Ignatius has been very good to me. Some time back, I asked him to help me understand him and his spirituality. This spring, I was given the opportunity to attend the Ignatian Immersion Course in Manresa, Spain. Now, I find myself in Rome, able to visit his apartment in the house next to the Gesú, the mother church of the Society of Jesus.
This is the only photograph I took there. I learned in Manresa that some places are filled with the holy and taking pictures is not the thing to do.
After a long corridor, with old prints showing the life of Ignatius and of his first companions, and an elegant staircase, I reached an ancient part of the house. It opened on a surprisingly large and elegantly painted hall. At its entrance to the left, up a few stairs, were the two or three small rooms where Ignatius used to live. At the door of one of them, a small sign requested silence.
I entered the room and found myself in a small simple room all in length, with a beautiful tall painted crucifix and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, an altar at the end of the room by the window and stools lining three walls. This was the oratory where he said mass. Having read his Spiritual Diary, I know that he could take three hours to say mass, as he entered into contemplation and received visions of Jesus or of the Trinity. He called them ‘consolation’, and consolation it was. He also often used to cry profusely as he said mass. As I sat on a stool at the back of the room, facing the altar, I could ‘see’ Ignatius saying mass, and tears welled up in my eyes. They still do as I think of it.
I had an intense moment with Ignatius. I thanked him for the grace of finding myself here, for the time in Manresa, for this ‘understanding’ I seem to be developing about who he was, this growing sense of what his Spiritual Exercises are about.
After the time in the oratory, I visited the two other rooms, one in which were some of the clothes and shoes he used to wear. They reminded me of the current Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, so basic, so utterly simple, poor even. They showed me that Ignatius meant his vow of poverty. How inspiring really.
I see this time with him for what it was: a pilgrimage to the spiritual roots growing in me at such a later stage in my life. I prayed Ignatius to help me find how I can work for Godde’s greater glory. I can hear him tell us, “Go forth and set the world on fire.” Like the fire burning in my heart.
Thank you, Ignatius.