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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER II IGNATIUS LEAVES HIS NATIVE LAND--WHAT HE DID AT MONTSERRAT AND AT MANRESA

The Autobiography Of St Ignatius by Saint Ignatius Loyola

CHAPTER II IGNATIUS LEAVES HIS NATIVE LAND--WHAT HE DID AT MONTSERRAT AND AT MANRESA

Ignatius, starting from his father's house, set out upon his journey on horseback. About this time he began his habit of taking the discipline every night. His brother desired to accompany him as far as Ogna, and during the journey was persuaded by the Saint to pass one night of watching at the shrine of Our Blessed Lady at Aruncuz. Having prayed some time at the shrine for new strength for his journey, leaving his brother at Ogna at the house of their sister, to whom he paid a short visit, he journeyed on to Navarre. Remembering that an official in the Duke's palace owed him some money, he collected it by sending in a written account to the treasurer, and distributed it among persons to whom he felt indebted. A portion of the money he devoted to the restoration of a picture of the Blessed Virgin. Then dismissing his two remaining servants, he rode forth alone from Navarre in the direction of Montserrat, a mountain town of Catalonia in the northern part of Spain.

It will not be amiss to recall an event that occurred during this journey, to show the manner in which God directed him. Although filled with an ardent desire of serving God, yet his knowledge of spiritual things was still very obscure. He had undertaken to perform extraordinary penances, not so much with a view to satisfy for his sins as with the intention of doing something pleasing to his Lord. He declared indeed that though filled with the liveliest abhorrence of his past sins, he could not assure himself that they were forgiven; yet in his austerities so intense was his desire to do great things for Christ that he did not think of his sins. When he recalled the penances practised by holy persons, his whole mind was bent on doing something to equal and even surpass them. In this holy ambition he found his consolation, for he had no interior motive for his penances, knowing as yet very little about humility or charity or patience, for to obtain these many holy men have led austere lives. He knew still less the value of discretion, which regulates the practice of these virtues. To do something great for the glory of his God, to emulate saintly men in all that they had done before him -- this was the only object of Ignatius in his practices of external mortification.

While he journeyed on, a Saracen mounted on a horse came up with him. In the course of the conversation mention was made of the Blessed Virgin. The stranger remarked that though he admitted that the Mother of Christ had conceived without detriment to her virginal purity, yet he could not believe that after the conception of her divine Son she was still a virgin. He was so obstinate in holding this opinion, that no amount of reasoning on the part of Ignatius could force him to abandon it. Shortly afterward the Saracen rode on, leaving the pilgrim to his own reflections. These were not of the most peaceful nature. He was sorely troubled as he thought over the conduct of his recent fellow-traveler, and felt that he had but poorly acquitted himself of his duty of honoring the Mother of God. The longer his mind thought upon the matter, the more his soul was filled with indignation against himself for having allowed the Saracen to speak as he had done of the Blessed Virgin, and for the lack of courage he fancied he had shown in not at once resenting the insult. He consequently felt impelled by a strong impulse to hasten after him and slay the miscreant for the insulting language he had used. After much internal conflict with these thoughts, he still remained in doubt, nor could he decide what course to follow. The Saracen, who had ridden on, had mentioned to him that it was his intention to proceed to a town not far distant from the highroad. At length, Ignatius, wearied by his inward struggle and not arriving at any determination, decided to settle all his doubts in the following novel way: he would give free rein to his horse, and if, on coming to the cross-road, his horse should turn into the path that led to the destination of the Moor, he would pursue him and kill him; but if his horse kept to the highroad he would allow the wretch to escape. Having done as he had decided, it happened through the Providence of God that his horse kept to the highroad, though the place was distant only about thirty or forty yards, and the way leading to it was very wide and easy.

Arriving at a large village situated a short distance from Montserrat, he determined to procure a garment to wear on his journey to Jerusalem. He therefore bought a piece of sackcloth, poorly woven, and filled with prickly wooden fibres. Of this he made a garment that reached to his feet. He bought, also, a pair of shoes of coarse stuff that is often used in making brooms. He never wore but one shoe, and that not for the sake of the comfort to be derived from it, but because, as he was in the habit of wearing a cord tied below the knee by way of mortification, this leg would be very much swollen at night, though he rode all day on horseback. For this reason, he felt he ought to wear a shoe on that foot. He provided himself also with a pilgrim's staff and a gourd to drink from. All these he tied to his saddle.

Thus equipped, he continued on his way to Montserrat, pondering in his mind, as was his wont, on the great things he would do for the love of God. And as he had formerly read the stories of Amadeus of Gaul and other such writers, who told how the Christian knights of the past were accustomed to spend the entire night, preceding the day on which they were to receive knighthood, on guard before an altar of the Blessed Virgin, he was filled with these chivalric fancies, and resolved to prepare himself for a noble knighthood by passing a night in vigil before an altar of Our Lady at Montserrat. He would observe all the formalities of this ceremony, neither sitting nor lying down, but alternately standing and kneeling, and there he would lay aside his worldly dignities to assume the arms of Christ.

When he arrived at Montserrat, he passed a long time in prayer, and with the consent of his confessor he made in writing a general confession of his sins. Three whole days were employed in this undertaking. He begged and obtained leave of his confessor to give up his horse, and to hang up his sword and his dagger in the church, near the altar of the Blessed Virgin. This confessor was the first to whom he unfolded his interior, and disclosed his resolution of devoting himself to a spiritual life. Never before had he manifested his purpose to anybody.

The eve of the Annunciation of Our Blessed Lady in the year 1522 was the time he chose to carry out the project he had formed. At nightfall, unobserved by any one, he approached a beggar, and taking off his own costly garments gave them to the beggar. He then put on the pilgrim's dress he had previously bought, and hastened to the church, where he threw himself on his knees before the altar of the Blessed Mother of God, and there, now kneeling, now standing, with staff in hand, he passed the entire night.

After receiving the Blessed Sacrament, to avoid recognition he left the town at daybreak. He did not go by the direct route that leads to Barcelona, as he might have met those who knew him and would honor him, but he took a byway that led him to a town called Manresa. Here he determined to remain a few days in the hospital and write out some notes in his little book, which for his own consolation he carefully carried about with him. At about a league's distance from Montserrat, he was overtaken by a man who had ridden after him at a rapid pace. This man accosted him and inquired if he had given certain garments to a poor man, as the latter had declared. Ignatius answered that it was true that he had given them to a beggar. On learning that the latter had been ill-treated because he was suspected of having stolen the clothes, the eyes of Ignatius filled with tears, in pity for the poor man.

Although he had fled so anxiously from the praise of men, he did not remain long at Manresa before many marvellous things were narrated of him. This fame arose from what had occurred at Montserrat. His reputation increased day by day. Men vied with each other in adding some particulars about his sanctity, declaring that he had abandoned immense revenues, and other wonderful things without much regard to real facts.

At Manresa he lived on the alms that he daily begged. He never ate meat nor partook of wine, though they were offered him. On Sundays, however, he never fasted, and if wine were offered him, he drank of it sparingly. In former days he had been very careful of his hair, which he had worn, and, indeed, not unbecomingly, in the fashionable manner of the young men of his age; but now he determined to cease to care for it, neither to comb it nor to cut it, and to dispense with all covering for his head both day and night. To punish himself for the too great nicety which he had formerly had in the care of his hands and feet, he now resolved to neglect them.

It was while he was living at the hospital at Manresa that the following strange event took place. Very frequently on a clear moonlight night there appeared in the courtyard before him an indistinct shape which he could not see clearly enough to tell what it was. Yet it appeared so symmetrical and beautiful that his soul was filled with pleasure and joy as he gazed at it. It had something of the form of a serpent with glittering eyes, and yet they were not eyes. He felt an indescribable joy steal over him at the sight of this object. The oftener he saw it, the greater was the consolation he derived from it, and when the vision left him, his soul was filled with sorrow and sadness.

Up to this period he had remained in a constant state of tranquillity and consolation, without any interior knowledge of the trials that beset the spiritual life. But during the time that the vision lasted, sometimes for days, or a little previous to that time, his soul was violently agitated by a thought that brought him no little uneasiness. There flashed upon his mind the idea of the difficulty that attended the kind of life he had begun, and he felt as if he heard some one whispering to him, |How can you keep up for seventy years of your life these practices which you have begun?| Knowing that this thought was a temptation of the evil one, he expelled it by this answer: |Can you, wretched one, promise me one hour of life?| In this manner he overcame the temptation, and his soul was restored to peace. This was his first trial besides what has already been narrated, and it came upon him suddenly one day as he was entering the church. He was accustomed to hear Mass daily, and to assist at Vespers and Compline -- devotions from which he derived much consolation. During Mass, he always read over the history of the Passion, and his soul was filled with a joyful feeling of uninterrupted calm.

Shortly after the temptation just spoken of, he began to experience great changes in his soul. At one time he was deprived of all consolation, so that he found no pleasure in vocal prayer, in hearing Mass, or in any spiritual exercise. At another, on the contrary, he suddenly felt as if all sorrow and desolation were taken from him, experiencing the relief of one from whose shoulders a heavy cloak had suddenly been lifted. On noticing all this, he was surprised, wondering what could be the import of these changes which he had never before experienced, and he said to himself, |What new kind of life is this upon which I am entering?|

At this time he became acquainted with some holy persons who manifested great confidence in him, and gladly conversed with him; for though he had, as yet, little knowledge of spiritual things, still he spoke with great fervor on religious subjects, and incited his hearers to make greater progress in the way of God's service. Among those holy persons who dwelt at Manresa, there was one lady well advanced in years who had long been given to the service of God, and who was so well known in many places in Spain that his Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain, had desired her presence on one occasion in order to take counsel with her about certain projects that he had in his mind. This lady, speaking one day to our new soldier of Christ, said to him, |Would that the Lord Jesus might appear to you some day!| Ignatius, wondering at her words, understood in a literal sense, and asked her, |What would He look like if He were to show Himself to me?|

He always persevered in his custom of approaching the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion every week. But herein he found a great source of anxiety on account of the scruples with which he was annoyed. For though he had written out his general confession at Montserrat, and with great diligence and care had tried to make it complete, yet he always felt that he had forgotten something in his confession, and this caused him much anxiety. Even though he should now confess it again, he received no consolation. He tried then to find a spiritual person, who could give him relief in his trouble, but he found no one. Finally, a certain doctor who had experience in spiritual things, and who was a preacher in the church, advised him to write down anything he remembered and feared that he had not confessed. He obeyed, and even after he had confessed these sins, his scruples still continued to fill his soul, and he was constantly recalling minor details that he had not confessed. In this way he was cruelly tormented. He knew well that these scruples caused no little harm to the spiritual life, and that it was most expedient to get rid of them, yet they continued to torture him. At times it occurred to him that it would be well if he could have his confessor command him in the name of the Lord Jesus not again to confess anything of his past sins; and he inwardly prayed that his confessor would give him some such command, but he could not bring himself to ask him to do so.

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