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2013 Youth Pilgrimage: day 5

< day 4 | days 6-7 >

Today we passed through two regions of Spain and into a new country, France. Needless to say much time was spent on the bus today, but with the creative minds and characters that we have on the trip, downtime is neither idle nor boring. The morning started with Mass, however, in a convent chapel where we had spent the night. Again, a sermon was given to help prepare the pilgrims to win the most graces from what they would see.

Before leaving Covadonga, we all made another visit to Our Lady in the cave and said a group rosary in front of her asking her to help us not be afraid to fight for Her and for Our Lord Jesus Christ even though the enemy has advanced all the way to the borders in the Church and in society.

On the bus, a nice long nap was in order since our pampered American backs are still getting used to the European beds. Also, at one of the stops, a pilgrim was taking a little too long and so the chaplain decided to play a little joke and have the bus pull around back of the gas station. Just as we were doing it, the pilgrim came out running after the bus he thought was leaving, but on realizing that it was a joke he took it in good stride. The remainder of the trip was a stunning drive from the region of Asturias along the beautiful coastline into the Basque region.

In Loyola, we immediately recognized the typical Jesuit baroque style of the façade of St. Ignatius’ church there. This church is right next to the house in which Inigo Lopez Loyola was born and where he converted to become the St Ignatius whom we currently know. Inigo was a very vain man – a man of court and one with very high ambitions for this life. It was at the battle of Pamplona, where he was defending the city, that he received the wound that would eventually help him to convert. There, on Pentecost Monday, which fell on May 21 in 1521, a canon ball pierced the wall and shattered his leg. When the leg was set, a bone was still making a large lump in the skin. Such an unseemly blight was a grave issue for this man who would be soon back to courting the ladies. He requested that this lump be sawed off. The doctors obliged but it almost killed him. On the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, he took a definitive turn for the better, but was confined to his bed for many months to come.

During the convalescence he was given two books to read, though he begrudgingly took them since he was used to spending his time reading the romantic books so popular in those days. These two books would be the actual grace used by God to turn Inigo into one of the greatest saints of his time. It was while reading The Golden Legend (Lives of the Saints) and Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony that thoughts began to enter his head. "St. Dominic did this, St. Francis did this, so why can I not?"

I have been fighting for kings who may be conquered and for ladies whose love I may never have. Why not fight for a King who is never vanquished and for a Lady whose love I know I can have?

Having convalesced in such a state, he immediately made a trip to Our Lady of Montserrat, left his sword at her feet and decided to become a Carthusian monk. As we well know, this was not the Divine Plan for St. Ignatius, otherwise we would not have benefited from those beautiful Spiritual Exercises which Our Lady gave to him and which were propagated by the Jesuits. But his life is a great testament to the importance of doing the will of God no matter how late in life we realize what it is.

At the house of Loyola, we were able to see the room in which the saint was born and the room in which he converted to God, as the doorpost says in the Basque language. Unfortunately there was some sort of group session going on in this same room. As we knelt to look into it through the window and to venerate the spot of conversion, the Novus Ordo priest began to gather his group around the altar and begin Mass. This was our cue to leave, but not before praying this prayer of St. Ignatius which betrayed his converted heart:

Teach us, Good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deservest; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to head the wounds; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do Thy will. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

We also saw a small-scale replica of Pamplona and a chasuble that was worn by St. Francis Borgia when he said Mass at the Loyola house chapel.

Back on the bus, we played another trivia game and it was clear that the young people had been paying very close attention the last sites we had visited because they were all ready for vengeance on the team that had won. The game also included some humorous questions that either played on anecdotes from the trip or from the idiosyncrasies of some of the pilgrims. To the chagrin of the losers of the first trivia game, the "Gelatos" won yet again, although "Team Braga" made a valiant effort.

Rain and cold met us as we exited the bus at Lourdes, our last stop. On the way to the grotto that night, our breath was clearly visible. The Pyrenean climate was not expected to be that cold, but yet again, what good is a pilgrimage when nothing unexpected happens?

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