Following Jesus

When we pilgrims got to Loyola, we found ourselves in a deep valley. We couldn't see the Loyola castle: it's encased in a humongous grey building crowned with an equally humongous dome.

Rather meaningfully, we had to go inside, pretty deep inside, the building to find a rare place: the room, itself, where Inigo Lopez de Loyola lay for months in 1521 while his savaged knees healed. We stayed there a long while, praying and standing around the altar celebrating Mass.

Our prayer tracked Inigo's. We wondered whether we have the idea of following Jesus of Nazareth. It's not an obvious thought. Even when you have it, you have to think out what it might mean. We did, for a good while.

One place we looked was to the saints whom we'd admired. We tried to name them. I started with Joseph who reared Jesus as His father. A lot of us named the saints of our parishes. I looked forward to St Peter's in Rome because Peter has befriended and accompanied me for a long time now. They will, if we let them.

This was our first full day of pilgrimage - and the first day after jetlag feels shaggy and fragmented. We remembered that in this room, Inigo Lopez de Loyola first noticed the change of moods that led to his appreciation of how our spirits lead and block us. I wonder whether we pay enough attention to that, even those of us who follow ignatian spirituality.

We asked ourselves to notice that some thoughts that we entertain must come directly out of the furnace of God's infinite love for us. How else explain the deep conviction that we shared when we received Communion: that Jesus Christ is taking us into Himself?

And of course, some thoughts come from somewhere else. Not always wicked, either. By the time we'd roamed around the castle, come into Inigo's room and prayed and celebrated, we all had thoughts of food.

That wasn't a wicked thought. Neither was the food wicked. Or the wine. So we sang Praise God from whom all blessings flow and sat down to lunch.