We left Verdú this morning on the camino path, full of anticipation for our walk to Montserrat! This was the destination for Ignatius on his pilgrim journey, to pray at the shrine for Our Lady of Montserrat, known to the people as the Black Madonna, or affectionately, La Moreneta. Marian devotion to La Moreneta had been strong for hundreds of years prior to Ignatius’ journey in 1522. Pilgrims, as well as kings and queens, had been ascending this spectacular mountain and sacred place.
As we approached the mountain range, we were awed by the natural wonder of Mount “serrat” (“serrated” or “sawed top of the mountain”). Some of us thought it was shaped liked the fingers of two hands reaching up to the sky. We know from “A Pilgrim’s Testament” that it was here that Ignatius experienced the love of God poured out in creation; the stars at night and the sunrise over the mountain valley. Ignatius also found hospitality and guidance from the Benedictine monks at the monastery on Montserrat. The wideness of God’s love and mercy was reflected in the landscape, and Ignatius began to envision the possibility of a new life with God.
After a challenging hike, we took the bus up the steep mountain road and arrived in time for a Vespers service chanted by the abbey monks in the beautiful Basilica. After the service, we were able to walk up the stairs to visit the statue of the Black Madonna.
Ignatius prayed an all night vigil with Our Lady before he lay down his sword, to symbolize a new beginning. We concluded our day with prayer and a communal meal to celebrate the birthday of one of our pilgrims. We are grateful for the peace of the mountain and the warmth of companionship that has deepened as we have made our way.