Ignatian Immersion Course in Spain
Brendan McManus SJ is currently in Manresa, Spain, participating in the Ignatian Immersion Course along with 31 other Jesuits, religious and lay people from around the world. The course (from 24 April to 5 June 2022) is an opportunity to study the legacy of St Ignatius Loyola as an inspiration for authentic Christian living in contemporary society and Church, and as a means for the spiritual formation of individual and groups.
Brendan says: “We began by looking at the personal experience of Ignatius the Pilgrim, in his autobiography and Spiritual Diary. Then, after an excellent 8-day individually guided Ignatian retreat, we have just started studying the Spiritual Exercises from a mystagogical and pedagogical angle.”
The lectures take place alongside personal study and on-going dialogue in small groups aimed to help participants to integrate their various experiences. Brendan continues:
“What is wonderful is being in the places where Ignatius himself spent time, so we have been living in Manresa with access to the Cave [see photo above], and also visiting various other Ignatian sites (Montserrat, Loyola, Javier), so that the study is contextualised in a ‘composition of place’.”
This quality of spiritual experience is a constant theme throughout the course as is personal prayer and Eucharistic celebration.
Here is Brendan’s reflection on the first week of the course:
12 Surprising things about Ignatius Loyola
- Ignatius was brought up a Catholic, but it was not in evidence in his early life, rather he was impulsive and violent (the split between faith and life).
- He was initially full of extremes, i.e., fasting, penances, mortifications, but learnt to moderate those (finding balance between extremes).
- The loss of his mother at an early age had a huge impact; lacking this ‘loving gaze’ he sought to compensate by seeking affirmation as a hero and a martyr; (the ‘gaze of Christ’ would undo the damage).
- The famous ‘cave’ in Manresa, where Ignatius reputedly wrote the Spiritual Exercises, was more of an overhang that had been shaped by the river, that is, it is exposed and offers little protection (Ignatian Spirituality isn’t a closed system but open and fluid).
- His great vision at the Cardoner river was that God had created all things but also was working through those things to bring people to awareness of God’s self-giving nature (he “saw all things anew” after that; God in all things).
- His conversion was not an instant thing but took many years; God works to bring us to the fullness of humanity, not in spite of it (the slow human process of transformation; we rush to ‘canonise’ too quickly and miss the pilgrim/human story).
- Sainthood wasn’t the great idealistic perfection that he initially thought, but a paradoxical human humility (relinquishing control; a letting go and letting God).
- The hardest thing for him was letting go of the ego driven, self-striving that thought he could make a saint through strength of will (a self-abandonment or handing over of control).
- The Spiritual Exercises are based on the life experiences of Ignatius; he wants people to have the same insights and learnings that he did on his journey to God (behind the great insights are human experiences of God).
- Ignatius didn’t invent the Exercises from scratch but rather borrowed from a whole lot of sources that he came across (he draws together all the strands of his previous experience in a new way, a new synthesis).
- What is original is the use of the imagination to get inside Gospel scenes, making them come alive and applying all your senses to recreate the scene for today (imagination is the royal pathway to God).
- His image for the Trinity is three keys or notes that make up one chord, together they harmonise and relate to make something greater (it is the unity and inner relationships that are the harmonious result).