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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

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.