From July 1 to 14, 2018, the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies is leading its fifth cohort through Spain and Italy as part of an immersion course offered through its Certificate in Jesuit Studies program. The Institute welcomes 20 participants--Jesuit scholastics and laywomen and men–from Europe and the Americas.
Participants spend 14 days following the footsteps of the founders of the Society of Jesus, as they travel through Madrid, Arévalo, Burgos, Loyola, Aranzazu, Pamplona, Xavier, Zaragoza, Verdú, Montserrat, Manresa, Barcelona, Castel Gandolfo, and Rome.
You can follow their shared experiences here through their daily reflections and photographs. Each day has a theme and selected readings as the travels progress from the early Jesuits' Iberian roots through the Ignatian legacy. As with past reflections, these reflections will be updated as the participants travel.
July 11 – Young Jesuits in Rome
We’ve spent the last 24 hours considering the types of questions the nascent society of Jesus asked itself. What were the traits it sought it in leaders? Who were the type of young men it would admit to its ranks? The answers to these questions have been answered emphatically in the course of our daily travels. In visiting the tombs and rooms of Ignatius, Stanislaus Kostka, and Aloysius Gonzaga, we’ve seen some of the shining lights of the early Jesuits. The names of these men are literally synonymous with Jesuit education today. We speak still of Ignatian spirituality. My own school bears the name of young Aloysius, 450 years after his birth.
But in a 24 hours of questions, I’m left with this thought. What questions are these men, and their startling legacies, posing to us as Jesuit educators today? The Jesuits, so we have discovered, left little to chance in forming and running the Society that guides our work today. How much do we leave to chance in discerning and pursuing the example these visionaries set for us? We sat today in the room of the young saint, Aloysius, who vowed chastity at aged 9 and died aged 23 caring for plague victims after a life of inimitable devotion.
How, I thought, does Gonzaga College Dublin bear any resemblance to the man whose name it takes? In a world where Aloysius’ devotion now seems almost unreal, how can it?
Not for the first time on this trip, Fr. Casey provided the best line of approach. At mass in the Church of St. Andrea di Quirinale, he reminded us that the rough and tumble of school life can often lack the saintliness of the great men whose names hang over the front door. Thankfully, our job is not to be saints. Our job is to hover, one foot in the beautiful chaos of God’s creation, and one foot raised, with an eye on what is to come. In other words, we are called to be truly contemplative in action, even when that action is a 14 year old throwing a pen across your classroom. After a daunting day in the footsteps of Jesuit giants, this was a welcome moment of clarity.
Saints are meant to inspire, not to intimidate.
This was a very interesting read that allowed the reader access to the criteria for applicants who wish to become Jesuit priests.
The Formula of the Society of Jesus recommends caution when admitting new members. A rigorous and thorough approach is put in places to ensure that young Jesuits are committed to a life of chastity, poverty and obedience. Certain things ought to be asked in order to know the candidate better. The candidate must reply with sincerity and truth. This made me wonder about what questions Gonzaga would have been asked back in the 16th century. What challenges did he face and what insights did he bring to the society of Jesus.
The questions focused on getting to know the candidate. Questions like : was the candidate born of a legitimate marriage or not? What are his parents names? If his parents were still alive? The candidate would also be asked if he has held or holds any opinions or ideas different from those which are commonly held in the church and among the teachers whom she has approved. If at some time he should hold any views that differ to what may be determined in the Society may impact him joining. This made me reflect on the challenges Jesuit face in order to become a member of the society of Jesus. The fact that their views or past experiences could negatively impact their future life choices made me wonder. One does wonder about the future of the Jesuits and how their application process can stay true to its roots, without having a negative impact of recruitment.
– Paul Corcoran, Religion, History & Classics Teacher, Gonzaga College SJ, County Dublin, Ireland
– Rob Altman, History and Theology Teacher, Belvedere College, Country Dublin, Ireland
July 9 – The Foundation of the Society of Jesus
Following a week in Spain that included a variety of beautiful landscapes and bustling city life, we flew over the Mediterranean Sea to Rome. For many in the group, including both of us, this was a first. The experience of drastic change from the countryside to city was again evident, yet this time it was a change in culture, food and language at the fore. In many ways an appropriate theme for the day is: “the first….”
Our first stop was La Storta. Ignatius's first time in the modest, pink chapel was where he was blessed with the vision of God accompanied by Jesus carrying the cross. This is a significant event in the life of Ignatius, and one could argue that without it, the Society may not exist as it does. Up to that point, Ignatius was determined to get to the Holy Land, but when Jesus said to him, "I will be favorable to you in Rome" his journey changed direction, this time at La Storta, which means the curve. This was the first time Ignatius felt himself confirmed personally about where he was to stay for the rest of his life.
Presenting the Society to the Supreme Pontiff would by no means be easy, and Ignatius knew he would face heavy criticism. He drew strength from his companions, and more importantly, from Jesus. Many years later in 1981, Pedro Arrupe, S.J. addressed the 33rd General Congregation at the small chapel in La Storta, thus confirming the importance of the site. In his homily, Arrupe cited the Formula of the Institute approved by Julius III as a way to rekindle enthusiasm of a Society facing difficult times. As Ignatius knew, so too did Arrupe, that facing challenging times would be possible through companionship with Jesus as a source of comfort and strength.
Our second stop was the massive St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, one of four ancient major basilicas in Rome (the other three being St. Peter’s. St. John the Lateran, and St. Mary Major, which the later will be discussed shortly). It was in this impressive basilica on April 22, 1541 (Easter Friday) in the Chapel of Blessed Sacrament, where six Jesuits, including Ignatius, gathered to profess their solemn religious vows. This was the first time in the history of the Society in which the vow of obedience to the sovereign pontiff in regard to the missions was taken. St. Paul’s, first consecrated in year 324 and completely rebuild in 1840, houses the remains of St. Paul, or Saul prior to his conversion. The pictures of all 266 pontificates are displayed around the basilica and there are many amazing chapels dedicated to St. Stephen, St. Benedict, St. and Lawrence.
Our third and final stop for the day was Santa Maria Maggiore, or St. Mary Major in English. Started in the year 432 and completed in 1743, this major basilica is dedicated to Virgin Mary, which held a special place in Ignatius’s heart. It was in this space that Ignatius gave his first mass in the year 1538, a year and half after ordination. Originally hoping to say his first mass in the Holy Land, at the Church of the Nativity, Ignatius ultimately chose St. Mary Major because it housed the relic of the Crib, Jesus’ birth place.
The sites we visited today have centuries, if not millennia, of history. During the time of Ignatius, these buildings were places of first, meaningful experiences. It is humbling to think about the history and meaning of these locations, even as it was both our first time visiting these sites. Indeed, in the words of Eduardo Galeano, “history never really says goodbye. History says, ‘see you later.’’’
– Jeffrey Grifa, College Counselor, McQuaid High School, Rochester, New York
– Chris Miller, doctoral student, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California
July 8 – Encountering the World in Barcelona
Barcelona and Rome
On Sunday we awoke in Barcelona and went to sleep in Rome. Having followed the way of Ignatius across Spain for six days we had arrived in Manresa on Saturday and spent the day visiting the several sights associated with the pilgrim, not least the iconic ‘cova’.
Saturday night had been spent in Barcelona, which - while pleasant - was a long way from the town Ignatius knew and just as far from the solitudes we had experienced in Azpeitia, Sos and Montserrat. The city hit us like a punch in the stomach and we had to struggle to retain a connection with our purpose in much the same way that Ignatius strove when distracted by ‘that most relentless enemy’ as he pursued his Latin studies there [‘Following Ignatius’, p.82]
While Barcelona is not writ as large in the story of Ignatius as are other locations and events before and after, nonetheless it was significant for a couple of reasons, one of which saved his life. Initially he came there from Manresa simply to embark for the Holy Land but was delayed while finding a suitable ship and also waiting for good weather.
During this lacuna Ignatius encountered Isabella Roser, a noblewoman, who would fund his studies on his return from the Holy Land as well as in later years. Of more immediate importance, she asked him to change ship to one owned by a relative of her husband as a result of which he did not perish when his original choice foundered and sank.
Ignatius would come back to Barcelona a year later on his return from the Holy Land a disenchanted and chastened man. He spent two years there learning the fundamentals of Latin preparatory to his university studies in Alacalá and then Paris. As many as ten years later (1526) he still retained a fondness for the old city and spoke of his hope to return there someday to minister - but La Storta would change that.
During our time in the city we visited the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar (where Doña Rosa first noticed Ignatius as he taught children on the steps of the altar) and saw the plaque marking the spot where he begged for alms. The second of our three church visits brought us to the Jesuit run Iglesia del Sagrat Cor which boasts a sword reputed to be the one that he left behind at Montserrat.
No trip to Barcelona would be complete without experiencing Gaudi’s as yet unfinished masterpiece, the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia. Our guided tour was preceded by an intimate Mass in the crypt - a privilege not given to many. The Gospel noted that a prophet is without honour in his own country, a fate that did not befall Ignatius, who was well respected from Azpeitia to Barcelona and beyond. Despite this, the pilgrim spent most of the second part of his life abroad especially in Rome, our next destination.
Inevitably the day was something of a period of transition as we left Barcelona and travelled to Rome rather more quickly than Ignatius did (although we wondered about that for a while on the tarmac at the airport). While it was something of a wrench to depart the pilgrim route that we had been following, it was exciting to look forward to visiting the places where the seeds of the Society were sown and tended. The Eternal City, where Ignatius finally settled and set down the administrative structure that ensured the robust growth of his legacy over the ensuing five centuries.
– Declan O'Keeffe, Head of Communications, Clongowes Wood College SJ
July 7 – A Living Example in Manresa
Barcelona and Manresa
Those familiar with the life of Ignatius know of the significance of the Cardoner River—the place where Ignatius had perhaps one of his most significant visions. My own popular imagination placed Ignatius at the banks of a beautiful river, surrounded by lush vegetation, his pilgrim’s robe fluttering in a cool breeze. In the midst of this idyllic scene, God gives Ignatius a vision where he understands all things, both spiritual and physical, about the world. Ignatius himself says that if he were to add up all the graces of his life, they would not total the graces given to him in this vision.
One problem though…the idyllic scene I had imagined is not what you find at Manresa. First, the Spanish Province of the Society of Jesus has determined that the vision that Ignatius had did not take place in fact at the river bank, but on an outcropping of rocks high above the city that overlooks the river.
Second, the Cardoner itself is crammed between a bustling street and a modern train station. Access to the river is through an unkempt and overgrown pathway that leads to something that resembles a spillway. Incidentally, as we traipsed down to the river, we seemed to catch a couple in the midst of an…”encounter.”
So much for my “composition of place.”
And yet, there is something quintessentially Jesuit about Manresa. Or rather, perhaps I should say there is something quintessentially “Manresan” about the Society of Jesus. Ignatian spirituality is a spirituality that seeks to bring the monastery into the marketplace, and Manresa is a bustling marketplace. It has none of the quiet peacefulness of Loyola, Aranzazu, or Montserrat. It is a cramped place where people are busily about their daily lives. After his powerful experiences at Loyola and Montserrat, he moves away from quiet and peace, and into the bustle of daily life. It is interesting that Ignatius had intended to stay in Manresa for only a few days as he prepared to go to Barcelona to find passage to the Holy Land. But there was something about Manresa that captured his attention so that he delayed his dream to reach Jerusalem for 11 months as he lived and worked there.
What did he find? As we stood overlooking the city, Fr. Casey proposed a way of looking at the vision at the Cardoner. As you look out from the outcropping, you see Montserrat to the left, where Ignatius turns his life toward God; the Basilica of La Seu to the right, where he encounters the Church; the city of Manresa spread out before him where he encounters God’s people as he ministers to them and their needs. The Cardoner River serves as a focal point that unites all of these elements for Ignatius—a kind of lens that focuses all of the graces that Ignatius has experienced. All of this, he brings with him back to the cave where he wrote the Spiritual Exercises.
Present day, there is a wall that encloses the cave forming a chapel. At the time of Ignatius, the cave, which was more of a crude rock shelf that would have sheltered Ignatius from the sun and rain the cave would have been open, giving Ignatius a panoramic view of the holy mountain of Montserrat and the river. There, in that cave, we celebrated Mass together as we ended our day. As I sat there, leaning against the cool rock face of the cave, I thought of the countless number of people whose hearts have been turned toward God by the Exercises that Ignatius wrote there. I also remembered my own experience of the Exercises during the long retreat nearly nine years ago and the countless graces and consolations I have experienced as a result of undergoing these Exercises.
As tears welled up in my eyes, I felt rushes of emotion as I contemplated God’s love and presence there in that cave and in my life. I realized that the vision at the Cardoner has very little to do with the river itself or any kind of natural beauty it might have, or lack thereof. Instead, it has everything to do with the way God encounters Ignatius, and us: in the midst of our lives and experiences.
– Matthew Stewart, S.J., Jesuit Scholastic, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
July 6 – Spiritual Development
Late in the afternoon on Thursday, the jagged edges of Montserrat—literally, ‘the serrated mountain’—came into view through the windshield of our bus. Towering over the other geographical features of the region, Montserrat is unmistakable. Our leaders had advertised a morning hike for Friday. Gazing at the mountain through the bus window, such a hike seemed unfathomable.
And how much more unfathomable this summit must have seemed to Ignacio, who ascended the mountain with only one good leg, after months of crossing through the harsh Basque landscape in search of a greater purpose! Continuing his journey up the steep slopes, Ignacio contemplated what he must do next: leave his sword at the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat, symbolizing the beginning of a new and uncertain future.
Approximately 500 years later, in the chapel of Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, we had our daily mass and contemplated what it was that we could symbolically leave before the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat. After vowing that I (Adrienne) would never set foot on any hiking path of this jagged mountain, I was convinced by some peers to attempt the supposedly easy climb down to the sacred cave where Ignacio venerated the Black Madonna. As myself and three others descended the steep slope cut into the side of the mountain, I regretted more and more what I had agreed to do. Furthermore, we discovered that the funicular incline which should have transported us back to the hotel was (naturally) out of order. We would be forced to hike up every step that we had hiked down.
Sitting in the chapel of the Santa Cueva, I tried to draw spiritual strength for the laborious 90 minute return journey under the unyielding rays of the Spanish sun. We said a silent prayer and began our ascent.
It was absolutely just as hard as I had imagined it was going to be. We rested in the little shade that the mountainside occasionally offered to us. It was, truly and sincerely, the encouragement of my three companions which helped me to the top.
Arriving back at the hotel, red-faced and tired, I considered for the first time what it might have been that I had left at that altar. In the end, I think, it was the fear of the journey. I undertook a task with what seemed to me an uncertain outcome. A member of our group (Matt Kaiser) remarked that the trip so far had taught us to become “comfortable being uncomfortable.” Ignatius, too, had to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. After his convalescence at Loyola, he embarked on a long and arduous journey—far more so than the one we completed in a single morning on Montserrat. He prayed for spiritual strength and guidance. He gave up that which he had relied upon in the past. He faced an uncertain future on his way down the mountainside.
The journey can be hard, and indeed, uncertain. But how glorious it was to have gone on it.
July 5 – Pilgrimage and Discernment
Sos del Rey Católico, Zaragoza, Verdú, and Montserrat
The reflection readings today tell us that Ignatius saw a utility in the process of discernment…even though he thought a pilgrimage could be very arduous to some. We believe he is also asking us to trust the process. God is with us on this journey.
Father Casey’s homily at this morning’s mass invited us to trust the process and see this day and this pilgrimage experience with our eyes and heart, to sense things both externally and internally and to be open to moments when the external and internal senses coincide. Moreover, Father Casey said that during this trip we need to hold onto a sense of ‘awe and wonder’ without expecting to gain specific clarity…and least of all not now. So we gain a sense that we need to keep moving forward. Keeping one foot in front of the other…in faith; that this slow process of pilgrimage and discernment, as Allison mentioned, is one that we are all on.
We think that Jesus, also had to go through this process of discernment. He had a sense of where the road was taking him but the final destination was not certain. He even asked the Father to take the cup away from him. We suppose that Ignatius may have found himself asking God to help him be courageous and not turn around, particularly as his thoughts turned back to the romantic adventures of the books of his youth.
Some of us expressed a similar sense of fear and apprehension before arriving in Madrid. Ignatius is asking us to continue moving forward – to trust the process –that we may find ourselves full of ‘awe and wonder’ at the end of our road together.
Encountering ‘awe and wonder’ along our way
Our first encounter was with the beautiful scenery as we gathered outside the Parador hotel. Many of us were not expecting to see the green hills as the sun continued to rise and shine across the valley. Later we knocked on the ancient door of the St. Sebastian chapel where we encountered the bright smile and warm heart of the priest, who opened the tiny door and led us to a magnificent hidden jewel. Again, you could hear the reactions of some of the people in the group. The elderly priest who clearly had given years of service to God, generously opened the crypt and explained the remnants of the fourteenth century. His kindness reminded us of the kindness shown to Ignatius as he journeyed on his pilgrimage to Montserrat. So, we continued on our journey with a walk along the small village. The narrow streets allowed for many surprises including lovely views, interesting architecture, a tower decorated by a colorful tapestries and then an amazing patch of lavender that no one was expecting. Later in Zaragoza, we were amazed at the grandeur of the Basilica and the small acts of devotion inside. We heard the rosary being said in a chapel, priests hearing confession and the veneration of the Pilar.
As we continued on the day’s journey, Cristiano’s reflection on the ‘liquidity of transition’ as a process for moving forward without jolting stops along the way. He helped us shift our perspective and consider how we might embrace the ‘way of pilgrimage’ and allow ourselves to get ‘lost’ in our imaginations along the way.
Many of us have taken on this pilgrimage to discern the possibilities ahead of us but as Ignatius tells us we need personal space and time to cultivate our imagination. Seth’s reflection reminds us that the Devotion Moderno is one of the ways that we can reach ‘true renewal’. So leave it to Ignatius to tell show us the way, motivate us to move and then to tell us that through these different paths we will find out our own way to love and serve the Lord…
Interestingly the Pilgrim’s Testament tells us that as Ignatius approached Monserrat, he was “still blind though greatly desirous of serving him (God) as far as his knowledge went.” The Testament mentions that at this time of the journey Ignatius was doing great penances, not to satisfy his sins but to please God, “His whole intention was to do such great external works because the saints had done so for the glory of God” (p 21).
From such acts he derived all his consolation, not looking to any interior thing. Perhaps we too engage in acts that console us by the approval of our companions rather than edifying their consciousness and winning their approval, as referenced in p9 of the travel companion. We too may need to listen to our hearts and discern what may bring consolation to us on our journey.
As we approach Monserrat it is interesting to note that we too are partially blind and bring with us a great desire to discern and commit even further to our Jesuit apostolate. Each stop, each conversation, each homily is prying our eyes open and moving us out of the spiritual fog.
We look forward to the next part of our adventure.
– Letty Garcia, Associate Director, Leadership Initiative, Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
– Paul Kilraine, Teacher of Chemistry, Science, Maths and Law, Coláiste Iognáid SJ, Galway.
July 4 – MOMENTS OF CONVERSION
Loyola, Aranzazu, Pamplona, Javier, and Sos del Rey Católico
We began the day with Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Olatz where Inigo paused briefly before departing Loyola. In his homily, Fr. Casey reminded us of the centrality of Mary to Inigo’s journey, first from the local Marian shrine on to Aranzazu, which was the regional Marian shrine.
The image of suffering appears subtly in Our Lady of Aranzazu, ‘Thou, amongst the thorns!’, which could possibly be referencing the crucifixion. When Mary watched her son on the cross, she too was being crucified and felt the pain that her son was enduring simultaneously. One of the beams in the Chapel of Our Lady of Olatz bore the words ‘veni coronaberis’, Come, you will be crowned. Yes, Our Lady was crowned Queen of Heaven, but first she had to share the crown of thorns with her Son. This Lady will be more deserving of Inigo’s devotion than any lady of the royal court.
The image of the smiling, crucified Christ in Javier’s castle unites so many of today’s experiences. The physical suffering endured by Inigo as a result of his injury in Pamplona, the long journey back to Loyola, the excruciating surgeries and recuperation, these are vivid in our minds; but, during Inigo’s convalescence, the crucified Christ became vivid in his. He recognised the chivalric nature of Christ as Redeemer of mankind and found a new version of the code for which he had spent his young life preparing. In The Windhover, Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet, is stunned to see his Christ/ “chevalier” in the image of a kestrel in flight as he “rebuffed the big wind”, like a knight scattering the enemy before him…
“My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!”
This was the experience of Inigo too, a quickening of the heart, a recognition of his mission, and a resolution to follow it.
But Jesus is represented as smiling on the cross! The extracts from Ludolph of Saxony’s Vita Christi use the language of food, water and sweetness to describe the via Christi. It is a journey towards the cross accepted “cheerfully” (Following Ignatius p43), its nourishment welcomed, in fact:
“This food is so agreeable and delicious that, once a loving heart has tasted it, all other
practices will seem bland.” (ibid p 41)
Ludolph, a Carthusian monk, was the author of the second book which the recovering Inigo read, and the themes of redemption and rebirth in Vita Christi are ones which shaped his spirituality and subsequent recovery. The Carthusian’s were both hermitic and communal living monks, and Inigo was intrigued by this way of life. He contemplated joining the Carthusian house in Seville; “without saying who he was, so they would make little of him” (A Pilgrims Testament p12). He sent a servant to Seville to acquire this information for him, but due to his engrossing thoughts about his upcoming journey, he did not return to this plan, for fear of distracting himself from his goals.
We can imagine Inigo’s response to the exhortation to do penance and be healed, meditate “with deliberation” and pray, have “a thirst to put into practice” what his Lord will ask of him, and repel ‘our three enemies - impotence, ignorance, negligence” (Following Ignatius p 44). Ludolph often refers to the Lord as a healer, and we are his patients; coming to him with contrition and honesty. Ludolph refers to God’s invitation to sinners, ‘Come to me all you that labor with the toil of vices and are burdened with the baggage of your sins, and I will refresh you by healing and reviving you; and you shall find rest for your souls, here and hereafter.’ This invitation is one that Inigo, lying there recovering from his wounds, embraces and this is a huge moment of conversion for him, the former knight; and now the pilgrim.
Finally, what may have resonated strongly for Inigo, the man who was prepared to give everything for a castle in Pamplona, is the invitation to martyrdom, presented in gory and glorious colour:
“The martyr leaps for joy and triumphs even as his whole body is being mangled… he
watches the holy blood stream from his body not merely bravely, but gladly.” (ibid p 42-43).
Inigo might well have been attracted by Francis’s brash claim, as he revelled in the Perugian prison:
“Know that I rejoice now because in time the whole world
will worship me as a saint!” (ibid p 45).
In time, Inigo’s conversion will become free of vain glory and “gather to a greatness like the ooze of oil crushed.” (The Grandeur of God, Hopkins)
– Ken Murray, History & Religious Education Teacher, Gonzaga College SJ, County Dublin, Ireland
– Martin Wallace, Deputy Headmaster, Clongowes Wood College SJ, County Kildare, Ireland
July 3 – Young Ignatius
Loyola and Azpeitia
Pedro de Ribadeneira declared his expectations and anxieties as he began to write a biography of Ignatius. He had a clear methodology and reliable sources, but even with those he was nervous that he couldn’t convey what needed to be conveyed. This theme of high expectations arose multiple times on Tuesday, our full day in Loyola.
As Ignatius lay in what is now the conversion chapel, where we celebrated mass together, he devised a plan to go to Jerusalem and spend his life there. He too had high expectations, just as he had for himself as a knight before his conversion. With the benefit of hindsight, we can smile at how Ignatius’s ultimate path compared to what he expected. His plans were different than what God had planned for him.
What can we learn from Ignatius’s ability to adapt his expectations to reality? As we sat in seminar last night, many pilgrims expressed their expectations and anxieties. We all came on this trip for different reasons, and we all hope to grow from our experiences here. Like Ribadeneira, we want to “get it right”. Yet it is likely that God’s plans will not be identical to ours.
As we continue on the path of St. Ignatius we hope to emulate the trust in God that he demonstrated by his detachment. We know God is speaking to us through this experience, and that often the messages and graces we receive are not the ones that we expect.
– Margaret Felice, Church History Teacher and Campus Ministry, Boston College High School, Dorchester, Massachusetts
– Richard Sullivan, Director of Ignatian Formation, Rockhurst High School, Kansas City, Missouri
July 2 – Iberian Roots
Arévalo, Burgos, and Loyola
We began our journey in Madrid, at the center of today’s Spain. 90 minutes later, we arrived at Arévalo, the center of 1491’s Spain.
“Up to the age of 26 [Íñigo] was a man given to the follies of the world,” and we entered into a milieu that was formative in those early years for two reasons: there was the court where young Íñigo served as a page and the settlement of Jews just outside the city. Walking from Plaza del Real to Castillo de Arévalo, we caught a glimpse of the chivalric culture that had captivated the imagination of Íñigo. Arévalo served as a point of exposure—exposure to the world’s “follies” as well as to the “other,” the Jewish community at a cultural and religious distance but close at hand just outside the walls.
Two hours more on the bus brought us to Burgos, hometown of the converso Polanco family. We made our way past the towering and splendid Catedral de Burgos to San Nicolás de Bari, where Juan Alfonso’s parents and grandparents are entombed at the base of an intricately carved limestone altarpiece. The dramatic extravagance of this little church is telling of its generous Polanco patrons. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, there was a tension within the Spanish Church that compelled all conversos to put their Catholicism on display. Consequently, Juan Alfonso’s faith was likely scrutinized, but he went on to play a critical role in the early Society, serving as secretary to the first three Jesuit Superiors General, including Ignatius himself.
Leaving Burgos, we passed once more through the Arco de Santa Maria, and one of our group members remarked that he thought we should be on horseback. Indeed, in the spirit of young Íñigo, with sights so grand, it seemed fitting.
As the topography shifted along our route from Madrid through Castile and finally into the Basque region, our eyes hungrily took in kilometers of rolling hills, wild yellow flowers, seas of dark green trees, and mountains peppered with boulders. While we were transported across Spain to the North, the sights so stimulated the imagination that we were transported back to the early 1500-1510s. Group discussions and presentations revealed a common experience: What we had seen left us wondering, what had young Inigo seen and how did this prepare his heart? To find answers of his own, Íñigo had to go home. At last we arrived at Loyola.
Loyola may not have been the location that Íñigo/Ignatius spent the most years, or even the most formative ones...it was his home. It was the place where he twice recuperated. It was, by birthright, his place in the world. But perhaps most importantly, it was the place where he reimagined his place in God’s world. The natural splendor of Loyola is plain to see, but the spiritual fruit here that so nourished Ignatius back to life is something we hope to discover ourselves.
– Frank Hager, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Scranton Preparatory School, Scranton, Pennsylvania
– Christine Lorica, Student Life Coordinator/Americorps Fellow, Cristo Rey Boston, Dorchester, Massachusetts
July 1 – Opening Conversations
Finally. Today, our group once scattered around the globe finally gathered for our first meeting in person. We met at our hotel on Madrid's Gran Vía and made the short walk to the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. There (after Spain's World Cup game against Russia), the vice dean warmly welcomed us and gave a brief tour before allowing us space for our first discussion.
This first conversation was a continuation of many that from the past three weeks when participants have engaged with each other in small online groups to discuss shared readings on the history and spirituality of the Society of Jesus. They also each wrote a paper explaining what they hoped to gain from following Ignatius and his story as well as what the early Jesuits had hoped to learn in reflecting on the life of the founder of the Society of Jesus. They addressed the difficulties in separating historical fact from historical myth and in confronting what you think you know with what you ought to know.
Those reflection papers served as the starting points for our discussion here in Madrid. We also considered the primary sources that we read for today: Pierre Favre's instructions to pilgrims; Pedro Arrupe's homily at La Storta, delivered on his behalf the day after he resigned as superior general; and excerpts from the second degree from the 35th General Congregation. The conversations continued as we dined together at a local restaurant.
For the next two weeks, we will guide these 20 people enrolled in the Institute's immersion course. We intend for the course to expose everyone to unique opportunities, thematic readings, and group discussions so that they might critically examine the foundations of the Society of Jesus. The short-term goal of the online discussions and travels is for the participants to deepen their understanding of the spirituality, history, and leadership methods associated with the Society of Jesus. More long term, we hope that our time together will ultimately assist the participants' personal and professional vocations, paying dividends long after we have traveled in the footsteps of leaders.
Those travels begin tomorrow as we head northwest to the town of Arévalo, where the young Íñigo served as a page in the royal court, before we visit Burgos, the hometown of Juan Alfonso de Polanco, and ultimately to Loyola.
– Casey Beaumier, SJ, Director; Cristiano Casalini, Research Scholar; and Seth Meehan, Associate Director; the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies