Experiencing Ignatian immersion
Br Stephen Power SJ has just returned from an intensive course on Ignatian Spirituality based at the cave of Ignatius at Manresa. He has just finished a twelve year mission as Treasurer of the Jesuits in Britain. He shares his experiences.
“This was the ninth time the Ignatian Immersion programme has been run, although I am the first person from the Jesuits in Britain to be a pilgrim through it. Mike Lewis, the present South African tertianship director, was a participant two years ago and highly recommended it. With the Provincial granting me a bit of time post work as treasurer, I was not disappointed.
Thirty-five people from twenty countries (eighteen Jesuits, thirteen sisters from Ignatian institutes and four lay people) formed a temporary but close Ignatian community over six weeks at the place of St Ignatius Loyola’s conversion.
The heart of the time was an eight-day individually guided retreat, with a daily input from Cecil Azzopardi SJ, spiritual father at the Gesù (the Jesuit “Mother Church”) in Rome. The extra input could have been a distraction for those individually directed except for the fact that it was so good. Prior to the retreat Javier Melloni SJ gave a mind-opening exposition of St Ignatius’ autobiography and his spiritual diary (impenetrable to many who try to read it!). An enjoyable four-day visit to Loyola followed the retreat, returning through Javier for a guided tour of Francis Xavier’s family castle from Br Jesús Munárriz SJ and lunch with the community there.
Back in Manresa, Melloni followed with a course on the mystagogy of the Spiritual Exercises (i.e. its pathway of spiritual transformation). José García de Castro SJ from the Universidad Pontifica Comillas of Madrid then unleashed on us his passion for putting people in touch with the sources of the Ignatian charism. The word ‘Monumenta’ (Historica Societatis Iesu) figured very prominently! These are the historical records of the early Jesuits.
Each course of four days was broken up with a transition day. One day we went to the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, where Ignatius gave in his sword (now kept at the Jesuit church in Barcelona). Another rest day took us to the Ignatian sites in Barcelona and to the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia which gets more overwhelming in its splendour day-by-day (due to be complete by 2026).
Hung Pham, a Vietnamese-American Jesuit, spiced up the Jesuit Constitutions under the title of ‘the Society of Jesus as a different form of religious life and pattern of a new apostolic enterprise’ and George Pattery SJ, President of the South Asia Conference, helped participants to sum up their whole experience at the end. It was excellent!"