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Montserrat to Manresa

The monastery bells ring boldly as the sun rises on Montserrat. We collectively wish that we could linger on this mountain high, but the valley low beckons. Our guide, Ignacio, explains that it is not so far to Manresa, but it is a walk,“desafiante” (formidable). We grow silent, for at this point, we know exactly what he is saying. It is not the miles, but the up and down that can challenge.

One pilgrim breaks our silence, “The question is: do we have what it takes”? We smile and laugh, for this pilgrim has come on the Ignatian Camino to mark the occasion of his 80th birthday! He has inspired us with his rich lived experience, stories and songs, every step of the way. He has what it takes, and we will dig deep to find it too.

We wind our way through terraced hills, following the ancient Roman road, the “cami ral”. Finally, we come to the old Roman bridge that crosses the Cardoner River into Manresa. As we cross, we see the old hermit caves in the river bank, and realize that Ignatius’ cave is right in front of us, now preserved inside the walls of the Sanctuary of La Cova. Some of us had imagined Ignatius’ cave to be far from the town, but its proximity close to the old city wall and near the hospital of Santa Llúcia where he served the poor and sick, expanded our perspective. Ignatius was surrounded by a community, who would support his ongoing formation and personal healing during the desolate times in Manresa. It was also a place where he experienced God’s consoling grace, and shared his Spiritual Exercises with other seekers.

Ignatius would stay in Manresa for 11 months; it was a place where he was transformed. As we rested on the steps of the Sanctuary of La Cova de San Ignacio de Loyola, we realized our walking camino had come to its end. We read the inscription on the final marker of the Ignatian Camino: “All these are wise who by following the old path, learn how to travel the new ways.”

Ignacio, our guide, presented us with our pilgrim certificates, and we went off to receive our final sello (stamp) at the Basilica Seu de Manresa to make it official. After a celebratory lunch of paella, we toured the Ignatian sites across the city. We had come a hundred miles, yet we had a few more steps in us to get to know the place that helped Ignatius to “learn how to travel the new ways.”

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