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 Montserrat. Visit our special pilgrimage web site to follow their trip, watch videos, and submit prayer requests.
The name Montserrat means “serrated-mountains.” The mountains and the monastery have a deep appeal to all Spaniards, not only Catholics. There have been monks at the monastery since the 9th century, and a boys’ choir since 1223. The monastery has long been home to a legendary statue of Mary, called the Black Madonna.
Following his conversion experience at Loyola, Ignatius was filled with a desire to go to the Holy Land as a poor pilgrim. To get to the Holy Land, Ignatius had to get to Barcelona so that he could sail to Rome, because anyone wanting to go the Holy Land needed the pope’s permission. To mark the beginning of his new life, Ignatius planned to go from Loyola to Montserrat, the famous shrine of the Black Madonna, which was very popular in the region. On his way, he stopped in several places, including Zaragoza where there was another famous shrine to Our Lady. Leaving Zaragoza, Ignatius went to Montserrat, where he spent the night in vigil before the statue of the Black Madonna and dedicated his whole life to God.
Just before he arrived at the shrine, Ignatius made a very symbolic gesture: he took off his fine gentleman’s clothing and gave it all to a beggar. Then he put on the rough tunic of a pilgrim. In doing so, he imitated what Francis of Assisi did at the start of his conversion.