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. Tricia Watson is the eighth in a series of their reflections.
Today we traveled from Lleida to Palau. Every walk before this has been in cool weather, with gorgeous views, and across nature trails that the locals enjoy. Today, however marked the first of 6 days in which we are traveling from small town to small town. On these paths, there isn’t much respite from the pavement on our feet, the stench is not from mountain air and flocks of lamb, but from rotten fruit and road kill, and the prettiest things we see are pear trees – lots and lots of pear trees. We never knew when we would run into the next sign of human life as the few towns we passed were almost barren, and I couldn’t help thinking about how Ignatius traveled this path alone – only having his thoughts and prayers to keep him company. I wonder if he was lonely, or maybe the solitude was a welcome gift of undistracted communication with God.
Yesterday was my birthday, and it was the first time I started feeling the pang of loneliness. I am really enjoying growing closer to my Jesuit companions on this journey, and they thought of kind and creative ways to celebrate with me all day. But, as the night wore on, I missed my family and closest friends. I chose before this trip to spend these 16 days without a phone plan and without communicating with anyone at home in any way. In my loneliness yesterday and my reflection on Ignatius and his isolation as we walked today, I started to reflect on my personal reasons for cutting communication. So much of what I understand about myself is based on other peoples perceptions of me, and my actions are influenced by my need to control these perceptions. I think that the focus on how others view me makes it more difficult to identify my true self apart from that.
Our reading this morning was about humility. Humility for me requires letting go of the need for praise and affection from others and allows me to refocus on the intentions of my actions. Ignatius struggled with humility due to an upbringing that glorified chivalry and conquests. I think we struggle with this now in a culture that glorifies achievement and success. In order for me to use this journey to allow God to speak to my heart, I must strip away the person I want others to see and open up my true self. I need to let Gods words fall on rich soil.
We are doing another long trip in the sun tomorrow. As the reading at Catalonian mass tonight reminded us, God is always trying to communicate with us, but his words often fall on unwelcoming soil. Through this past week, I pray that God has helped each of us prepare our soil for his word. I think I can say we all feel sufficiently “tilled” through our experiences this week. I pray that for each of us, God takes advantage of this newly tilled earth and speaks to our true heart in this Catalonian desert.