» Home | Antig Newsletter | RDL | Holy Week Retreat | Summer Programs | Jesuit Links

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.