A year ago today, my fellow pilgrims and I were in Loyola, the ancestral home of St. Ignatius. Amongst the baroque grandeur of the 17th century Basilica built in his honor, it was a bit hard for me to find a glimpse of the real Ignatius, who probably wouldn’t have been thrilled with the huge and fancy church.
In an unexpected way, I found what I was looking for in what’s now known as the Room of the Conversion, located in the Loyola family castle, right next to the Basilica. Ignatius spent months in that room, unable to get out of bed, recovering from the surgeries he had after being seriously wounded in the battle of Pamplona. As he read from two books, one on the Life of Christ and the other on the lives of the saints, Ignatius said in his autobiography that, in this room, “his eyes were opened a little,” and he began to perceive things with spiritual vision.
He came to realize that when he thought about his former way of life, one which was quite sinful and worldly, he felt sad. When he thought of Christ and the Saints, he felt happy. He slowly came to realize that he wanted to leave his past and move forward, aligned with God and desiring to serve Him.
We celebrated Mass in this room, now a place of prayer and reflection. It was good to be with my fellow pilgrims in this space, each of us contemplating the beginnings of Ignatius’ conversion, which took place right here. Maybe some of us had our eyes opened to perceive what God is calling us to. Maybe just a little.