We began the final day of our pilgrimage celebrating an early morning Eucharist in one of the small crypt chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica. In my homily, I spoke again about our journey together — about our journey to sacred places and spaces. From Bilbao to Loyola, Montserrat, Manresa and Rome we experienced spaces that were part of Ignatius’ journey: humble places such as his childhood home, the Room of Conversion, the small parish church in Xavier, the Cave where he prayed in Manresa, his office at the Gesu and the adjoining road room where he died. We also traveled through the striking countryside of the Basque Country, marveled at the magnificent rock formations of Montserrat and finally enjoyed the majestic beauty of the ancient city of Rome. From humble rooms to magnificent scenery to the extraordinary churches of our pilgrimage — the 17th century Basilica at Loyola, the towering Benedictine monastery at Montserrat, the Gesu and Church of St. Ignatius in Rome and, of course, the familiar and awe-inspiring St. Peter’s Basilica — we saw many of the places and spaces where Ignatius grew in Faith.
On this feast of the Holy Trinity we celebrate the power of God whom Ignatius came to know as the creator of the natural world where he encountered God’s transcendent love; as the source of unconditional love and mercy revealed to him in Jesus, who in gentle and compassionate ways led him away from his self-centered life and freed him for generous loving; and the power of the Holy Spirit whom he came to know over time as he discerned his way of serving the world.
Similarly, we have met God in our lives. In our travels, and in our homes and offices, God’s abiding presence both comforts and challenges us to live and love generously as Ignatius did. And what this pilgrimage has so clearly revealed to us anew, is that, like Ignatius, we are loved and forgiven, we are not alone, we are blessed and gifted, and we are called to share our lives with and for others.
As we were celebrating this great feast of the Church, we could hear other liturgies being celebrated in different languages nearby where songs reflecting these cultures added a sense of the universal Church St. Peter’s so powerfully draws together.
After Mass we had a chance to view the magnificent spaces and shrines in St Peter’s. Four of us climbed to the top of the dome and then to the cupola where, despite the stormy weather, the views were magnificent.
At noon, we gathered in St. Peter’s Square to listen to Pope Francis lead the Angelus and offer a brief greeting. The Angelus is an ancient prayer celebrating the Angel Gabriel’s annunciation of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is recited at noon and the time for recitation is traditionally marked by the ringing of church bells. The convergence of so many different peoples, nations and languages praying together was joyously inspiring.
In the afternoon we visited The Basilica of Saint Mary Major where Ignatius celebrated his first Mass on Christmas Day, 1538. We also visited the Basilica of St. Paul “Outside-the-Wall,” where Ignatius and five of his companions walked to pronounce their solemn vows.
Reflection (from the Spiritual Exercises)
The goal of life is to live with God forever. God who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, therefore, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what leads to the deepening of God’s life in me.
Prayer of St. Ignatius
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my understanding, and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given 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.