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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

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.