Following in the Footsteps of the Saints

Certain parts of the world offer an amazing chance to immerse ourselves in the life of St. Ignatius Loyola in very tangible ways.

In October, 22 pilgrims traveling with the USA Northeast Province set out to do exactly that, journeying to Spain and southern France to follow in the footsteps of Jesuit Sts. Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, and of St. Bernadette.

The 11-day journey included visits to popular pilgrimage sites, including the homes where Sts. Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier lived as young noblemen, the church in Montserrat where a young Ignatius famously placed down his sword as a symbol of conversion—as well as the actual sword itself—and the cave at Manresa where St. Ignatius wrote his Spiritual Exercises. Travelers also visited the birthplace of St. Peter Claver in Verdu, Spain, and the shrine in Lourdes where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette.

Pilgrims gathered outside the Castle of Xavier, the birthplace of St. Francis Xavier in Navarre, Spain.

Fr. George Witt, SJ, provincial assistant for spirituality ministries for the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces of the Society of Jesus, led the group in spiritual direction, with James Skurka, interim provincial assistant for advancement and communications for the USA Northeast Province, serving as pilgrimage coordinator.

“The pilgrimage to Spain and Lourdes was a wonderful, prayer-filled experience,” said Fr. Witt. “It was a special grace to walk in the footsteps of St. Ignatius and to share such a meaningful experience of the Spiritual Exercises, which are so intricately tied to our mission and the charism of the Jesuits.”

James Skurka agreed. “Seeing the birthplace of our founder, St. Ignatius, and the places where he and the early Jesuits established the roots of the Society was inspirational. I was left feeling deeply grateful for the spirituality that guides our faith and very humbled to have spent such a wonderful time together with the other pilgrims.”

“It was a tour that every Catholic should try to go on because you get the advantage of experiencing a site so closely associated with the Blessed Mother and other places deeply tied to Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises,” said Frank Carroll, who took part in the trip. “It was an amazing trip, with an excellent spiritual guide in Fr. George Witt, SJ, that came at the right time in my life.”

Editor's Note: The winter 2017 print issue of JESUITS incorrectly labeled the top image Loyola Castle instead of properly identifying it as the birthplace of St. Francis Xavier. 

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