How often in these situations must Mary have returned inwardly to the hour when God’s angel had spoken to her, pondering afresh the greeting: “Rejoice, full of grace! “And the consoling words: “Do not be afraid!” – Pope Benedict XVI
How can I explain how exquisitely excellent it is to be here in Loyola the place where St Ignatius was born? This morning I have had the great delight of going to mass in the Chapel of Conversion, the place where it is said that he recovered from his cannonball injuries and began to read the lives of the saints and then experienced a great change of heart. Here in this holy house, as they call it, this man’s heart was changed and he set out on a path which I have done backwards. Upon regaining his health, he would go to Manresa and Montserrat. He would write the Spiritual Exercises and establish the Society of Jesus. This man who had envisioned his life one way, now experienced, through the grace of God, a life of love and service for the greater good of all. He lived his life solely for the glory of God. This is the man who has influenced my own faith and spirituality in ways I cannot begin to articulate. Being here at this point in my journey is deeply moving. The Take and Receive prayer and Principle and Foundation are tangibly real for me and I weep as I pray with them.
After mass yesterday, a Jesuit stopped me and asked how it was. I told him it was beautiful. Celebrated in both Basque and Spanish, I found the experience touching. In a tiny chapel in the Basilica, a handful of people gathered to break bread. In the corner, was a replica of the death mask of Ignatius. As the Jesuit and I spoke, I explained that I helped to teach the spiritual exercises in Canada with a group of lay people. He had spent some time in Toronto, probably at Guelph, and was pleased to hear of my involvement. I told him it was a privilege to do this work. He was so happy and something about that made me cry. Tears come often in this place and I see them as a great grace. I know that this pilgrimage is built upon the footsteps of many holy people. As I left the Jesuit I brushed away my tears, and I heard him say to a woman in English, “This is a holy woman.” I knew that he had said it for my own benefit and tears streamed down my face as I went on my way.
The graces that I will receive during this time, I suspect, as with Mary, I will return to number of times inwardly to contemplate anew their meaning. I will have much to rejoice in and I will also need the assurance to not be afraid. None of us know what life has in store. All we can do is offer it to God and trust our lives have meaning and purpose that serves the greater good. This morning I prayed that God would continue to convert my heart and use me in service for good.
Now I am off to pray and do a long version of my graced history. This pilgrimage will be added to that list of where God has been at work in my life.
When was the last time you stood on holy ground?
Who in your life has effected your faith in positive ways?
Creator, you who have given all to me, take now. I return it to the One who has given so lavishly. Your abiding Love and gracious Grace are simply enough for me. Amen. (Based on take and receive prayer).