Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a pilgrim? Well, here’s your chance.
Faculty and staff are invited to literally follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola this spring as Pat O’Leary, S.J., and Natch Ohno, S.J., lead a pilgrimage through Spain to visit the sites that were pivotal in the Jesuit founder’s spiritual awakening and formation.
"The pilgrimage is a way of grounding the Ignatian experience in the places where St. Ignatius lived and moved,” says Father O’Leary, chaplain for alumni and staff, who has been leading trips like this for years. “The pilgrimage provides a concrete connection to the graces and movements that many people find in Ignatian spirituality.”
Over 12 days this March, (14-25), Fathers O’Leary and Ohno will lead a group of pilgrims, as they are called, on a journey that includes such destinations as Loyola, where Ignatius was raised, Pamplona, where he took part in a battle that left him seriously wounded and questioning his purpose in life, and Montserrat and Manresa, where Ignatius’s spirituality was shaped.
The pilgrimage will resonate with those who are connected in some way with Ignatian spirituality, whether they’ve been working at a Jesuit institution such as Seattle University or involved with a Jesuit parish or some other ministry associated with the order.
For those just beginning to acquaint themselves with the life of Ignatius, O’Leary says the trip can provide an entrée to Ignatian spirituality. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a pilgrim to begin meeting with a spiritual director or to make the Spiritual Exercises after going on the trip.
Yet it’s not just “beginners” who find value in the pilgrimage. The more seasoned Ignatian veterans who go on the trip often come away with a heightened appreciation for the man whose spirituality is so central to the Jesuit mission.
Before going on his pilgrimage in 2006, Le Xuan Hy, associate professor of psychology, was already well-versed in the life and spirituality of Ignatius. “I had visited Loyola a decade before, took the complete (30-day) Spiritual Exercises three times, and directed others through it, so I thought I knew Ignatius.
“Yet Ignatius and his ‘great desires’ came alive in Fr. Pat, at each and every location, from the battle scene at Pamplona, to the Casa Loyola, to the magnificent cliffs of Monserrat and the Black Madonna before whom Ignatius made the grand offering of his life and, finally, to the little town of Manresa where he experienced grounding and transformation that opened mind and heart to ‘the greater glory of God.’”
Mary-Antoinette Smith, associate professor of English and director of Women Studies, went on the 2010 pilgrimage with a similarly deep background in Ignatian spirituality, having made three- and five-day silent retreats, the nine-month Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL) retreat and most recently, the 30-day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Still, the journey in Spain brought new texture to her experience.
“As someone who has consistently participated in many things Ignatian over the past 18 years,” she says, “the chance to visit firsthand the places where St. Ignatius was wounded, transformed, converted and inspired to found the Society of Jesus for the purpose of spreading the Good News, ‘Ad majorem Dei Gloriam,’ was illuminating. It was a grace-filled experience that I recommend enthusiastically to others as an enriching opportunity.”
For Hy, the experience in Spain continues to sustain him spiritually. “The pilgrimage grows dearer for me. I am still drawing deeper from Fr. Pat’s talks and the images, both physical and mental. Can I go again?”