In September, 20 pilgrims from Australia will walk the 640 km pilgrim route taken in 1522 by Íñigo López de Loyola (who later became Saint Ignatius of Loyola) from his home in Spain’s Basque country to Montserrat and Manresa.
The “Camino Ignaciano” or the “Ignatian way” begins at the birthplace of Ignatius in a village near the small town of Azpeitia. From there, the route proceeds through picturesque mountains, deserts, and plains, before ending in the town of Manresa near Barcelona.
Led by Fr Michael Smith SJ, pilgrims will spend 28 days walking virtually the same route that Ignatius did, and pass through many towns that he did, pray at churches where he did, and marvel at the same natural wonders that he saw.
The story of the Ignatian Camino is that Íñigo, the soldier-courtier, was wounded in battle against the French at Pamplona in 1521. A canon ball severely fractured the bones of one leg and the other leg was injured as well. Íñigo’s broken bones were set by a French surgeon, then the defeated warrior was carried to his family’s castle at Loyola. As he recuperated he went through a profound conversion. Íñigo was transformed from a fearless and flamboyant nobleman and soldier into a humble pilgrim, a man of God, and finally, a saint.
He resolved to travel to the Holy Land as a pilgrim and set off in early 1522. He first journeyed some 400 miles to Montserrat, where he made an all-night vigil. He then detoured to the nearby town of Manresa and spent almost a year there living in a cave. Manresa was a place of profound spiritual enlightenment for him. There he composed his spiritual masterpiece, the Spiritual Exercises.
Resting at Dight’s Falls during a two-hour training walk around the Yarra River.Following Íñigo, this 21st century group of pilgrims will be on a 28-day outer journey and an inner journey. Fr Michael says that although the outer journey will be well marked, the inner journey will be less so. “For some it will be about forgiveness or reconciliation, for others a new direction or course in life, a confirmation of a major life choice, or a renewed or rediscovered sense of personal identity,” he explained.
Each day pilgrims will have the opportunity for daily Mass, either said by the guide, Fr Michael, or one of the other priests making the pilgrimage, or the group will attend a Eucharist in one of the local parishes. There will also be opportunities for prayer, personal reflection, spiritual conversation and sharing in small groups.
A few of the pilgrims will be graduate students in spirituality and spiritual direction from Sentir Graduate College for Spiritual Formation, which is a college of MCD University of Divinity in Melbourne, Australia.