Immersed in Love
How to describe this experience..?
The brochure on the Immersion course was quite clear: a) learn more about the man Ignatius; b) have a guided 8-day retreat; c) walk some of the streets/paths he walked; d) experience the cave at Manresa, the river, the holy mountain, the chapel of conversion; e) read and try to comprehend some very “heady” material presented by very passionate and talented writers. All this at a fairly reasonable, all-inclusive cost of approximately $53 per day. The above is all true but does not begin to capture the lived reality of the immersion experience.
What happened for me and the members of our pilgrim group was an experience of profound grace. It was now me walking the walk, climbing the mountain, savoring the sounds and tastes, breaking bread as an inclusive family, and experiencing moments of unconditional love. Am I being too dramatic or flamboyant in my description? Maybe, but how does one explain 35 total strangers from 14 different countries—ordained, lay and religious men and women—becoming not only friends but truly becoming a community and companions on a journey?
I was awed by the hospitality we received at the Jesuit communities in Manresa, Loyola, Javier: At each place we stayed, the men greeted us warmly and extended their homes to us freely, saying “Welcome, our home is your home.” Our personal guide, a Jesuit responsible for 35 individuals, did everything humanly possible to support us and make us feel loved and accepted. Every day, our guide was at the service of everyone in this way.
This experience was marked by many moments of grace. Walking the camino (road) from Monserrat to Manresa, my companions and I sometimes spoke, sometimes walked in silence in private prayer. At one point, we talked about the friendship of Ignatius and Peter Faber, Ignatius’ first companion, who once walked this same road together. Ignatius and Faber were focused on their mission to save souls (through the teaching of the Exercises), but because they were always on foot, they also had the blessed opportunity to commune with nature and with one another. These men, like us, were pilgrims on a journey, “finding God in all things and all things in God.”
There were many graces in community. Each day a name from our group was picked and posted in the chapel and dining room as this person’s day and country to be prayed for. Amazingly, my day happened to be in the middle of our silent retreat, on a day when my heart was aching because I wanted to be home for my granddaughter’s First Holy Communion but I was on pilgrimage and wanted this as well. This was confirmation to me and provided a deep consolation that I was where God wanted me.
If you are in IVC we all know the Suscipe (“Take, Lord, and receive all I have and possess…”). During this immersion experience, through our talks, lectures, and prayer times, I understood much more deeply how the Father, through the Son, has given All to us so that, in the words of Scripture, His love is fulfilled in us and us in Him. Such experiences and understandings are difficult to put into words.
Besides missing my family and friends while I was away, I also really missed my resident-friends at Pavilion and Bayside nursing homes, where I serve with IVC. When I returned to Bayside for the first time last week for a surprise visit, I was hugged and kissed by so many people. They surrounded me saying “Where were you?” and “We are glad you came back!” Right there, I was in the presence of the Divine. I joined the Bayside community for Mass that day and our celebrant Fr. Jake’s words made me know again this is where I belong this is where I find God.
One day, in leading a session on Ignatius’ Contemplation to Attain Divine Love, Cecil Azzopardi, SJ, our retreat master, said that to know and experience the love Ignatius speaks about only happens when we are in Service to another. We can do service for many reasons—guilt, obedience, to feel good, etc.—none of which are bad. But True Love in only manifest in Loving Service which sees and experiences the Other as God/Love. This Ignatian immersion experience has returned me back home, to my family and friends, to the IVC, with more love to give and receive.
I invite you to come, taste and see this experience. Information on this course can be found at www.covamanresa.cat.
Thank you Camille!