For the next three weeks I hope to keep my hands up and open to receive what God has for me. But I also want to let them turn down when it is time to let something go.
We will end up our Spanish pilgrimage in the Cave of Ignatius in Manresa in a few weeks (above). But all along the way we hope to symbolically pray with him on the bank of the Cardoner River. His biographer describes what happened there:
He sat down for a little while with his face to the river—Cardoner—which was running deep. While he was seated there, the eyes of his understanding began to be opened; though he did not see any vision, he understood and knew many things, both spiritual things and matters of faith and learning, and this was with so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him. It was as if he were a new man with a new intellect.
No one knows for sure just what happened because experiences with God are generally rather indescribable. But we know Ignatius changed his life and went a new direction from then on.
When he left Montserrat, Ignatius left his aristocrat clothes and his soldier’s equipment behind. He went to the hospital in Manresa to further heal and to further practice the spirituality he had discovered while reading the lives of the saints in the famous mountaintop monastery. He found a cave where he could be alone with God and practiced a severe version of the penance rituals common to monks and others at the time (around 1522). The children called him “the man in sackcloth” as he wandered among the poor. He damaged himself with his asceticism and villagers came to his rescue, as he lay in a fallow state of contemplation.
He got better and took his meditation to the river, as I have often done on the Schuylkill. Ignatius left it to speculation as to what the River Cardoner revealed to him. But he soon abandoned his severe fasting and harsh penitence, and embraced a more balanced spirituality. His new understanding led directly to his decision to write the Spiritual Exercises, which are still an inspiration to many people. The last chapter of his guide, “Contemplation to Attain the Love of God,” probably contains the essence of what was affirmed by the river. God is present in all things, and labors to continually transform what is broken and create what is good. God bathes all of creation in a ceaseless flow of blessings and gifts, like the light emanating from the sun.
I am inspired to take another pilgrimage with my mind and heart open to wherever it leads, because God will be there and I will be focused and free to meet up with Jesus along the way.
Even though the order Ignatius founded became rich and powerful, I can overlook that. They did not gild the banks of the river like they did the cave. So Ignatius the wounded soldier, disciplining himself for the duty of transformation, will not be completely obscured in Manresa. The Cave is a thin place, no matter what kind of human with whatever kind of motives has visited. We will add our faith in Jesus and likely leave with more than we brought. May your May be a similar journey in faith, hope, and love.
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Vaya con Dios