Pilgrimage to Spain: Day 1, Loyola

America Media is going on an Ignatian pilgrimage to Spain, from Nov. 1 to 10, with Editor in Chief Matt Malone, S.J., and Senior Editor Ed Schmidt, S.J., as our guides. They’ll walk in the footsteps of St. Ignatius and visit Loyola, Aranzazu, Xavier, Manressa, Montserrat and Barcelona, seeking to find God in all things. 

Here Matt Malone, S.J. offers his first reflection from Loyola. Visit our special pilgrimage web site to follow their trip, watch videos, and submit prayer requests.


Today we visited the very large and impressive Sanctuary (or Basilica) of Loyola in the municipality of Azpeitia, where we will visit the remains of the actual castle in which St. Ignatius was born and where he grew up. Ignatius was born in Loyola in 1491, the youngest of 13 children. His mother died soon after he was born and he was nursed by the wife of the local blacksmith. When Ignatius was 16 years of age, his father sent him to be a page at the court of the King’s Head Treasurer and he stayed there until he was 26. He then went to work at the court of the Duke of Navarra. In 1521, the French army invaded Navarra and Ignatius, along with one of his brothers, rushed to Pamplona to defend the city. There, he was badly wounded and was brought back to the family home at Loyola to recuperate. He was 30 years old.

The interior of the building has been restored to approximate the rooms that he actually knew in his lifetime. We celebrated Mass together in the room where, during the long recovery from the injuries to his leg, Ignatius had a conversion experience and experienced a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child. For him, it was an awakening to a new way of life. We also visited the Hermitage of Our Lady of Olatz that Ignatius probably visited often in his childhood.

Many years later, in 1535, Ignatius returned to Loyola for a few months from Paris because his doctors advised him that the native air would be good for his health. He chose not to stay with his family because he wanted to do public penance for his bad example as a younger man. He sojourned instead at the Hospital de la Magdelana, where he cared for the sick. 

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