We each walk our own Camino. We come from places across the globe, each bearing our past, stirred by hope, eager to see, feel and be transported beyond what we know to something more—something deeper within ourselves.
Ignatian spirituality, rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, directs us to this something more—to more love, more hope, more faith. Ignatius directs and guides us to greater awareness of the Love who labors in every time and place, in every moment and every experience we will ever have.
This is what the Ignatian Camino is about. Every day on the Camino, we pay attention to the landscape, to the places along Ignatius’ journey, to the inner movements of our mind and heart and to our fellow pilgrims, trusting the Great Love God is will meet us on the way and lift us into the fullness of who God creates us to be.
We use our senses, paying attention to the things that give us greater life and joy, greater love and faith, greater energy and freedom, also noticing what drains and binds us from being the fullness of who we truly are.
I recall the day we left LaGuardia early last October. I asked to walk additional kilometers because I wanted time to be alone. Our pilgrims had reached a middle part of the Camino, and I missed familiar faces at home for whom I was concerned. The weight of loneliness was heavier than anything in my backpack.
I walked through kilometers of vineyards. Harvesters heaved baskets of deep, red grapes to their shoulders and carried them to wagons, soon heaped with fruit, ripe and fragrant of the wine they would become. My head swam in the rich bouquet of earth, vines and grapes at the peak of the season. A steel-gray sky threatened rain, blocking the morning sun from warming my way. A few openings punctuated the clouds where narrow bursts of light pierced through, but did little to lift my heart.
The cinder road twisted along ridges that rose and fell only to rise higher each time, framed always by thousands of rows of grape vines somehow thriving in the thin rocky soil. Each precise row bent and carved with the contours of land.
I trekked over multiple ridges, stopping four or five kilometers from town for a drink of water and looked back toward the old town of LaGuardia. The medieval town perches atop a mound, made higher as generations built over the ruins and remains of earlier structures. The hill gets higher each century. One can imagine the Lord of the Castle standing at the top of the mound, safe behind its castle walls, surveying his domain, thousands of acres of vineyards stretching far as the eye can see even on clear days.
But this day, looking back from my ridge at the castle-crowned mound, a break in the leaden sky allowed a great sunburst to envelop the entire hill, perfectly framing and lighting the town. The outlines of the medieval city, its walls and tower basked in a golden glow. Light poured down rays of blessing as if God were saying, “Look and see. This is a place of grace.”
Candel lights. Montserrat Abbey.
I stood and watched. I listened to my heart and knew. This beautiful land, these old hills, this rocky soil, and this complicated life I lead are enveloped by the Love who called everything that is into being. I saw that we exist inside the flow of a great and holy Love. Even our pains and losses, moments of loneliness, too, are enclosed in rays of grace that heal and stir hope, awakening our hearts to see and savor what is most precious on the journey of our lives. Looking at the light, it was impossible not to smile. I was lifted into joy.
It was just a moment on a ridge under a somber sky. But it was so much more because the Loving Mystery labors in every moment to illuminate our hearts and lift us into the full beauty of all that God intends for us to be.
The Camino is an external journey into an internal discovery that there is more to life, more to God and more to yourself than you know. I hope you will walk the Ignatian way with me this fall. The amazing staff of Marly Camino, a most gracious group, will make your pilgrimage a time of great joy and blessing.
Ignatian Pilgrims walk. Ignatian road.