JISA Spiritual Director, Mary Diggins reflects on her experience of the International Ignatian Immersion in Manresa April-June this year.
‘Gustar y sentir’ the Spanish phrase, meaning to savour and taste our experience with God, through reflection, will live in my heart forever.
The International Ignatian Immersion Course 2023 began with this invitation to enter into a time of “gustar y sentir” as we set off on a journey of pilgrimage through the life of Ignatius and the first companions, with the Spiritual Exercises as our source and guide.
This experience brought together participants from 20 countries around the world, for six weeks (Apr 23- June 4) at ‘La Cova’ the Ignatian Centre of Spirituality in Manresa, Spain.
Throughout this time we were guided through lectures and study on the Autobiography and the Spiritual Diary of St Ignatius, pilgrimages to the Ignatian sites of Montserrat, Loyola, Javier, Barcelona and Manresa, and further study of the Mystagogy of the Spiritual Exercises, The First Companions, The Constitutions, and Ignatian Spirituality today.
As I continue to sit with the gift of going deeper and the mystery of these days unfold, some initial reflections rise to the surface.
The spirit of the ancient landscape of Spain, which Ignatius also walked and inhabited 500 years ago was keenly present to us in Manresa. The mountains of Montserrat on the horizon framed our days, our constant companions, presenting a new perspective and vision with the light and the weather.
The Cardoner River too, which snaked its way along the valley floor below us, provided an image for our life journey. Like Ignatius, we were invited to moments of contemplation by the water as it tumbled over rocks and provided peaceful pools for a grey heron whom I watched stand on the same rocks and fish each day.
The cobblestoned streets of Montserrat, Manresa and Barcelona revealed a medieval world in places where Ignatius walked, begged, and was accompanied by the women and men who helped him and joined him on his journey with God. Touching the stones, praying in the same places, just being there with others was an experience for me of being on holy ground.
Our Lady of Monserrat was also present in the warmth and hospitality of the people of Catalunya we met and in the sacred ground of Montserrat itself. She was never far from us and walked with us during these days very profoundly.
Furthermore, the experience of the Ignatian family coming together as one in all our diversity was a wonderful privilege. We were women and men, lay and religious, Jesuits from different works and countries, other religious congregations of differing experience, yet all with the Ignatian charism. Our shared language, prayer and way of proceeding became our common bond, like the first companions, who shared with one another as “friends in the Lord.” Thanks to WhatsApp and email we will never be far from one another!
However, “touching the sources” was the golden thread that ran through the whole Immersion experience. As the original texts were broken open for us, the Ignatian places we visited came alive and spoke again of Ignatius’ life and the profound centrality of the Spiritual Exercises in his life and in the life of the First Companions.
Finally, time spent sitting quietly in the cave at Manresa in the evenings, the shared liturgy and prayer together, along with the opportunity to sing in the Chapel of Conversion at Loyola, at Javier and in the final liturgy in the cave at Manresa, I will always treasure.
This experience ended as we began, with the invitation to gustar y sentir and to consider how the immersion will continue to flow through our life and mission. Personally, as I walk back into my daily life and work, I feel like a new person. My experience has been transformed by God who is present in all things and makes all things new.
With great gratitude, I continue to pray the prayer of our community in Manresa,
“St Ignatius, walk with us.”