This Summer, nine members of our faculty and staff are walking a route in Spain with sites related to the life of St. Ignatius. The following post by Ms. Madeline Maggard is the twelfth in a series of their reflections.
When I began my journey months ago preparing organizationally and financially for this pilgrimage, I was busy “packing” my backpack full of important items a hiker would need to complete such a trek. My list included hiking boots (good ones) that would protect my feet against all terrain types (gravel, larger rocks, slick rocks, mid, shallow streams, grassy fields, etc.), a pack for extended day hiking with plenty of conveniently placed pockets and places to hang carabiners for clothes that needed to dry out from the previous night’s wash, a hat to protect my freckled skin from the intense Cataluñan sun, and proper clothing for function and comfort.
It’s Just Natural
By day two of my hike, it was clear that all of the time I had put into making certain that I had arrived well equipped just wasn’t going to be enough. Day two of the pilgrimage presented me with a mental and physical challenge I had not faced since choosing natural child birth more than 18 years earlier. I had chosen this pilgrimage too…
A fever from heat exhaustion and dehydration on day 6 ok hiking pushed me to another limit forcing me to confront that which I now knew I was truly seeking: to let go of my FEAR. I sobbed uncontrollably saying “I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” Prior to that moment, I hadn’t been cognizant of how tightly my fears are wrapped around my heart like a choke collar. Held properly in front of me, they are a great motivator. When held close to the heart too tightly, my fears hinder its beating and pumping this constraining the flow of blood. I began to understand that evening that I must not let my deepest fears dam the flow of love that I have for God and that I must allow a space for His love for me to fill my heart as well.
Back in the Saddle
After 2 days of rest (no walking) and the extremely generous care of several Cataluñans, I hit the camino again. More long mile, difficult days were ahead. The last two days of walking between Jorba – Montserrat – Manresa I thought I could feel God reminding me in little ways of what I had been through since day 1. There seemed to be repeats of steep up hills followed by steep down hills and of course, lots of rocks! Every step I took (pressing on the 6 blisters in different stages of development or healing) recycled every emotion I had felt (sadness, joy, confusion, frustration, anger, anxiety, fear) previously. God was weaving a wonderful shawl for me. Sewing threads of experiences that will serve to comfort me and give me perspective.
Unpacking My Heart
At mass in the chapel of the Virgin of Montserrat, Trisha and Max sang an old favorite of mine, “Be Not Afraid.” A line from the hymn says “Be not afraid. I go before you always.” As I wrote this blog, I am only 2 days away from Dallas. Exactly how to bring the Camino Ignaciano home with me is something I am still processing. It’s one thing for me to feel so close to God on a pilgrimage, but it is a different exercise to maintain the relationship once back in the “real world.” Saint Ignatius left the Spiritual Exercises and we have The Examen as well. Pedro Arrupe, SJ left us many prayers. The one below is one in which I took comfort on my journey and will use often as I invest time in the most important relationship in my life…that with God.
Grant me, O Lord, to see things now with new eyes,
to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times,
to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others.
Give me the clarity of understanding that you have Ignatius.