By Loretta Pehanich
“On the Ignatian Way: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola” by Jose Luis Iriberri, SJ, Chris Lowney and others. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2018). 206 pp., $17.95.
If you’ve ever made a pilgrimage, or you wish to, then this book will interest you. It answers the question: What can a pilgrimage do for me?
“On the Ignatian Way” is a hybrid of prayers for pilgrims, testimonies and word pictures that put you on the road itself. As you progress through the chapters, you, too, will feel a sense of movement. Beautiful photographs underscore a sense of being a traveler as you read.
Several pilgrims provide perspectives about their journeys in Spain as they walked from Loyola — where St. Ignatius experienced a deep conversion while convalescing — to Manresa — where he penned the first draft of his Spiritual Exercises. And the story of Ignatian spirituality is told in steps that will leave readers inspired as well as wondering how God might similarly invite them on very personal adventures with Christ.
These are not just tales of blisters and sore feet. More than 10 different pilgrims describe how they are inwardly different after walking the 350 or so miles of the Ignatian Way. And Chris Lowney offers prayers for walking metaphorically using Ignatian spirituality. He provides a month’s worth of advice for prayer, graces to pray for, choice Scripture snippets and reflections that in and of themselves make this book a worthwhile guide.
Lowney is a clever writer and storyteller whose analogy of a small backpack provides meat for reflection. And his “10 Lessons” chapter provides practical tools to take on any journey, whether you’re planning a physical pilgrimage of your own, or just want to imagine one during your prayer. Some of the lessons Lowney identifies are to keep a diary, be courteous, go at your own pace and just get going. He provides humor, too, revealing that St. Ignatius was once nicknamed “sack man” and “Crazy for Christ.”
Before reading this book, I did not know there was a Via de San Ignacio to be walked in Spain. One of the book’s writers, Jesuit Father Jose Luis Iriberri, is credited with initiating this way of praying at the places where St. Ignatius experienced many of the same struggles that people of faith still confront today.
If you are unable to make a pilgrimage any further than your local church, this book will give you a prayerful and imaginative walk alongside St. Ignatius and introduce you to some of his friends who have learned much along the way. For those of us who’ve made pilgrimages of other sorts, this book will reverberate with the holy steps we’ve taken. And if you intend to walk the Ignatian Way, you’ll want to read this before you go.
Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer, blogger, spiritual director and former assistant editor for the Diocese of San Jose, California.