We had a half an hour sleep in this morning because of our very long and tiring day yesterday and the fact that we all got to bed late after a late dinner. We gathered outside the hotel at 8.30am. Led by Fermin Lopetegui, our Basque guide, we followed in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius as we walked through picturesque countryside to the Benedictine Basilica of Montserrat.
Today was a difficult stage with some steep sections. Along the way, however, we enjoyed the craggy mountain scenery of the Montserrat mountain which rises majestically up to 1,235 metres. The bizarre rock formations in Montserrat create a unique universe in stone, and the landscape and the views are breathtaking.
The Monastery complex has been one of Spain’s most important pilgrimage sites for hundreds of years, due to its famous 12th century Romanesque wooden carving of the revered Virgen Moreneta, the “Black Virgin”. The history of Montserrat dates to the 9th century, when a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains. Montserrat was an important stop on the pilgrimage for Saint Ignatius, and it is said that he experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus while at the shrine. The cave chapel known as “Santa Cova”, is where (according to legend) the Virgin Mary was seen by the shepherds.
At Montserrat Ignatius laid down his sword at the shrine of the Black Madonna in a symbolic embodiment of his surrendering his former courtly and military life for a new life devoted to the service of Jesus.
We are staying at the Hotel Abat Cisneros in Montserrat which is housed within a converted monastery building that has welcomed pilgrims since the 16th century, the hotel is situated in the heart of the Sanctuary of Montserrat, adjacent to the Basilica.
At 6.45pm we went to Vespers with the Benedictine Monks in the Basilica who were joined by a boy’s choir afterwards.
After Vespers I said Mass for some members of the group in a chapel that is behind the statue of the Black Madonna.
Contemplation to attain the love of God
Today as we walked we prayed the Contemplation to attain the Love of God.
For Ignatius, God is in the wild flowers we see along the tracks, God is in the river stones on the pathway, God is in the clear blue skies overhead, God is in the grandeur of Montserrat. In short, God can be found in all things. Today we pray on what God gives to us and what we give to God.
Below I give the modern translation of Saint Ignatius’s Contemplatio, by David Fleming SJ, in his excellent book Draw me into your friendship—The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: a literal translation and a contemporary reading, St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.
Preliminary Note: Before this exercise is presented, two observations should be made:
- the first is that love ought to show itself in deeds over and above words;
- the second is that love consists in a mutual sharing of goods. For example, as a lover one gives and shares with the beloved something of one’s own personal gifts or some possession which one has or is able to give; so, too, the beloved shares in a similar way with the lover. In this way, one who has knowledge shares it with the one who does not, and this is true for honors, riches and so on. In love, one always wants to give to the other.
Preparation: I take the usual time to place myself reverently in the presence of my Lord and my God, begging that everything in my day is directed more and more to God’s service and praise.
At this time, I may find it especially helpful as I enter into this prayer to imagine myself standing before God and all the saints who are praying for me.
Grace: I beg for the gift of an intimate knowledge of all the goods which God lovingly shares with me. Filled with gratitude, I want to be empowered to respond just as totally in my love and service.
The Setting: There are four different focal points which provide the subject matter for my prayer:
1. God’s gifts to me
God creates me out of love which desires nothing more than a return of love on my part. So much does God love me that even though I turn away and make little response, this Giver of all good gifts continues to be my Savior and Redeemer.
All my natural abilities and gifts, along with the gifts of Baptism and the Eucharist and the special graces lavished upon me, are only so many signs of how much God our Lord shares divine life with me and wants to share ever more. My consolation: who I am by the grace of God!
If I were to respond as a reasonable person, what could I give in return to such a Lover? Moved by love, I may want to express my own love-response in the following words:Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty; my memory, my understanding, and my entire will—all that I have and call my own. You have given it all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me.
2. God’s self-giving to me
God not only gives gifts to me, but God literally gifts me with the fullness of divine life in Jesus. God’s only Son is not only the Word in whom all things are created, but also the Word who becomes flesh and dwells with us. Jesus gives himself to me so that his Body and Blood become the food and drink of my life. Jesus pours out upon me his Spirit so that I can cry out “Abba, Father.” God loves me so much that I become a dwelling place or a temple of God—growing in an ever-deepening realization of the image and likeness of God which is the glory shining our of human creation.
If I were to make only a reasonable response, what could I do? Moved by love, I may find that I can respond best in words like the Take and Receive.
3. God’s labours for me
God loves me so much, even entering into the very struggle of life. Like a potter with clay, like a mother in childbirth, or like a mighty force blowing life into dead bones, God labors to share divine life and love. God’s labors are writ large in Jesus’ passion and death on a cross in order to bring forth the life of the Resurrection.
Once more I question myself how I can make a response. Let me look again to the expression of the Take and Receive.
4. God as Giver and Gift
God’s love shines down upon me like the light rays from the sun, or God’s love is poured forth lavishly like a fountain spilling forth its waters into an unending stream. Just as I see the sun in its rays and the fountain in its waters, so God pours forth a sharing in divine life in all the gifts which showered upon me. God’s delight and joy is to be with the ones called God’s children—to be with me. God cannot do enough to speak out and show love for me—ever calling and inviting me to a fuller and better life, a sharing in divine life.
What can I respond to such a generous Giver? Let me once again consider the expression of the Take and Receive. I close the prayer with an Our Father.
Montserrat at last…not far to go now! I hope you are not too exhausted to enjoy your walk to Manresa!
I’m sure you will receive a warm welcome at La Cova. Jennifer
Congratulations, Michael and all your pilgrim companions, now that you have arrived at beautiful Montserrat overlooking the Cardoner River and what now has become the large town of Manresa, after walking more than 600km across the north of Spain from Loyola to Manresa.
In 2011 I spent a weekend in retreat living with the monks in Montserrat and following their daily schedule, including listening to reading at their meals in Catalan!
Blessings over all of you,