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Friday, July 14, 2006

CIS Jubilee Pilgrimage: A Jubilee Gift

By: Riza Carasig

The Ignatian Pilgrimage is a retreat giver’s dream come true, a meeting of intense desires that cannot but find fulfillment. This was how our previous article described the pilgrimage being organized then by CIS. And we, who in one way or the other have been involved in this ministry of retreat-giving and spiritual direction, began to witness the unfolding and fulfillment of such a dream as we found ourselves together in the early morning of May 2, 2006.

It was the day our group was to leave for a three-week pilgrimage in Spain and Rome. Just a few days before this, we were all wondering how and where we could possibly celebrate mass. There was no concern as to who would say mass for the group since we were blessed to have in our company four wonderful Jesuits: Fr. Noel Vasquez, Fr. Vic Salanga, Fr. Arnie Bugtas and Fr. Totet Banaynal. Where to have the mass that day however was another matter. Hence, one of the early blessings in this pilgrimage came when we were given the permission to have mass at the airport chapel. Our Eucharistic Celebration that morning thus formally signaled the beginning of our pilgrimage. It was also our way of celebrating the birthday of Eva Galvey, former CIS Executive Director.

A Recap of the Pilgrimage ……

We left Manila that same morning, landed in Amsterdam early evening for our connecting flight and finally arrived in Madrid at close to midnight of May 2. We were met by fellow pilgrims Sr. Mely Vasquez, RSCJ and Maria Luna, who both left for Spain some days earlier.

The group stayed at the convent of the RSCJ in Madrid for 2 days and 3 nights. During this time we went to Toledo and Alcala – the place where Ignatius spent time to care for the sick. The place where he stayed was still there and the pilgrims were particularly thrilled seeing the kitchen in the house where Ignatius stayed and the well where he used to preach. In our trip to Alcala, we were joined by Madrid-based Fr. Louis Catalan. Of course, our stay in Madrid would have not been complete without seeing the cultural side of the place. So we likewise went to see the Royal Palace, the Prado Museum and the Plaza Real among others.

We left Madrid early morning of May 5 and made it to Avila where we visited the convent of St. Teresa. We had our mass at the convent’s chapel before leaving for Salamanca on the same day. Upon reaching Salamanca we went to the Spirituality Center of the Jesuits where we were met by its head, Fr Paco Arrondo. Salamanca was significant to Ignatius because it was one of the places he went to study. The group also went to San sebastian Church where Ignatius was allegedly held.

May 6 saw us heading to Loyola with a brief stop at the Burgos Cathedral on the way. We reached Loyola by mid-afternoon and immediately after taking our lunch we went to the Basilica of St Ignatius and of course the Santa Casa, the birthplace of Ignatius. That same day we met Fr. Lucio, the head of the Spirituality Center. And like in Salamanca, we had a glimpse of the work of CIS Philippines’ counterpart on this part of the globe. The pilgrims seemed not to have enough of the previous day’s visit to the holy house that majority of us opted not to go to the scheduled tour of San Sebastian and chose to spend the day relishing the place. Good choice for most of us because that gave us time to see Ermita de Magdalena, the chapel that was frequently visited by Ignatius. It was here where Ignatius was said to have formed his devotion to the Blessed Mother. The highlight of our visit in Loyola was the Sunday mass held at the Chapel of Conversion.

Even if we wanted to stay longer in the place of Ignatius, we could not keep his other companion waiting so off we went to Javier, the birthplace of Francis Xavier on May 8. But before reaching Javier, we first made a stop-over at Pamplona and there we saw the very spot where Ignatius was hit by a cannon ball. It was beside the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church where a small chapel was dedicated to Ignatius. As we reached Javier, we immediately had mass at the chapel of Francis Xavier. Touring the castle of Javier was another experience for us. On our way out of the castle, we had a chance to pray and spend some quiet time before the image of the “Smiling Christ.”

The following day, May 9 was a long travel for us as we headed to Manresa. But the long trip was certainly worth it. In La Cova de St. Ignasi we spent the next 5 days in silent-retreat. And again we were blessed to see and pray in the places where Ignatius went to during his stay in Manresa. We held our daily mass at the very cave where Ignatius retreated and wrote the Spiritual Exercises. Aside from the cave most of us found the banks of the Cardoner River, the La Guia Chapel and the Basilica of Seu as our sacred spaces for prayer during the retreat. On our last day in Manresa, we had our Ignatian walk. Ignatius spent nearly a year in this place and many known and little known places became very important and significant to him.

We left Manresa on May 16 and went to Montserrat on the same day. Interestingly, the mountain of Montserrat could be seen from La Cova and was a beautiful site for us to behold during the retreat. We heard mass at the Church of our Lady together with the hundreds of other pilgrims that were there. As we know, Montserrat was very important to Ignatius because this was where he offered his sword, the sword that meant a lot to him, before he went to Manresa.

After Montserrat we went to Barcelona and stayed there until May 19. Like what we did in Manresa we also had our Ignatian walk here, visiting the places that were significant to Ignatius. It was also in one of the churches that we visited and had our mass where we saw the actual sword that was offered by Ignatius in Montserrat.

The Spain leg of the pilgrimage ended on May 19. From Barcelona some of us went back home to Manila, some stayed behind for Madrid and the majority flew to Rome. In Rome, we found ourselves well taken care of by the 3 Rome-based Filipino Jesuits. Fr. Vic Baltazar welcomed us at the airport and was with us each day. We toured the Vatican on the day we arrived with Fr. Joe Quilongquilong as our able tour guide. We then went to the Curia to meet the Fr. Edward Mercierca, SJ Head for Spirituality and also to have our mass there. On our 2nd day, we visited La Storta together with Fr. Eric Eusebio, and the seven basilicas that Ignatius and his companions went to. We proceeded to Colegio San Belarmino for our mass and dinner (courtesy of the Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican). Finally on our last day, we had our Ignatian walk in Rome and had our closing mass in Gesu. We ended the pilgrimage at the very room where Ignatius’ earthly sojourn ended.

A Brief “History” of this Pilgrimage........

If you missed our pre-pilgrimage article, let me share with you a portion of what fellow pilgrim Lynn Enriquez wrote. “To better appreciate the significance of this event, allow me to go back to another trip, this time to Baguio, one early morning in January 2004. Eva Galvey who was then the Executive Director of CIS and Oyet Bustamante of EMMAUS were on their way to give the Spiritual Exercises to some members of SJSA. Fr. Noel Vasquez, SJ and the SJSA retreatants were with them. As Fr. Noel, Eva and Oyet chatted about the events and activities of the Society, there was a realization that the two retreat givers have been giving the Exercises for years and yet have not been to the Ignatian sites. Thus was born the idea of putting together a pilgrimage and a retreat for those who have been giving and continue to give the Exercises. As an interested listener, I sensed that Fr. Noel was moved to express his and the Society’s thanks to Eva and Oyet, not just for their work with SJSA, but for all the self giving that is part of and has marked all the 20 plus years they have been in the apostolate.

Fast forward to mid 2005, Fr. Arnie is now the ED of CIS while Eva has moved on to EMMAUS to re-join Oyet. In a meeting with Tina Mossesgeld, CIS Program Manager, who Fr. Arnie has requested to plan the pilgrimage – Fr. Noel has enlarged the original group of retreat givers to include those who have done the Exercises and are potential retreat givers and another circle to include those who desire to have a personal experience of Ignatian spirituality.”

Our Heartfelt Thanks ……

The pilgrims cannot but sincerely thank the people who thought of the pilgrimage and really worked hard for it to become a reality. The support of the SJ Philippine Province was one of the forces that made the pilgrimage possible: from Fr. Danny Huang and Fr. Noel Vasquez to Fr. Arnie Bugtas, Fr. Vic Salanga and Fr. Totet Banaynal. And of course, our dear Jesuits in Spain and Rome: Fr. Louis Catalan, Fr. Vic Baltazar, Fr. Joe Quilongquilong and Fr. Eric Eusebio.

Likewise, to quote our pre-pilgrimage article, “Special mention needs to be made of the invaluable contribution of Maria Luna, the Espanola Teresiana who is turning out to be a natural travel organizer.” Much credit is due Maria for having planned so well the trip. Maria introduced us not only to her country but to her family as well. Her father, Papa Antonio and sister, Pili were such a welcome presence in the pilgrimage.

Lastly, one can be certain that in the heart of every pilgrim is a profound gratitude to God for the blessing of this pilgrimage. A friend once asked me as she was listening to me recount the pilgrimage if it would have to take another 50 years, hence another jubilee celebration, before a similar pilgrimage could happen. Indeed, how truly meaningful and significant this pilgrimage was because we had it on this special year – the Jubilee Year of the 1st Companions. And so our heartfelt thanks also to the 1st Companions – Ignatius, Francis and Peter – for having gifted us with such a wonderful jubilee present.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Impressions of Ignatian Pilgrimage

(Maria Luna shares with us her thoughts on the pilgrimage and that of her father - Papa Antonio, sister - Pili and our driver companion - Javier. Except for Barcelona, Pili joined us throughout the Spain leg of the pilgrimage. Papa Antonio was with us up to Rome. And Javier who drove for the group from Madrid to Manresa was very much part of the pilgrimage too.)


I am very, very happy to have joined this trip. I found all the participants to be good people, very kind to me and relating well even if we did not share same language. They expressed in many ways that they appreciated my being there that is why I felt very comfortable being with them. Thus, I was inspired to write some good wishes for all of them and I was impressed to see their reaction of welcoming to those simple words.

Personally, the trip has been an encounter with Ignacio de Loyola, a saint I have heard of but I did not know much about. During the trip I have been getting pamphlets everywhere we passed by, by now I have read all including the 2 good ones you gave me as a gift in Rome about the lives of Ignacio and Javier. All that made an impact on me, I would like to be a better person and help others to be the same. I do what I can among the old people of the Day Care Center for the elderly where I spend most of my time.

Thanks to all of you for allowing me to have this experience. I also requested my daughter to tell you that I asked her that I will be seated on the place where I was in the bus because as an old person I have some quirks, there is where I feel more secure when I travel.


The best about the trip has been to know you all! There have been thousands ways of communication between us. I found you happy, simple, generous and prayerful people.
I will always remember you and even more because you all wrote something to me and from time to time I read the translation of it all. You left in me unforgettable memories.

Together, we have discovered more Spain, Ignacio and Javier and also the Jesuits and how well they work and treat people. Ignacio has imprinted a footprint in me and I remember him everyday. I notice since the trip I want to give a special value to every person and circumstance I encounter for not to fall in superficiality of worldly things.

Hasta pronto y hasta siempre amigos!


This trip has been very special to me. I have never brought a group like that. They are all happy, very well mannered, treating me like one of the group, they are quite young and beautiful and still they pray, they give importance to things of the Church even if they are learned people. I am an ordinary young Spanish person who even if baptized in the Catholic Church, has not been mindful of it. That is why I was very surprised to see this group. They made a big impact on me, so much that after leaving them in Manresa, I cried and I thought there are things of my life that have to change. I started to pray the way I know and now I am telling my wife we have to pray together.

I was very happy to know the place after which I am named: Javier. I got some information about Saint Francis Xavier and I am reading it.

Regards to all peregrinos.


I am very happy and very grateful for having joined the Pilgrimage starting from the months of preparation up to the end. All throughout it has been a good learning experience and deep spiritual one of self-knowledge and encounter with God in many different ways.

It was the first time I had been in the organization and acted as a guide of a trip. This helped me to get to know how to get places, contact people, make and change certain decisions, look for funds to contribute to it, find cheaper but good places, get along a group… A times, during the trip, I felt tired and I saw myself in charge of almost all that was going on. That, even if hard, made me see and understand other aspects of the group and of my person that I took for granted before. But in that and through that, God made Himself present and very close to me. I really felt He was guiding us all the time.

Getting closer to Ignacio has also been of great spiritual help to me. At the same time I was feeling proud of such a Spanish saint, I was absorbing more his spirituality, his ways, and his impetus to work and pray. Getting in contact with his places and his people encouraged me a lot in my own life.

I like to thank you all for your collaboration, for making the whole trip a good one, for sharing your lives and for praying the way you do it. You are good people and that is what makes the difference! It has been a pleasure to be with you during this May 2006. I also like to ask for forgiveness for my impatience and my pushing you hard.

An Ignatian Journey Remembered

By: Edith L. Ontiveros, OSU

Almost two months ago now, the Center for Ignatian Spirituality (CIS), Philippines organized an Ignatian pilgrimage for staff, volunteers, collaborators and friends. The three-week journey brought us to Ignatian Spain and Rome. Together we shared the experience of visiting Ignatian places, celebrating liturgy, praying, sharing our on-going reflection not to mention the ordinary and mundane activities of listening, eating, loading and unloading luggage, waiting etc.

Experience of its very nature is difficult to capture in words simply because it happens in the being and doing of the present moment. However, our lives are enriched through the sharing of experiences and the telling of stories. So here I attempt to share some of my memories associated with the Ignatian places central to my ongoing spiritual journey.

There was the ‘conversion room’ or convalescent room of Inigo in the family castle in Loyola. I was moved to deep prayer as I reflected on Aqui se entrego a Dios Inigo de Loyola. As I examined the surroundings of the small room and gazed at the ceiling the way Inigo would have done as he lay wounded - experiencing physical pain, anxiety and despair, I recalled the times in my life when I felt helpless and almost hopeless. Fortunately for Ignatius, providence stepped in and he was able to turn despair to deep thoughts after reading and rereading Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ and The Golden Legend, a book on the lives of saints. These two books got him so absorbed and introduced him to Jesus Christ who changed his way of living. I imagined the peace, the freedom and glow in his soul as he
entrusted himself to God, opening a new world for him. I too experienced deep peace recalling past experiences of surrendering and entrusting difficult decisions in God’s hands.

There were three places in Manresa that called forth much devotion – the cave, the Cardoner River, and the place of Rapture. The times I prayed in the cave during the five-day retreat in Manresa were nothing compared to the ten months Ignatius spent there. However, in the cave, I identified my heart’s deepest desire not without the conflict and struggle that Ignatius himself would have experienced as depicted graphically on the marble altar piece. But like Ignatius, I also experienced enlightenment and illumination by the Cardoner River.

For several years now I have been intrigued by Ignatius’ mystical experience by the Cardoner. I have asked several Jesuit friends to explain what happened there but I was never satisfied by their responses. Perhaps I have not quite understood or captured the spiritual journey of Ignatius then as I do now. After the experience of praying in the cave and reflecting by the Cardoner, I understood the effect of the Cardoner experience as “a magnet pulling into unity and integration the iron filings of the pieces of Ignatius’ whole previous life”(Walter Farrell, S.J.). In the place of ‘rapture’ in Manresa, I received the gift of tears. I was so deeply moved as I prayed and kissed the feet of Ignatius (lying in rapture!) that a tear dropped as I stood up. In that moment, I received the grace I asked for during the retreat in La Cova and quietly savored it as we sang and prayed in silence.

The camarette, in Rome where Ignatius governed the Society and spent the last, and not the least easy, remaining years of his life filled me with awe. The restored rooms evoked reverence and prayer. The chapel where he died and the Holy Family painting which he had special devotion to, testify to his relationship with Jesus and Mary throughout his life.

From Azpeitia (Loyola) to the heart of Ignatian Rome, I experienced an ever deepening and developing relationship with Jesus that reminded me constantly of the central purpose of the Spiritual Exercises. What made the five places personally significant (at least in this pilgrimage of May 2006) are the moments of deep prayer, the desires that surfaced and got expressed in the colloquys, the graces received and the responses and resolutions made for the future. These were made possible by the overwhelming spirit that permeated our journey together appropriately expressed in “the whole group of believers was united, heart and soul…” (Acts 4:32). There was a genuine spirit of openness and generosity as well as depth of prayer and reflection. It was indeed a privilege to take part in this ‘once in a lifetime’ Ignatian pilgrimage. While it was an affirming experience, it was also a challenge to continued growth and commitment to the collaborative ministry of the Center of Ignatian Spirituality, Philippines.

Jubilee Excerpts

By: Sr. Mely Vasquez, RSCJ

Ignatius’ transhistorical or spiritual pilgrimage takes place, in the Autobiography, within the context of his historical pilgrimage, but the two levels are not co-terminous nor do they always have the same peak points. They are symbiotically related, taking place within the one man Ignatius who is both historical actor and recipient of spiritual impressions, his activity and mystical experience being inextricably linked. “Mysticism is an interior pilgrimage, pilgrimage is exteriorized mysticism” (Victor Turner and Edith Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture, p.7). What the pilgrim wears and eats, his manner of conveyance—these are for all to see. But “what is secret in the Christian pilgrimage is the inward movement of the heart” (Turner, 8).

Ignatius’ Autobiography presents the life journey and transformation of a sixteenth-century Spanish soldier into one of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time. In it we see how his religious milieu and culture gave him an ideological framework, life-models, and behavioral patterns to guide him in his search. The medieval church had provided him with a heritage of sacred places, saintly exploits, and ritual acts that had been the security of spiritual sojourners.

At the outset of his pilgrimage, the apparent foci of his journey were the famous sacred places and institutions, Jerusalem and Rome, the geographical and political centers of religious power. But these provided to be tangential to his depth experiences which took place in unnoticed, out of the way places and occasioned by personal limit situations.

The irruption of God in these unexpected ways relativized his attachment to the fixed centers assigned by his religion. God gave him a center in via: in the core of his person. This remained the locus of his encounter with God as he moved towards places and circumstances, engaging himself with people and events. In this sense, God was now everywhere present to Ignatius. “Each time and hour that he wanted to find God, he found Him” (Autobiography 11, 93).

The climax of Ignatius’ pilgrimage liberated him from the ambiguities of his culture; though remaining a man of the Church and in union with the community of which Rome and Jerusalem were centers, it was now given him to find his goal beyond them.

Every Place A Grace

By: Lyn Enriquez


I was touched and moved by Teresa de Jesus' Solo Dios Basta. What could have caused such an intense and generous response from her?

Fr. Noel Vasquez' homily invited the peregrinos to pray for the grace to know God's will for each of us - and for us to be able to not only know it, but to obey it. There are times when I may be "too certain" that what I am doing is what God wants me to do, more so when those works are "good works". Times like these, I may forget to ask God if those desires indeed come from Him, or do they come from me only?


God was waiting for Inigo between the pages of the two books he read while recovering from the leg wound he suffered in Pamplona - the Imitation of Christ and a book on the Lives of the Saints.

Where was God waiting ever so patiently for me - and where is He still waiting for me to get to the point where I, like Inigo, can surrender myself totally into God's hands.

So how do I get to the point where I am so caught up in God's love, where I am so enamoured with Christ that nothing else matters, nothing buy His love and grace. Then, with Teresa and Inigo, I can also pray:

Nada te turbe
Nada te esparte
todo se pasa
Dios no se muda la paciencia
todo la alcanza
quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta
solo Dios basta.


As we paused to pray before the Laughing Christ in the chapel in the Javier castle, I wondered what could have happened in that tiny chapel that made Francisco choose to leave everything behind, not knowing what lay ahead and certain that he will never return to his family again. What made him say "send me" to Ignacio when there was a need to send someone to the Indies. What made Francisco pray "Pagkabighani"?

I remember reading somewhere Ignacio checking the clothes of his friend Francisco as he was about to leave Rome, asking if he was warm enough. Sending his friend, the friend he loves, must have caused a thousand deaths in Ignacio.

Avila, Loyola, Javier - in each of these places, God touched a soul so intensely it was never the same for all three again - Teresa de Jesus, Ignacio de Loyola and Francisco Javier.

I begged God my Lord for the grace to be able to eventually say with Teresa "solo Dios basta", with Ignacio "I surrender myself totally to God" and with Francisco "send me".


My spirit needs to catch up with me. The past days since May 02 have been too fast, too full, too rich - I need to stop and let my spirit catch up with me.Salamat San Ignacio for bringing me back to Manresa.

On Day 2 of our retreat, feelings of negativity and aridity slowly surfaced making me lose my taste for prayer. Instead of denying them, I decided to confront them and again, found myself face to face with my old issues, my ghosts, my demons which wouldn't leave me even here in Manresa, especially here in Manresa.

It was the evil spirit taunting me, chanting "it is no use, you will never make it, you may think you can, but eventually, you will fail again. How can you even entertain such thoughts when you are not able to do it even while here at Manresa,what more when you are back in the world?" Whatever I do, no matter how intensely I desire it nor how hard I try to fight it, I will not be able to accept a life "na walang langit".

On the other hand, while I was being hounded by the evil spirit in not doing anything about my un-freedoms because I will only fail, I was also sustained by my faith that Ignacio knows what I am going through because he went through so much himself in this very place where he spent eleven months struggling with himself and his own demons - surely, he will help me fight my own demons.

A River Runs Through My Life

By: Nerry Gool

Retreat in Daily Life

It was in year 2000 when my friend Ayie Santos first invited me to take the Retreat in Daily Life (RDL) offered by the Center for Ignatian Spirituality (CIS). The RDL is actually the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola designed for men and women who desire to encounter the Lord in their daily routine. As an active member of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon (ALNP) - a catholic charismatic movement of single professionals and working people - I felt that I did not need it anymore. However, when the RDL run for 2002 came, Ayie literally “craned” me from the office to Ateneo to attend a prayer workshop to prepare me for the retreat. In that workshop, I learned about St. Ignatius and the Ignatian Spirituality.

The retreat I was trying to run away from turned out to be very grace-filled! Of all the graces I received, I was most grateful for the healing of my scrupulous conscience which I carried for thirty long years. Ever since I was nine years old, I would receive the sacrament of Confession only to feel overly disturbed and guilty for forgetting to confess some other sins no matter how small and/or committing the same sins all over again. I have always been taught that God was a loving Father who was always ready to forgive but I was chained by a subconscious belief that for every mistake I made, He had a corresponding punishment. The RDL gave me a deep understanding of how utterly unconditional God’s love was and is.

After the retreat, I was invited by my spiritual director, Sch. Jordan Orbe, SJ, to pursue courses on spiritual direction and retreat giving and the rest is history. I accepted the invitation to be a CIS lay volunteer to facilitate individual spiritual direction and group-directed retreats. For the past two years, I have been blessed to witness the unfolding of unique “love stories” between God and the people I accompany in their journey. What a great privilege it is!

Joining the Pilgrimage

Last January, we were informed that there would be an Ignatian Pilgrimage in celebration of the Jubilee Year of the First Companions – St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and Bl. Peter Faber. It was to be a once in a lifetime experience to those invited. When I learned that I was invited, I did not put my hopes up because I knew for sure that I could not make it anyway. First, it was not easy to seek permission for a month-long vacation given the demands of my job as an HR Manager most especially when a lot of ongoing projects were due for completion. Second, my role as National Women’s Moderator of ALNP required me to participate in a one-week training of its key leaders, the schedule of which coincided with that of the Pilgrimage. Still, since I badly wanted to join, I took the courage to ask the permission of my bosses at work and in service. To my great surprise, both of them readily allowed and encouraged me to take the rare opportunity. No doubt about it, I was very happy! It did not even matter that the last sentence I spoke in Spanish was uttered twenty years ago.

During the orientation, we were told that we would visit a good number of Ignatian sites and it excited me! But more exciting was the thought the schedule included a five-day silent retreat in Manresa where, as a layperson, St. Ignatius wrote his most precious legacy to the Church – the Spiritual Exercises. The idea of going through a retreat was most welcome at a time when I was discerning God’s direction for my life in the area of my career. It was a time when I would often catch myself asking, “Will I continue with my present job or consider another path? Is this where the Lord wants me to be? ” Such were not easy to answer and I was hoping to hear God speak to me clearly.

“Grace in Every Place”

We finally flew to Madrid on May 2 and from there, started visiting Ignatian sites. There was “grace in every place” but Pamplona and Loyola were significant to me. In Pamplona, I felt a deep sense of joy when I touched the exact spot where Ignatius fell when he was hit by a cannonball during a battle of Spain against France. In Loyola, it was God’s special love for Ignatius that struck me. As I moved around Sta. Casa, I kept wondering how he was like as a little boy, running and playing around the house; or how disgusted he must have felt after his knee was shot in Pamplona; or how intense his religious experience must have been when he read the The Life of Christ (by Ludolph of Saxony) and Lives of the Saints (by Jacobo Voragine) that led to his conversion during his convalescence.

In all the places we visited, we automatically touched or kissed the holy images, felt the holiness of the place, and contemplated on the encounter that happened between God and St. Ignatius. You may ask: What is the point of touching the dusty road in Pamplona where Ignatius fell 485 years ago, or feeling the rooms of Sta. Casa in Loyola? I have no logical answer, but what makes sense to me is that the experience gave me a deep understanding of the rightful place and value of sacraments, rituals and liturgical celebrations in our Catholic Church where physical objects help us feel God’s presence and where bodily gestures allow us to express our love and devotion to the Lord.

Showered with abundant graces as we traveled, I did not notice the desire of my heart silently changing. By the time we departed for Manresa, I had totally forgotten my career concerns. I just wanted to love God the way St. Ignatius did.

Arriving in Manresa

Finally, we arrived in Manresa for the retreat! We stayed at La Cova – the House of the Exercises and the residence of the Jesuits. Outside were many chapels and churches which St. Ignatius frequented during his time but one had to “walk an extra mile” to visit them as they were not situated close to each other.

On the first day of the retreat, I went to La Guia Chapel, the first place Ignatius found upon arriving in Manresa. Unfortunately, it was closed. I moved to La Seu Basilica which was the place where St. Ignatius used to pray and receive the sacrament of Confession. Thank God, it was open! But when I was about to enter, I was told that there was an entrance fee of 1 euro. Ironically, throughout the entire pilgrimage, I had always brought my wallet except on that day because I thought I would not need to spend a cent. I was so disappointed. Trying to keep my cool, I went back to the house to get money. But when I arrived back at La Seu, I could not enter anymore because visiting time had already ended. Sadly, I had just walked to La Coveta - the “cave turned chapel” where St. Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises - but when I entered, there was a choir singing so loudly nearby that I could not concentrate on my prayers.

Tired and frustrated, I decided to just pray inside my room. While silently in prayer, I looked outside from my window and gazed upon the Cardoner River – the place where St. Ignatius received great understanding. Seeing the river flow gently and generously, I was so moved that I wrote this prayer:


Walang entrance fee
Walang oras na sinusunod
Ang tubig ay umaagos
Maging araw man o gabi.

Ang pag-ibig ng Diyos
Tulad nitong ilog
Walang entrance fee
Walang oras na sinusunod
Patuloy na dumadaloy
Mga grasya Niyang dulot.

Bakit nga ba nalilimutan
Kahulugan nitong buhay ?
Ikaw lamang ang kailangan
Hanggang sa aking kamatayan.

Bakit nga ba hinahanap
Sa mga maling lugar at nilikha
Ang matimyas na pag-ibig
Na sa ‘Yo lang makakamit?

O kaluluwa ko, magpahinga ka na
Sa katatakbo at kahahabol
Sa mundong parating magkukulang
Na punuin ang hanap ng puso.

Mahal na puso ni Hesus
Bihagin itong puso ko
Upang mabuhay at mamatay
Na umiibig lamang sa’Yo.

Movements of the Spirit

The next day, my pilgrimage spiritual director, Fr. Vic Salanga, SJ, asked me what grace I wanted to receive through the retreat. I told him that I wanted to love God like St. Ignatius did. He instructed me to review my life’s history and spot those moments when I felt the love of God most intensely. He said that a deep and genuine experience of the love of God – which he termed as a “religious experience” - brings one to love Him more and do great things for Him.

As I prayed, the most joyful and painful moments of my life came alive again. However, it was the painful moments that highlighted His presence and love. I remembered that when I was a child, people would always compare me with my three sisters in every respect. We were a study in contrasts. While they were considered pretty and healthy, I was thought of as plain and sickly. My sisters were also naturally soft-spoken and well-mannered, I was just naturally talkative and naughty earning me a citation as the noisiest student in elementary class. They were homebodies who were helpful in doing the house chores, I preferred to be an “out-body” playing and making friends away from the house and escape from chores. When we were scolded by my parents, my sisters would be submissive like little lambs and not say a word. However, with me, I would speak my mind out even if it meant being punished for being “disrespectful”. Expectedly, my sisters were considered the ideal mold and I felt that I needed to fit into such to be accepted and loved.

When I brought those memories to prayer, I heard God say, “Your desire is to love me more but My desire is that you may love yourself more.” I seem to have heard St. Ignatius whisper to me, “I will teach you the love of self.”

The next prayer periods were “crying periods”. I realized that my experiences of unacceptance, rejection and being misunderstood during my childhood and adolescent years had lasting effects in me, making me feel very insecure. I feel very uncomfortable when people praise me. I overly admire other people as if they are always a lot better than me, or overly envy some people as if they do not deserve to have better things and qualities than what I have. And when I share my accomplishments to people, I am uncertain if I do it out of pride, the need for approval, or mere expression of joy.

Before the retreat ended, I experienced God’s healing grace as I forgave the people who had hurt me and in spirit, asked for forgiveness from those whose love I had failed to see.

Greater Freedom

In my RDL, my image of God was corrected. I began to see Him as someone who loves me unconditionally regardless of my sins, weaknesses and limitations. Knowing that I do not have to be a certain kind/mold of a person to merit His love gave me great peace which I carry until today. That was actually enough for me but not for Him. He wanted to make me whole.

In my Manresa Retreat, it was my self-image that He corrected. Yes, it is true that there are unlikeable things about me but the greater truth - incomparably far glaring truth - is that I am a person with much uniqueness, talent and beauty. I am intelligent, witty, creative, courageous, strong and loving. I am lovable and worthy of His love and the love of other people. I left Manresa with unexplainable joy knowing that I have a unique place and contribution in this world.

As we continued to trace the steps of St. Ignatius in Montserrat, Barcelona and Rome after the retreat, they only heightened the consolations and echoed the graces that I received in Manresa. Looking back, I am awed at how my desires shifted from one direction to another during the pilgrimage: at one point, I wanted clarity in the direction of my career; then it shifted to a deep desire to love God like; then finally, to have a genuine love for myself.

I smile when I remember that day when I sought Him in several churches only to find Him in a river outside my window in the confines of my little room. The Holy Spirit moves where it wills and I yield in utter openness as every direction it takes is an invitation to greater freedom.

How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me? (Psalm 116:12) Fr. Vic said that a deep and genuine experience of the love of God brings one to love Him more and do great things for Him. May his words come true as I allow Him to use me for any work that will give Him honor and glory. Like a flowing river, may His Spirit run through my life which will declare His goodness to people near and far.

So Much Blessed, So Much Loved

By: Riza Carasig

One of the things that made me excited about the Ignatian Pilgrimage was the five-day retreat scheduled in Manresa. Somehow, I was hoping it to be like a discernment retreat where God would unfold before me His plans; what He wanted me to do; how He desired me to live the coming years of my life. I guess, being a mid-lifer like myself, one naturally begins to be more reflective of how the past years have been lived and more importantly, how the future is to be even more fruitfully lived.

During the retreat, I was blessed to be accompanied by Fr. Salanga who invited me to pray over and revisit my past starting with the most distant on to the most recent – recalling how God moved and was present in those years of my life. As I did this I saw how God’s presence was so real particularly during the younger years of my life. As I looked back at my childhood, for instance, I had seen how God protected me from what could have be very hurting episodes in my life. How God blessed me with plenty during my adult years or how He simply stayed with me when the times became trying and hard– all these were brought back to my memories very vividly. One morning during the retreat, I decided to spend my time at the Basilica of Seu (one of Ignatius’ favorite and frequently visited places). In my prayer, I was asking God how high and wide and deep His love for me was. I said I knew I would not be able to fully measure it but if I could just get a glimpse of it. As I looked up and around the basilica, I was struck with how huge it was, how imposing the structures were, how the beautiful and colorful stained glasses seemed to be telling of many wonderful stories. And in my heart, I began to hear God whisper to me, “tulad nito ang pagmamahal ko sa ‘yo- malawak, malaki, makulay at buhay!” Soon after I realized I was the only person inside the basilica. For some reason there was not a single churchgoer or tourist around at that time. And there I felt how precious I was in His eyes - gazing on me as if He was preoccupied only with me and me alone.

As these thoughts freely flowed into my mind, I was brought back to the moment I first stepped into Santa Casa, the house of Ignatius and La Cova, the cave in Manresa. Both instances that were initially surreal for me turned out to be an overwhelming experience. There was so much awe and joy welling up in my heart as I imagined Ignatius as a baby when I got into the very room where he was born. I imagined Ignatius’ tiny feet running on the same floor I was stepping on. I imagined Ignatius taking his meal at the dining table that I was seeing and touching. I imagined Ignatius reading books on the lives of saints and Christ in the same room where we had our Sunday mass – the room now known as the Chapel of Conversion. At the cave in Manresa, I imagined Ignatius stripped off of everything he had, humbly coming before God and beginning to write one of his greatest gifts to the Church – the Spiritual Exercises.

My experience in Loyola and Manresa and in all the other places where the pilgrimage brought me, was to me a clear and concrete manifestation of God’s love for me through Ignatius. The love that God was describing to me during the retreat – “huge, vast and overwhelming, full of colors and alive” – that was how I would also describe my experience. I joyfully found all my senses in use - I was not only seeing and feeling, I was also hearing and touching every bit of that love in the places I had been. When we left Spain, I thought we had received more than what we could have asked for after being in the house of Ignatius in Loyola and after having our retreat in Manresa and after seeing Madrid, Alcala, Toledo, Avila, Salamanca, Burgos, Javier, Pamplona, Montserrat and Barcelona. But apparently God was not yet done and prepared for us so much more when we moved to Rome. The last leg of the pilgrimage was equally well taken care of by the three Rome-based Filipino Jesuits. We toured the Vatican and the Jesuit Curia and also visited La Storta and the seven basilicas that Ignatius and his companions went to. Finally on our last day, we had our Ignatian walk in Rome and had our closing mass in the very room where Ignatius breathed his last. I thought what could be a more fitting and more meaningful way but to end our pilgrimage this way.

A lot of times during the pilgrimage, I could not help but think of my many Jesuit friends. I could not describe how I felt upon realizing that I got to see even ahead of them the places that were both important and significant to their founder. I felt so blessed for the opportunity yet perhaps there was too a tinge of guilt with the thought. When I took the 19th annotation some years ago, the pilgrimage was farthest from my mind. I became very interested and eventually fell in love with the Spiritual Exercises yet I never thought I would one day see the very place where it came to form. Maybe if there was one thing that crossed my mind, it was that the pilgrimage was too big a dream to aspire for yet God honored a dream that was not even fully articulated. I am not a Jesuit, I can never be and will never be one yet God still gifted me with this privilege. The only contribution I knew I had was my being a CIS lay partner (doing something that I in fact love doing) yet God deemed it more than enough for me to receive this blessing.

I brought with me in this pilgrimage a desire to know the will of God as I move on with my life yet a profound experience of His love was His response. I was hoping to encounter the will of God but instead I encountered the great love of this God who wills. The pilgrimage made me experience in the most palpable way not only the love of God but also the love of this wonderful man named Ignatius. And I must say that the feeling was mutual. For I am certain that I moved out of the pilgrimage more in love with God and more in love with Ignatius and the ministry that he inspired us to do.