Archives for posts with tag: St Ignatius of Loyola

The Two Standards [SE 136-148]

First Prelude. The First Prelude is the narrative. It will be here how Christ calls and wants all under His standard; and Lucifer, on the contrary, under his.

Second Prelude. The second, a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see a great field of all that region of Jerusalem, where the supreme Commander-in-chief of the good is Christ our Lord; another field in the region of Babylon, where the chief of the enemy is Lucifer.

Third Prelude. The third, to ask for what I want: and it will be here to ask for knowledge of the deceits of the bad chief and help to guard myself against them, and for knowledge of the true life which the supreme and true Captain shows and grace to imitate Him.


I have always felt attracted to liberation theology, possibly because it satisfies my thirst for economic justice. It releases the inner tension I feel when looking at the world around me.

This may be why I so enjoyed an article mentioned by Fr. Jacques Haers, SJ, (who lives and teaches in Leuven, Belgium) in his blog. The article, written by Fr. Victor Codina, SJ, is entitled “Dos Banderas” Como Lugar Teológico (The Two Standards As A Theological Place). It was presented at a Symposium on the Election in the Spiritual Exercises (Bogotá, October 2009). It can be found on the Jesuit site of Cristianisme i Justicia/Eides (in both Catalán and Spanish).

The article took me back to Ignatius’ times in Manresa. On his way to Barcelona, where he was going to take a ship for Jerusalem, he stopped in Manresa for a few days and ended up living there for eleven months (1522-23), mainly in a cave. There he started writing his Spiritual Exercises. He experienced several mystical visions which led him to become not only the founder of the Society of Jesus but also a great saint and mystic, and a spiritual guide for generations to come.

In this article, Ignatius leads us to discover the true face of Godde through a Spirit-driven Jesus who will turn down wealth, honor and pride and choose poverty, opprobrium, and humility. This choice will lead him to the Cross and his Resurrection.

The meditation on the Two Standards, writes Codina, is a reflection of Ignatius’ own life experiences and choices. In the first thirty years of his life, his greatest aspiration was to serve the King of Spain. After a cannon ball in Pamplona shattered this dream, his life abruptly changed course. After some years of soul-searching and spirit-churning, he realized in a vision in a chapel in La Storta, not far from Rome, that he and his companions were asked to serve Jesus and the Trinity.

Victor Codina contrasts the Two Standards, as the Standard of Mammon and that of Jesus, a Jesus who after being anointed by the Holy Spirit at the time of his baptism in the Jordan River, will be driven into the desert by the same Spirit to discern what sort of Messiah he will be. Codina explains that Godde not only chose to be man, but to be a poor man.

That same Spirit, says the author, will lead, inspire, and carry Jesus through his years of mission, helping him to stay on course — and in the process threaten the religious, political, and economic powers of his times. The Jesus we discover, then, through his mission and Ignatius’ Exercises, is the true face of Godde, a face that anyone wishing to follow Christ in one way or another will want to grow into.

Early in his presentation, Codina concludes by saying that Jesus could choose between two “messianisms”:

“the logic of self-sufficiency, security, rationality without mysteries, triumphalism, avoiding conflicts with the political and religious power, removed from the suffering of the people, in the line of ‘courtier prophets’ of the Old Testament who prophesied what would please the king,”
“the logic of solidarity, from the margin and the periphery of the political and religious society, from the people, from below, living the sonship and trust in the Father, in gratuity, in a style of simplicity and poverty as an alternative to the ‘system’, opting to serve before being served, a logic of inclusion and vulnerability in front of the suffering of the people, in the line of the Servant of Yahweh and of all the great prophets of Israel.” (8)

Jesus, Codina says, chooses the “logic of solidarity, from below.”

This article goes beyond these points, while keeping to this line of thought, showing why and how as a follower of Christ one would want to embark on this path — which may often prove more than challenging and even dangerous at times.

As the author contrasts the two “Messianisms”, I could not help remembering the surprise and pleasure I felt in Rome when I went from the gilded baroque of the Gesú, the Jesuit church, to Ignatius’ apartments which were inspiring in their naked simplicity. It also conjured up the difference in style between Pope Francis’ today and his predecessor’s last year.

I have a hunch that our new Pope comes from a theological place similar to that of Fr. Codina’s. By their Latin American origins, both know the great poverty and insufferable injustice one encounters in the streets of Bogota, Buenos Aires or Lima. I feel then for our new Bishop of Rome who might want to bring a new awareness of justice and poverty into our comfort zones.

This is heady stuff for me, something I can relate to. When I tried to share some of my thoughts, I just scared some friends in making them fear that I need to reject the “World” to follow Christ, when in fact I need to make space for Christ in my life and let go of much of what the World tells me I need to have to be happy.

I have not finished thinking about this. I pray for the grace to be led by the Spirit and start living, one tiny step after another, the way my heart seems to want me to live.


Illustration: Montserrat Gudiol, Ignatius in Manresa, 1991


Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will
— all that I have and possess.
You, Lord, have given all that to me.
I now give it back to you, O Lord.
All of it is yours.
Dispose of it according to your will.
Give me your love and your grace,
for that is enough for me.
Sp. Ex. # 234

The first time I ever encountered this prayer, I was in the chapel of a Jesuit Center not far from Paris for an eight-day retreat. The chapel was lovely, light and luminous, with stained glass windows which prayed these words. As I deciphered them, my blood turned to ice and I felt filled with dread. How could anyone come up with such a prayer?

I was new to Ignatian spirituality. I had attended several one-day retreats over the years, but I knew very little of Ignatius, his life, and his writings. I had wanted to discern Godde’s will for me, to find out if there was indeed such a thing, and I had been told that Ignatian spirituality was the way. So I went. Otherwise, I had no background in Ignatian matters. The Society of Jesus was frowned upon where I grew up.

As I look back on this first eight-day retreat, I realize that on this occasion, as in every other following retreat, my heart was set on fire. Encountering Godde face to face is rather inebriating.

This time ‘away’ gave me an opportunity to go back over my life and look at those moments when I had not been at my best. It is then that I was glad to hand over my memory to Godde, a sort of first break into the prayer. My memory was not a gift to Godde, but rather a “Please take this away from me. I can hardly stand it.”

In the eleven years since I saw this prayer, it has grown to be part of my life. Like any other favorite prayer, some line suddenly comes up to my mind when it’s relevant or needed. I often find myself saying it during the night, when I cannot sleep, bothered by one preoccupation or another. When Life does not go my way, Take, Lord, appears on the threshold of my consciousness and I now feel relieved to say it.

I will never be able to fathom Ignatius‘ spirituality, however much time I spend practicing it and reading about it. Maybe this is why it attracts me so much: I see no end to it. It is only now, for example, that I begin to grasp the idea of Ignatius‘ mysticism. Our time in Manresa last Spring did much to help me in this. I have grown to love Ignatius very much, and I certainly wish he could accompany me the way the Trinity did accompany him, the way he accompanied so many women in his day.

My latest glimpse of understanding came when I remembered this passage from the Principle & Foundation:

Consequently, on my own part I ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short one, and so on in all other matters

Sp. Ex. # 23,
George E. Ganss, SJ, ed.

not to seek health rather than sickness… I was being confronted once again by the limitations osteoporosis has brought into my life. Finally, I could make the link between the prayer, Take, Lord, which comes at the end of the Spiritual Exercises, and those lines which come from its beginning.

Accepting Life as it comes, uncovering Godde’s love in whichever situation I find myself, discovering liberation in what looked like shackles in a first time, being able to soar above a situation — for just a moment, of course — and seeing it from another angle, all this Ignatius‘ prayer helps me to do.

This is why I can say, Thank you, Ignatius… Gracias, Ignacio…

Photo: Cova de Sant Ignasi, Manresa, Spain



I wish my Spanish were better and I would translate for you the many parts I love in this book, La Mistagogia de los Ejercicios, written by Javier Melloni SJ, a great ignacianista from the University of Catalunya in Barcelona and residing in Manresa. There he gives wonderful lectures to the participants of the Ignatian Immersion Course (IIC) every Spring.

Javier Melloni looks at the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola from the point of view of ‘mystagogy’:

Mystagogy is a Greek term that literally means “initiation into the mysteries.” It is composed of two roots: “Mystos”, “belonging to the mysteries” and “Agia” noun of the verb “ago”, meaning “lead”. “Mystery”, in turn, means literally “the secret, what is hidden.” It comes from the Greek verb “myo”, “keeping lips and eyes closed”. Mystagogues, in the Hellenic world, were those priests who were initiated into the mystical experience of the sacred, through very precise rites.” (p. 21)

… “Applying the term mystagogy to the Exercises. we intend to show that the act of freedom that the Exercises encourage, springs from a bottomless Depth, which does not originate in us. The Exercises free us because they transform us; and they transform us because we come in contact with the Source of our being. Being re-created, we generate new events, for participating in the Source which gives us our being. The Exercises lead to such a Source. And they show that there is much more participation with more dispossession. Such is the Mystery in which we delve: the more we lose ourselves in God, the more we meet ourselves again. “Unless a grain of wheat dies …” (Jn 12:24).” (p. 22) …

Anyway, when my Spanish improves, I’ll be able to share more of it. Until then, I am just translating the book for myself. This morning I came upon a section in chapter 2, “The Anthropological Elements in the Exercices” dealing, among many other things, with disordered attachments (76-77).

“The disorder indicates the error of the direction, which will always be a form or another of self-centeredness and of being ‘devoured’. … The attachments are driving forces that are to be integrated, not neutralized. The “ridding oneself of all disordered attachments” is not to find oneself without attachments, but to direct them to their true purpose: the God who gives himself without possessing or devouring.”

It turns out that the “Meditation on the Three Types of People” in the Exercises is “dedicated to a becoming aware of the passive force of the afecto (the affect, or attachment), illustrating three possible relationships between affect and things. The election is held on this release and transformation of the attachments.”

The three types of people show three different reactions to the same situation. Each person receives a vast sum of money. Ten million dollars are mentioned today. I find it interesting that money seems to have always been a decisive factor in showing what sort of person one is.

The first person takes the money, thanks Godde, and spends it on herself and her family. The second person takes the money, thanks Godde, and proceeds to spend the money on causes and NGOs that will contribute to the building of the Kingdom (or the Christ Project, Louis Savary would say), all the while remaining in control of the money. The third person has ‘”no inclination either to keep the acquired money or to dispose of it. Instead [she] desires to keep it or dispose of it solely according to what Godde will move her will to choose, and also according to what [she herself] will judge to be better for the service and praise of her Divine Majesty… [She] earnestly strives not to desire that money or anything else except when she is motivated solely by the service of Godde…”(Ganss, 157)

What particularly moved me in this meditation was the grace I was to ask for: i.e. “to choose that which is more to the glory of her Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul.” … Saving my soul somehow is not so important, but pleasing Godde is…

This morning then, thanks to Javier Melloni’s book, I had a great conversation with both Godde and Ignatius. It was one of those moments when suddenly I felt thoroughly alive and involved in something I would never have imagined otherwise. I did receive some money not so long ago, and I did spend it on myself and my family. I am thus a first person type. Agh.

“No matter which of the three classes you may fall into,” writes Louis Savary in The New Spiritual Exercises in the Spirit of Teilhard de Chardin, “Godde can use whatever you do to further the Christ Project.” (109)

Javier Melloni’s book is not translated yet into English or French, which is a pity. I find that Ignatian Spirituality comes in many flavors, Anglo-Saxon, Latin American, Spanish, French, Italian… Javier Melloni seems to have fallen into Ignatius’ magic potion at birth: he lives and breathes Ignatian Spirituality as are the other lecturers we had in Manresa this Spring. Hopefully some time soon a good translator and a fine Ignatian mind will tackle Fr. Melloni’s book. Then, expect quite a treat!


 “… And this leads all of us Jesuits, and the whole Company, to be “decentred,” to have “Christ more and more” before us, the “Deus semper maior”, the “intimior intimo meo”, that leads us continually outside ourselves, that brings us to a certain kenosis, a “going beyond our own loves, desires, and interests” (Sp. Ex., 189). Isn’t it obvious, the question for us? For all of us? “Is Christ the centre of my life? Do I really put Christ at the centre of my life?” Because there is always the temptation to want to put ourselves in the centre…” Pope Francis, on the occasion of St Ignatius’ Day at Gesú in Rome.

Kenosis. Imagine my surprise when I read the Pope’s address to the Jesuits in Gesú, the church of Ignatius in Rome, on the occasion of St Ignatius’ Day, and saw that he had used the word ‘kenosis.’

In Christian theology, kenosis (from the Greek word for emptiness κένωσις), kénōsis) is the ‘self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will (Wikipedia). The word ἐκένωσεν (ekénōsen) is used in Philippians 2:7-8:

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

I came across this word studying theology some years back. It became real to me, however, and part of my vocabulary, in the final week of the Ignatian Immersion Course in Manresa this Spring. We were explained kenosis as in ‘the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises [that] can be envisaged as a gradual, systemic unfolding of the Paschal Way’…  The Paschal Way, the dying on the cross, is the Cruci-form of all.” (George Pattery, SJ, Pune).

I left Manresa and the Ignatian Immersion Course with a mind and a heart filled with new insights and Ignatian experiences. The word standing out most of all that I had gathered and learned there was ‘Kenosis,‘ for it seemed to me that the Risen One, the One who had emptied himself of all divinity and died on the cross for us is calling all of us to follow him in this self-emptying. “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Mat 16:24)

What does kenosis mean in ‘real life’? I would say it is pretty much everything I have not chosen, whether health issues, a breakdown in relationship, a death, a pregnancy, job difficulties, money problems, thorny exchanges. My normal reaction is to fight what I don’t want, to resist, to avoid, to ignore. With kenosis in mind, it becomes a sort of mantra, a reminder that what is coming to me uninvited is in fact an invitation to let go, to let Godde, to find Godde in what is coming to me. Kenosis is also a way of accompanying Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane all the way to the Calvary, not carrying his cross, but the one I received.

For quite a while now, I have seen the cross as the narrow gate through which one goes and passes on to another level of understanding and faith. Thus, kenosis is a way to the cross, another sort of Camino if you wish.

It does not mean that I will go out of my way to provoke kenosis in my life. I don’t really need to. It has come to me throughout the years. It is just now that I see it for what it was, for what it is — a way to be a companion on the journey.

What came through my mind also when I read Pope Francis’ remark on kenosis is that this theme may be familiar to all Jesuits, something introduced and often repeated in the course of their many years of studies. The mention of kenosis in the Immersion Course, therefore, would have been just a reminder to the many Jesuits in our midst. For me, it was entirely new and thoroughly enticing. I felt called to kenosis, without ever having the slightest idea of what this would entail. I just know that from the moment we left, anything mildly unpleasant coming my way prompted the word kenosis to my mind and helped me breathe better, to accept it rather than to reject it — all being part of a process of self-emptying.

I am not quite sure where this will all take me — even though  the famous Suscipe prayer of St Ignatius seems to be all about kenosis:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.

Inviting you to a kenotic way of life,

One with you in the Risen One.

Art: Jane Davies, Cruciform Series

Ignasi. This is the way Ignatius is called in Manresa, Catalunya where he lived eleven months of his spiritual journey. He was Iñigo in the Basque country where he was born and at the court of the King where he served, from the age of fourteen till he was thirty. At the battle of Pamplona in 1521 his life changed. He became Ignatius later in Paris.

The picture here comes from a tiled portrait in a corridor leading to the cave where Ignatius lived while in Manresa in 1522-23. It represents the last night he spent as a knight in a vigil in front of the Black Virgin at the Monastery of Montserrat. He offered her his sword and changed his clothes for some beggar’s rags. He had planned on leaving for Jerusalem shortly afterwards, but life decided otherwise: He remained in Manresa instead.

In the weeks I spent in Manresa this last Spring, I often stopped at this portrait, putting my hand on his hand, as much in prayer as in appreciation or in communion.

I could identify with Ignatius at this time in his life. He was still very much willful and desirous to impress God as he had wanted before to impress the king or the ladies at the court. Willful, I often am.

A fire burnt in his soul, a fire that led him to fast for days on end and to pray throughout the nights. He worked at a hospital, he prayed at the cathedral, he strolled along the river Cardoner, and he regularly walked the 25 km to Montserrat. He experienced visions, was in a rapture for several days, he wrote in his notebook, and he already helped souls.

I had my moments with Ignatius during those six weeks. I talked to him, I asked for his help, I questioned him how he did all that he did. I discovered a mystic that was arrested twelve times by the Inquisition because he helped souls encounter the Living Godde — and this was not meant to be possible. I saw a man who chose not to call his order the Ignatians, but rather the Society of Jesus, for all that he wanted was to lead people to Jesus and help them see how they could help the Risen One build Godde’s Kingdom.

My most precious moment with Ignatius during these six weeks happened on the first day of our eight day silent retreat. We had had a first meeting the night before, where I had found out that the theme would be, Thy Love and Thy Grace are enough for me. This came as a sort of answer to a question I had had at our last meeting before the retreat, “How do we dare say, Your grace and your love are enough for me, when that is so very much?”

That first morning, then, I sat at a breakfast table where I was alone for a while. This is when I thought of Ignatius and imagined him at another table, with all his early companions, Peter Faber, Francis Xavier, Diego Lainez, Alonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla, and Simón Rodriguez. They were there to pray with us and to accompany us through this retreat. From this thought on, tears started rolling down my cheeks and within minutes I felt that I could not stay at my table for fear of making a fool of myself. So I grabbed my cup of coffee and my oatmeal and left the room. I went out and sat on the stairs leading to our rooms, in tears. I must have been a strange sight.

I had other moments thanks to Ignatius. During the retreat, I encountered the Risen Christ, so similar in many ways to the statue by Subirachs which I had seen in the silent chapel in Montserrat.

A good friend of mine recently asked me why I liked Ignatian Spirituality so much, since it is “so totally devoid of the feminine.” I am not sure I can answer her question. To me, Ignatius shows me a path to Godde, the Trinity, Jesus; he gives me guidelines on how to discern what comes my way, whether choices or challenges. He helps me see what sort of a person I want to become, what kind of a world I want to work toward. And then, of course, now, I have found companions on the journey, other pilgrims heading to Jerusalem, Rome, or Santiago, and with our universe breathing, groaning, and striving with me.

Ignatian spirituality came to me in a crisis. One thing led me to another till twenty years later when I came to Manresa, where Ignatius’ ‘primitive Church’ began. I found myself in Manresa after having prayed to Ignatius years ago asking him to help me understand what he was all about. One morning, during the retreat, I walked over to the Chapel of the Rapture, this small hospital where he worked and also laid there on the ground at one point for over a week, without eating, drinking or speaking. I prayed for a while and, as I was leaving, I turned to Godde and said, “You gave me so much more than I asked for.” At that point, it was as if, once again, Godde gave me a hug for understanding how divine love works.

One with you in the Risen One.

In the week preceding our eight-day retreat in Manresa, we were given a sapiential [from sapientia, wisdom] reading of both Ignatius’ Autobiography and Spiritual Diary. We were to read these two documents in a contemplative manner, as archetypal stories, in which we can recognize our own.

Let us take the battle of Pamplona (30 May 1521). Iñigo de Loyola is just thirty, a brave courtier and soldier who has just convinced his captain to fight off with a few dozen men hundreds of French soldiers. He is wounded in the leg, badly. He is so courageous in the face of adversity that his enemies pay him homage and carry him back on a litter to his castle in the Basque country (it took the men two weeks to reach their goal — an agony for the young man). Inigo who had not given up his dream to be a great courtier does not like the way his leg has been set and has it broken again. Alone in his room, with nothing to do, he asks his sister-in-law, who’s been raising him from the age of 7 till 14 when he left to become a page, to give him something to read. Two books can be found in the house: one on chivalry (fiction) and a life of the saints.

What happened is well-known: he read both books, at first preferring the one on chivalry, which led him to daydream about feats and conquering the heart of a particular noble lady. Then the life of the saints appealed more to him. After a while, he found out that he felt much happier after daydreaming about becoming a saint than being a proud soldier winning his lady’s heart. [It turns out, by the way, that Inigo had been quite a ladies’ man, which he will continue to be all of his life, really. From a ladies’ man to a ladies’ spiritual guide.]

The cannonball changed Iñigo’s life, from a valiant soldier to a limping pilgrim saint. His days at the Court became part of the past; his journey with Jesus started on his bed in Loiola and finished in the Gesu, in Rome, with thousands of miles walked back and forth up and down Europe in-between. During his weeks recovering in his father’s home, his mind went from the Court of the King to the Kingdom of Godde. Regressing to former days, progressing to where he was meant to go.

A question which was given to each one of us during our Immersion Course was: what is the cannonball which shattered my dreams? What grace came out of it? What are the old me and the new me (my words)? Am I progressing or regressing?

Ignatius’ genius is that he was able to notice Godde’s work in his life, to reflect upon it, write about it, and help others with it.

As I reflect upon my life, I notice several cannonballs really. The first one being undoubtedly my father’s death when I was 16. This drastically changed my life’s direction. Every major drama ever since did the same, till I find myself here today…

The other major dream of Ignatius was to go to Jerusalem, live where Jesus had lived, and save souls there. First, the Franciscans did not allow him to stay. Then, life put one obstacle after another on his path. But he understood his need to study to become acceptable (and less scary) to the Church authorities. After many years of studies, he reached his own Jerusalem, which turned out to be Rome, where he did save souls, there and everywhere else where he had developed friendships. He also trained companions to help souls and founded the Society of Jesus.

What is my Jerusalem? That ultimate beautiful goal that cannot be but which morphs into another goal, so different and similar to that original one.

What is your Jerusalem?

All of this just for you to ponder. As I do keep pondering…

One with you in the Risen Christ.

Photo: Ignatius at the Battle of Pamplona


You are no longer strangers and sojourners,but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Eph 2:19-22

This passage from Ephesians has long been a favorite of mine. Everything about it enchants me. That we are no longer strangers, but companions with the holy ones and part of Godde’s household; that the Risen Christ is the head of it all, that with him we all form a sacred temple and that in him we are made into a place where Godde in the Spirit does live.

I returned from Manresa understanding deep down that through the Risen Christ we all are interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent, not only with every human being on this planet, but with every bit of matter or Nature, on earth and in the Cosmos.

This is where St Paul, Teilhard, Richard Rohr, Sr. Ilia Delio, and so many other men and women who believe in Evolutionary Christianity, talk of the same Cosmic vision, led by the Risen One, the Cosmic Christ.

What I liked in this passage then makes so much more sense today. We are truly all brothers and sisters in the Risen Christ, working together for the coming of the Kingdom — or working against it if one cannot accept this deep connection between all of us.

The Christ project, so clearly explained by St Paul here, inspires me and invites me to get up every morning to work for it.

I found online a website created by Louis M. Savary, the author of The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and The Divine Milieu Explained: A Spirituality for the 21st Century. Below is a quote, from his website, Teilhard for Beginners, which adds to St Paul’s understanding:

For Teilhard, Christ today is not just Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead, but rather a huge, continually evolving Being as big as the universe. In this colossal, almost unimaginable Being each of us lives and develops in consciousness, like living cells in a huge organism. At various times, theologians have described this great Being as the Total Christ, the Cosmic Christ, the Whole Christ, the Universal Christ or the Mystical Body of Christ. (Louis Savary, “The Divine Milieu Explained” )

I will close with another quote, this time from Sr. Ilia Delio, which reveals an angle that Ignatius himself experienced in a mystical vision by the river Cardoner in Manresa.

“God is the unbroken wholeness in movement, 
and creation is movement toward God-centered wholeness.”

We are no longer strangers and sojourners, but companions of Christ and all his saints, all evolving toward the completion of the Creation, the coming of the Kingdom. What an intoxicating reality.

Photo: Giuseppe Peppoloni, Confluence des Religions


At this moment thousands of pilgrims are walking to Santiago de Compostela, having started from hundreds of different places, with as many reasons for walking as there are pilgrims. Their path is holy because they see it as holy, as millions have before, for hundreds of years.

It does not look like this year I will walk the Way again. But then these past two years, we started and both time had to stop earlier than we wanted, as if some part of us was saying, Enough already.

Nearly three months ago, when I reached Manresa and began reading Ignatius’ autobiography under the guidance of our lecturer, and in company of the other participants, I re-discovered that Ignatius called himself “the pilgrim.”

After his being wounded at the battle of Pamplona in 1521 and while recovering from his wound in his family’s home, he started dreaming of becoming a great saint, walking to and settling in Jerusalem, where he would help souls. The Franciscan authorities in the place did not allow him to stay in Jerusalem and sent him packing back home. His pilgrimage had him walk back and forth between Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, England even, Venice and finally Rome. He walked thousands of miles, limping and begging. When he finally settled in Rome, he kept seeing himself as a pilgrim, even though by then he was the one sending others on mission, all over the planet.

Ignatius was a saintly pilgrim; I’m just a regular one. I can’t help being a pilgrim, possibly because of all the highs I experienced while walking. The highs and lows, ecstasy and dark moments of desolation…

In Manresa then, I felt that it might be time for me to become an Ignatian pilgrim, hanging my long-distance walking staff hanging on the side of a bookshelf, and walking with Ignatius. This felt good enough. I would walk in places where Godde wants me to be, at a pace my body allows, and will converse with whomever comes along and wants to talk.

I was settling down with this prospect, when along came a lecturer who presented side by side Ignatius’ mystical vision by the Cardoner river in Manresa and Teilhard’s cosmic vision in Manchuria and everywhere else he lived before and after. Both men being called to develop a ‘Christ-consciousness’, Sr. Ilia Delio would say.

Through Godde, with the Cosmic Christ, in the Holy Spirit, being called to be co-creators of the Kingdom, laboring alongside the Risen Christ to help make a better world. A world which now encompasses the whole Cosmos.

An invitation sent out two thousand years ago, by Paul, to live and die in Jesus;  to empty ourselves as Jesus did, followed soon after by Paul himself, and a multitude of others since then.

My life, like yours I suspect, is a holy walk through events and encounters where Godde every day is waiting for me to notice Her, not only in the e-mail or the phone call I receive, in the birds that keep chirping praises all day, in the green leaves glowing in the afternoon sun, but also in the persons I meet, my old neighbor, my grocer, the child next door. We  are walking our lives together, hoping to create more good than bad, to bring about more joy than sadness, to invite in more than to select out.

We all are cosmic Johnny-Appleseeds, cosmic pilgrims. And the sky’s the limit, with that brilliant Omega Point for all eyes to see, shimmering in the distance.


Art: Fr. McNichols, St Ignatius of Loyola

 If you have not read Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage: The Secret Guide to Making Travel Sacred,  do. It is an inspired book, about pilgrimage, of course, but also about how to mae one’s life sacred, whether one walks thousands of miles or just a few blocks to the local park. You won’t regret it.