The Camino Ignaciano: an adventure with God and others

On the occasion of the Ignatian Year, two films have been produced on the pilgrimage experience offered by the Camino Ignaciano in Spain. In February we showcased the work of Hungarian director Férenc Tolvaly and we have recently seen the film by the Catalan director Jordi Roigé, premiered at the Filmoteca Vaticana.

Today’s testimonial comes from a woman who has just completed the Ignatian Way. Natalie Baxter Strange is a devout follower of Ignatian spirituality and an Anglican layperson. She is based in the Belgian city of Leuven.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

By Natalie Baxter Strange

Standing in the long line to check-in at Brussels Airport, I scrolled through my emails on my phone. These words from Proverbs leapt out at me from my Lenten reflection for that day. What better words to begin a pilgrimage? My heart was consoled; the Lord felt near. To trust in the Lord with all my heart was what I deeply desired in the days to come.

Four months previously, another email had arrived: an invitation to join a group pilgrimage following in the footsteps of Ignatius from Loyola to Manresa. The arrival date in Manresa: 25 March, exactly 500 years after his arrival in 1522. I was filled with excitement at the thought of it. Yes, count me in!


Natalie Baxter Strange

Our group of 14 pilgrims and our guide Fr. Josep Lluís Iriberri, SJ, arrived in Loyola on a beautiful warm sunny day. Spanish families were enjoying their Sunday strolls and time together in the park by the Basilica. All seemed well with the world in that moment. We had travelled from the USA, Singapore, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, and ranged in age from 41 to 82.

Going on pilgrimage is an adventure. An adventure with God and others. One could say that to expect the unexpected is a good way of proceeding. The unexpected, both the welcome and not so welcome. Only God knew what the days to come would hold for us, individually and collectively. We were in His hands.

Our first full day was spent visiting the important places for Ignatius in Loyola and Azpeitia, culminating in our first Mass in the Chapel of the Conversion. Stepping into the room, one senses a hushed reverence. With the old wooden floorboards and beams in the ceiling, one can imagine Ignatius recovering from his cannonball injury and surgeries here. In the corner where Ignatius lay for months in his bed, an old, somewhat tattered canopy hangs over a large gold statue of Ignatius looking heavenward. As we gathered around the altar to receive communion, each of us placed a hand on the altar, offering ourselves and this pilgrimage to God.


A photo of the group.

The next morning, we walked the first two hours in silence, as we would do most mornings. In that silence, I became even more aware of my deep joy and gratitude to God. My cup was overflowing, like the waterfall by the path. Crossing the old railway bridges the wind reminded me of the Holy Spirit and threatened to carry my hat away. The cool, damp, dark tunnels invited me to pray for the light of Christ to shine in dark places, in me and elsewhere.

To cover the 650+ km of the Ignatian Way in 11 days, we relied on buses as well as our feet to get us to Manresa.We particularly appreciated having the bus as we climbed over 1000m into the spectacular high mountains to Arantzazu, where an impressive Franciscan monastery is perched. Arantzazu, a centre for Marian devotion, was the first of many places where Ignatius stopped to pray to the Virgin/Our Lady out of his deep devotion to her.

From Loyola in the Basque region to Manresa in Catalunya, the landscape varies enormously. The landscape informed and shaped my conversations with God as I journeyed, along with the suggested grace, reflections, scripture and prayers for each day. The Psalmist writes, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). It seemed to me that everywhere I looked, the Lord was speaking to me: the small, shrivelled apple revealing something of my own heart; the spiky, sharp plant reminding me of Jesus’ passion and death; the beauty of wild flowers and birdsong that filled the air, leading me to praise our Lord and Creator.


The Chapel of Monserrat in Manresa.

Praying with an abbreviation of the Spiritual Exercises material deepened our experience further. After the pilgrimage, when I looked back over my journal, I realised that I had experienced the complete dynamic of the Exercises over the two weeks. Something I had not expected.

And then, there were the conversations. Rich, meaningful and memorable conversations. Light, joyful ones. Painful ones. Moments of hilarity and laughter. Moments of tears. Blessings unnumbered. We had entrusted ourselves as best we could into God’s hands, and his love and grace met us in abundance.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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