Saint Ignatius College Geelong

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    A pilgrimage of the heart and mind

    Article by Ms Alicia Deak

    A pilgrimage of the heart and mind

    “Places are made holy by their story, the spirit in which you journey to them, receive their gift, and leave them.” – Andrew Bullen SJ

    During the Term 3 school holidays Caleb Ryan and I flew across the world to Europe with sixteen other companions from Jesuit and Companion school on the Ignatian Leadership Pilgrimage to see, taste, feel and experience the pilgrim journey of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits and Jesuit education. It was during this time that I came to learn that no matter how much knowledge you consume from books, articles or study on the life and person of Saint Ignatius, it is not until you visit these significant places and open your heart to the opportunity to experience this felt knowledge, that you will truly come to know the man, pilgrim, saint and companion that Ignatius was.

    “For pilgrims, strolling, walking, running are exercises in love, in prayer.”- Andrew Bullen SJ

    This pilgrimage of planes, trains, roads, minds and hearts traced the footsteps of Inigo de Loyola through France, Spain and Italy and afforded its pilgrims the freedom, stillness and space to encounter Ignatius and deepen our faith. While our itinerary was full, each moment spent in these hallowed places, where Ignatius found God, was enriching and a privilege. Loyola, Montserrat, Manresa, La Storta, Il Gesu; these were the places that I wrote about in my university essays, taught in classes, shared with my colleagues, visited in my dreams and contemplated in my prayers.

    “The stars will guide you, people you meet will be signs, and your prayerful heart your compass.” - Andrew Bullen SJ

    Saint Ignatius created the practice of imaginative prayer, where we place ourselves in a Gospel scene and pray with this image in our hearts. For a long time, I had placed myself in the scenes of Ignatius’ life, scenes that this pilgrimage slowly revealed to me. However, as I stood in these places where Ignatius navigated his life with vulnerability, spiritual courage, love and determination, I was consumed by the quiet, raw and natural world that I could hear, see, touch and feel around me. Arriving at Montserrat at dusk was simply awe inspiring. It felt as though time itself had stopped to reveal a sort of divine beauty that permeated the mountain with its cool air and outlook of the setting sun. It was at Montserrat that Ignatius surrendered his sword before the statue of the Black Madonna, signifying a conscious departure from his previous life as a minor nobleman for a simpler, though challenging, existence to love and serve others for the greater glory of God. Montserrat invites her pilgrims to surrender that which prevents them from freely and authentically encountering God in all things. It is in moments like these that we are also invited to surrender our minds to our hearts, our inner compasses, so that we might encounter something deeper, more radical and transforming. This truly was a pilgrimage of the heart; each experience of the heart transcending the mind; each conversation a blessing; each encounter a prayer.

    Aristotle, an Ancient Greek philosopher, professed that “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” This is our invitation as formal educators and parents of students within the Jesuit tradition. It was my hope that by opening my mind and heart to encountering Saint Ignatius on this pilgrimage that I might return with the ability to more authentically share his story with others. The interior and felt knowledge that I have returned truly does inspire me every day to love and serve those around me in our College and wider communities. My only hope now is that through my service I can help to enliven the story of Ignatius in others’ hearts. May we all accept this invitation to educate the heart, as well as the mind, as we continue on our own personal pilgrimages towards a life of greater love and greater service for and with others.

    Alicia Deak  Ignatian Coordinator and Social Justice Coordinator

     

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