St. Ignatius still seemed a bit unreal to me when we left Montserrat and headed down the mountain to Manresa, where he would live for nearly a year, living as a hermit, having mystical experiences, writing in his notebook, and, in a moment of despair, even contemplated suicide. God revealed himself to Ignatius in this little town, and even though he planned to stay there just a few days, it would be nearly a year before he left. His experiences in Manresa were profound and shaped the rest of his life.
There is now a church built over the cave where Ignatius lived, and the cave is now a chapel. My fellow pilgrims and I had the blessing of celebrating Mass there, and as rich as that experience was, I wasn’t feeling the real Ignatius. Then, someone pointed to two small crosses carved into the stone. Fr. Paul told us that, so the legend goes, Ignatius himself was the carver. Now, I could imagine Ignatius doing that. I closed my eyes and in my mind, I saw him holding a stone and making the marks. Simple signs to keep him going through the dark days he experienced right here, on this spot.
Our time in Manresa was short, and I wished we could have spent the whole day there. It seemed like a place that called for reflection, for imagining, for discernment. Like Robert Frost pondered in his poem The Road Not Taken, I doubted if I should ever come back. Somehow though, I think I just might make it to Manresa again, and I can’t wait.