It’s almost 400 miles from the castle of Loyola to the Benedictine Monastery high up the mountains of Montserrat. When you are riding in a coach bus, the miles pass slowly, but painlessly. No so for St. Ignatius. After months of recuperation from his battle injury and subsequent surgeries, he was ready to head out of the family castle and visit the famous Shrine of our Lady of Montserrat. His conversion underway, he went to the Shrine to reconcile with God.
It must have been an incredibly painful trip, sometimes limping along, sometimes riding a donkey. When I first saw the mountains, I simply couldn’t imagine how Ignatius made it to the Monastery, which sits high up, nearly to the top, on March 21, 1522. Those who study Ignatius know that, after his conversion, he was a very determined man, and he knew getting right with God was essential to his mission. His sacramental conversation with one of the monks there, a Frenchmen named Jean Chanon, took three days. When Ignatius headed down the mountain to Manresa, he had removed all trappings of his former life of a nobleman. Now, dressed as a pilgrim, he thought he would spend the rest of his life in the Holy Land. God had other plans for Ignatius, plans which would he could never have imagined.
Have you ever been to a place where you could just feel the holiness? Up until my own pilgrimage to Montserrat, the little Umbrian town of Assisi in Italy was it for me. The presence of St. Francis is everywhere. In Montserrat, you have the sense that many, many saints have climbed the mountain and made their home here. It’s no wonder that Montserrat is the number one spiritual destination in Spain.
I was blessed to visit for two days. I wish it had been two weeks. Maybe next time…