Saint Ignatius of Loyola - John Pollen

The Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

In February of 1523, Ignatius started on his long purposed journey to the Holy Land, but it was to him something far more than a journey. He regarded it as the best school he could imagine for the perfect copying of the life of Christ. In the very scene of the labours of Jesus, there he too would labour, preach and pray. The foxes might have their holes and the birds their nests; but he would not know where to lay his head. He had no definite plans for what he would do in the Holy Land, or afterwards; but if he began his literal transcript of the life of his Master, that Master would surely show him how to go on. Yet he did not reject such human aid as might make for the better attainment of his spiritual purpose. Hearing that Juan Pujol, Vicar of Prats, a priest of the neighbourhood, was about to make the pilgrimage to Rome, he gladly took the occasion. of travelling part of the way in his company. Many were the sighs and even tears of the simple villagers as he left Manresa. Juan Pascual, son of the Ines mentioned above, survived to attest this seventy years later. "We are losing," said they, "our Angel and our Saint."

A good many details are known about the journey. He sailed from Barcelona to Gaeta; then he went to Rome for Passion Week, and on to Venice, where he shipped for Salamis; and then from Salamis to Joppa. They rode on donkeys up to Jerusalem. There were numerous adventures; scares about the plague, dangers from criminals, misunderstandings with too obliging friends, sometimes he nearly starved, or perished from cold; ships on which he had been refused passage were wrecked. There were also blows, seizures, and hardships of every sort. At Jerusalem "his firm intention was to stay there, in order to visit the Holy Places continually, and to help souls." But he did not speak of the second motive, probably from humility.

He spent the first few days with the utmost spiritual delight in visiting and revisiting the scenes of the Passion, where he seemed to see Christ Himself walking before him. Then the Franciscan Fathers, who had charge of the Holy Places, ordered him to return home. At first the pilgrim refused. He did not fear any evil consequences, and was for using his liberty. But the friars stated that they had power from the Pope to give such orders; and that they had good reason for so doing. There existed the very real danger that pilgrims who went to pray at the Holy Places might be kidnapped, and such affairs involved the convent in troublesome questions about ransom. They offered to show their papers; but Ignatius, ever ready to obey the voice of authority, refused to look at them, and left at once, though this meant the upset of all his plans. "He went away thinking, 'Quid agendum?'"  These are the words of the autobiography, "and finally he inclined more towards studying for some time, in order to be able to help souls. "Taus this momentous decision came quite slowly, without at first any enthusiasm, or over-powering conviction. Ignatius got back to Barcelona about March, 1524.