Chaplains walk in the footsteps of St Ignatius

At the end of the JECSE Pastoral Conference, Jesuit schools’ chaplains had the chance to take part in a pilgrimage in the steps of St Ignatius. Chaplains from nine UK Jesuit schools were joined by chaplains from two schools in the Ignatian family run by the Loreto Sisters for the three-day trip.

“The idea was to walk in the footsteps of St Ignatius” explained Fr Tim Byron SJ, currently priest chaplain at Wimbledon College and assistant at the Jesuit Institute, which organised the pilgrimage. “Jesuits all visit the key places in the life of St Ignatius during their training, but most of our lay colleagues never get the opportunity, so we wanted to share that conversion experience with them.  And there is no better guide than Fr Adrian Porter [Director of the Jesuit Institute].”

On the first day, 30th January, the Jesuit Chaplains stopped in Barcelona, a city which had a special place in St Ignatius’ heart. They then moved on to Montserrat, where Ignatius laid down his sword to take up a pilgrim’s staff, leaving life a as a soldier and courtier in order to pursue his calling, for the greater glory of God.

Wimbledon College chaplain James Potter said “As a lay collaborator of the Jesuits it was great to be able to experience the places which had such an impact on the life of St Ignatius. Working alongside Jesuits we often hear them talking about the impact of places like Manresa so I really appreciated being able to go there myself, and not just as a tourist but also having the time to reflect and pray and just experience the physical connection with St Ignatius. It was deeply moving.”

Peter Warrilow has taught about the life of St Ignatius at Stonyhurst College for 35 years and had never before been to the places featured in his lessons; “it was really inspiring,” he commented.

The wooden statue of the Madonna and Christ Child in Montserrat, in front of which the group prayed all night, dates back to at least the 12th century and has darkened over the years from candle smoke and the touch of many pilgrims. During the day, the UK Jesuit School chaplains joined a large crowd at Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, to sing the Salve Regina.

For the third stop of the pilgrimage, the group celebrated Mass in the cave at Manresa where St Ignatius spent many hours in prayer and where he composed much of his Spiritual Exercises.

On the last day, UK Jesuit and Loreto school chaplains paused to reflect high above the River Cardoner, the place of Ignatius' profound mystical insight at Manresa when "all things seemed new to him".