I saw this portrait of Ignatius for the first time last year in Manresa, Spain. We rarely imagine Ignatius this way, so gaunt, so stripped bare of any mark of prestige. He seems to offer himself naked of all pretense to the Godde who has ravished his heart and soul.
In a few days, Paul and I are returning to Manresa for a 30-Day retreat, a time of silence and stripping of layers accumulated over the years. All sorts of layers.
As I reflect on our decision to go through with this retreat, I am filled with wonder. Who would have ever thought that I’d be filled with joy at the idea of spending all this time alone with Godde…
Very much as in the case of the Camino, I took the decision to go for reasons then different from what they are today. At first, I wanted to experience kenosis (a self-emptying of my own will); then to understand the Exercises from within so that I would be able to invite others to experience them in their turn.
But a fervor has come into my soul, as if I had fallen in love with Godde in a way never felt before. A sort of call to join Her for a while and let Her guide me to a place I cannot imagine just yet.
A month with Godde, with prayers for several hours a day, a daily Eucharist, a brief encounter with a spiritual guide, all this while looking at the mountain of Montserrat, and possibly once in a while walking the streets and praying in churches and chapels where Ignatius prayed centuries before.
Some time in the past twenty years I once prayed to Ignatius, asking him to help me understand his spirituality. It’s only last year as I was praying in the Chapel of the Rapture in Manresa that I realized how much more I had received than I had asked for.
Now, as I prepare to return to Manresa for an immersion of another kind, I see that the blessings are still being showered upon my head.
I have this strange feeling that the whole of me is going, that is, all those various moments of my life when I did feel the presence of Godde, or her absence. I also marvel that I am called so late in my life to turn my heart, soul, and spirit toward Godde to come as close to Her as is possible on this side of life (and death).
I call it an Inner Camino because I expect good times and dry times and lonely times and ecstatic times. As I walked toward Santiago, I so often felt that I was walking by Jesus’ side. So many times we talked of all sorts of things. This time, I will walk with him to get to know him better, to follow him and love him so much more.
Ignatius is called a mystagogue because he initiates us in Sacred Mysteries. He started nearly five hundred years ago in Manresa. He called his time there his ‘primitive Church’. He started giving his Exercises to women who felt drawn to him. Women still come to him to meet Godde face to face. I will soon be one of them.
Thank you, Ignatius. Thank you, Godde.
Art: Ignatius of Loyola, Montserrat Gudiol, 1991, Manresa. Links:
- Eides Publication #33, Cómo y Cuándo Hacer El Mes de Ejercicios, Josep Luis Corrons s.j.
- The Cave, Place of Pilgrimage and Worship