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 a reflection from Manresa. Visit our special pilgrimage web site to follow their trip, watch videos, and submit prayer requests.
When he left Montserrat, Ignatius had hoped to set out for the port at Barcelona so as to embark for Italy and from there continue his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He learned, however, that there was a plague in Barcelona, so its gates were closed to travelers. He went instead to a nearby town, Manresa. Ignatius would remain in Manresa for 11 months. This place became a real school of his own spiritual and growth, and, as he later wrote, “God treated him as a schoolmaster treats a child whom he is teaching.”
During the day, he attended Mass and Vespers (usually at the cathedral), begged for his food and then spent seven hours in a cave where he could be alone in prayer. The Cave of Ignatius was a natural grotto facing Montserrat in the distance. Over time, a church, a Jesuit residence and center for spirituality were built over the cave. In the late 17th and early 18th century, an elaborate alabaster altar and other decorations were added to the cave.
He also sought out people for spiritual conversations, so that he could learn more about God and the spiritual life. The months in Manresa were a time of great grace and a deepening of his relationship with God, but it was not without its temptations and struggles. In his fervor, he went to excesses in fasting and penances and did damage to his health. He had to learn from others and from his own experiences. He wrote down his experiences and these notes became, in large part, the basis for his classic work, theSpiritual Exercises.