fellow pilgrims, classmates, and professors as we encouraged and accompanied one another along the way. The generous hospitality we received overwhelmed me. I’ll carry the memories with me for a lifetime.
Closer to Christ: The Mission of St. Ignatius of Loyola
My time on the Camino Ignaciano did not bring me closer to St. Ignatius, it brought me closer to Christ. And that is exactly what he would have wanted. Throughout the Spiritual Exercises and steps of the daily examen, Ignatius invites us to recognize God in all things. In the good and bad, in the big and small.
He chose to name the religious order he founded the Jesuits (or Society of Jesus) so that they would always point to Christ and strive to do everything for the greater glory of God. For St. Ignatius, it was all about Christ.
Today, we remember this amazing man. We celebrate his life and all the good he and the Jesuit order have done for the Church. Let us remember the true focus and intention of his heart and ours, our loving Creator.
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