After teaching himself to limp really well, St. Ignatius went on a pilgrimage by foot to Catalonia, Spain, and the Shrine of Santa Maria of Montserrat. There he asked for Mary’s intercession for himself and the discernment of his future. He felt called to solitude and prayer and went to the nearby town of Manresa, where he volunteered at a hospital and begged for his sustenance while living in a cave and spending up to 7 hours a day in prayer. There he wrote his “Spiritual Exercises”, which not only formed the basis of his spiritual life but also that of all of his followers who later formed the order he would found: The Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius also wrote down his struggles in the discernment of his vocation. His methods of discernment contained in the “Spiritual Exercises” are considered excellent and have stood the test of time.
One of the books that Ignatius was able to get ahold of at this time was “Speculum Vita Christi” by Ludolph of Saxony. This influenced him a great deal in the way he prayed and in his idea of the “Composition of Place”. Just like St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius taught that one begins to build the spiritual life with a regimen of vocal prayer and meditation. The easiest beginning point for meditation is the discursive type of meditation. St. Ignatius also spoke about detachment and living humility as necessary foundations for the spiritual life, and taught his men to do a daily examen of conscience. One of the main functions of prayer is to seek the graces I need for my own fulfillment and perfection, by doing the daily examen and becoming more aware of my imperfections, I then find much material for prayer. (to be continued)