Rome in the Footsteps of St Ignatius Loyola

June 25, 2024

I was blessed to be part of a group of young adults from the Jesuit Young Adult Ministries (Jesuit YAM) who travelled to Rome for a pilgrimage “in the footsteps of St Ignatius Loyola”

Blog by John Brannan, participant in Jesuit Young Adult Ministries

It wasn't the first time I had been to Rome but this time it felt different as I made the journey with a group of young adults from Jesuit YAM which is based at Farm Street Church. On this occasion we were all on pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Ignatius Loyola to discover more of the life of the Jesuits’ founder, to learn more about the work of the Jesuits and wider church in Rome and to grow closer to each other exploring the sites and to God in the beautiful and solemn surroundings of the many churches we visited.

The Young Adults visit the Christian Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome

It was also an opportunity at least for me to take some time out of the busyness of London life to spend time in God's presence and to deepen my relationship with him.

It was fitting that we would start our pilgrimage on our first day with a papal audience. The Holy Father gave a catechesis on the Holy Spirit which reflected on the action of the Holy Spirit in divine revelation specifically in sacred scripture. As we sang the “Our Father” at the end of the audience it was amazing to be surrounded by so many people from different countries all united by one faith proclaiming praises to God.

The next day, we had a brilliant visit to the Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome. It was amazing to see the compassion the staff had for the refugees they were serving and the passion with which they sought to meet their physical, spiritual and educational needs. Soon it was time to depart to visit the rooms where St Ignatius lived, worked and died. It was interesting to learn more about his work founding the Jesuits and to see where the Jesuit Constitutions was written.

Joining together to celebrate mass in the room where he died was moving and a chance to contemplate what it means to live, as St Ignatius did, a life of service to God. In the afternoon, we enjoyed a tour from a Living Stones guide, of the Church of San’ Ignazio di Loyola. Our guide brought the paintings to life and deepened our understanding of St Ignatius as we discovered how God used him from his beginnings as a soldier to his conversion after being severely injured at the Battle of Pamplona which then led to a life of prayer and service and to the founding of the Society of Jesus.

There were many other highlights from a tour and mass in the catacombs where around half a million Christians were buried including martyrs and popes to our visit to the Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel frescos really immerse you in the biblical stories they depict and allow you to appreciate them anew. A special moment was gathering for our examens. We could pause and reflect on the time we had spent together and to learn and hear from each other recognising God's presence with us.

On the penultimate day we visited the Venerable English College where we discovered its history and the painstaking work to preserve it in the College's archive and heard about its present role as a seminary. It was a day of archive visits as we also went to the Jesuit Archives in Rome to learn about their custodianship and preservation of the documents of the central government of the Society of Jesus and their work to promote research on the history of the Society. Documents from the archives that we were shown even included photographs of Farm Street Church!

The week went by so quickly but there were so many moments to treasure. Thank you to Father Kensy and Father Jim for all the organisation and planning which went into the week and for guiding us both physically and spiritually whilst in Rome. Finally thank you to all my fellow young adults for making it such a special week.

To find out more about Jesuit Young Adult Ministries please click here.

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