Surrendering Our Swords

Our Lady of Montserrat - photo by Rebecca Ruiz

As we wound our way up the Catalan mountain in our zippy, little car, I imagined St. Ignatius traversing Spain on his own pilgrimage to Montserrat. I found it hard to imagine how he would have made it over the rugged terrain on horseback. He was, at that point, travelling alone without servants, just months out from the crippling blow of the cannonball. What pain he must have suffered as he rode! It gave me new perspective into Ignatius’s physical determination in his quest to become a saint.

At the top of the winding road, nestled into the side of the mountain and dwarfed by imposing and jagged peaks above, stands the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat. Inside the church, enthroned in an alcove high above the main altar, sits the legendary “Black Madonna” holding the Christ Child.

In the span of history, the 500 years that separates my visit to Montserrat from Ignatius’s is relatively small—small enough, anyway, for me to imagine myself looking on as he approaches the altar of Montserrat.

I see the grand gestures of the young Ignatius as he places his sword and dagger on the altar below the Madonna. Desiring to put on only the armor of Christ, he spends the entire night in prayer before the altar. In reverence, he keeps guard, now standing, then kneeling, and then standing again. He releases, with that sword and that dagger, all of the dreams and ambitions he had held prior to that point. He surrenders the dream of being a valiant knight and all of the lofty ambitions that accompany it. He surrenders the dream of having a beautiful lady by his side. He surrenders his family inheritance and his status as a nobleman. Ignatius is completely confident that what he will gain in service to his new King is far more than what he has surrendered.

I touch the Madonna’s hand.

I think for a long moment about my own sword. What earthly attachments am I willing to lay here before the Madonna? Am I willing to be as generous as Ignatius in surrendering all of my desires and defenses over to God? In which kingdom do my allegiances lie? I cringe a little as I come to terms with my answers. Apparently, I’m not yet a saint, so I’m glad to be following Ignatius.

How about you? Imagine yourself there before the Madonna and Child. What’s your sword? What attachments might you surrender at the Madonna’s feet? Possessions? Earthly ambitions? Status? Wealth? Relationships?

Do not be discouraged if your answers aren’t yet quite what you wish they were. Most of us aren’t yet saints, but with St. Ignatius leading the charge, we’re in good hands!

About Rebecca Ruiz 25 Articles
Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She has worked as an ethnomusicologist, composer, and writer, in academia, and, for the past 14 years, in domestic refugee resettlement in the Diocese of Arlington, VA. She and her husband have two children and live in the Washington, DC metro area. She strives, as St. Ignatius taught, to see God in all things and do “all things for the greater glory of God.”
Contact: Website

12 Comments on Surrendering Our Swords

  1. Thank you for sharing. I walked the Ignatius Camino and it was atop this majestic mountain that I also dedicated myself to God. A gentleman I met on the Camino said the days climb would be magic, and it was.

  2. Ignatius’s physical determination in his quest to become a saint – I doubt Ignatius made it his goal to become a saint. Living his life in the service of God – yes, but living it in order to become a saint – I very much doubt it.

    • Have you not heard that we are all called to strive to be saints? A lofty goal but I have no doubts that St Ignatius heard the call and was attempting to become what God wants for all of us.
      May you and I hear the call and strive to be what we are called to be….saints.

  3. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I long to visit Montserrat to walk where Ignatius walked but in the meantime, I know that God is calling me to surrender my attachments and I appreciate this reminder. Blessings.

  4. It’s difficult when you have an attachment you cannot remove. I think it’s easy (well, there are always some resistances) to let go something when you have in sight something much better. But what if you don’t see anything else in the horizon, but still feel too attached to some thing?

  5. Thank you, Rebecca for your heart-felt reflection. I was standing also at the same place before the “Black Madonna” in early June making the Ignatian Pilgrimage with a group. It’s difficult to put into words of the ‘awe’ except to let the moment sinks in.

  6. Thank you, Rebecca.
    Your heartfelt questions – what is my sword and what are my attachments require me to take a deep honest look at my life and desires. I’m thinking that the sword represents attack and defence. What do I fight to possess and what might I feel is so valuable I need to protect . The sword is sharp and potentially lethal, and also a status simple. I always thought I was a peacemaker and would never carry, and even less wield a lethal weapon, but on reflection, perhaps it’s is my ego that might might drive me to make a cutting response, and my pride that would cause me to have to make my reputation look good at someone else’s expense. But this is good to realise – how much lighter will be my journey if I can succeed in laying down this weighty weapon. Thank you for challenging me to try harder and let go. Bless you for sharing.

  7. Power and authority are really tough things to surrender. They are not only a source of prides, but bring worldly knowledge, drowning out an essential principal of the Gospel message: Love the sinner, but hate the sin. As a Manager, I took it to mean be tough on issues (like tardiness, or carelessness or dishonesty) but be easy on people. It is much harder to do, no matter which way you read it.

  8. Thank you, Rebecca for sharing your travel to Montserrat in comparison to that of St. Ignatius. I enjoyed the journey. You mention that “most of us are not Saints yet” … that’s for sure. There is some confusion for me about “striving” (for Sainthood) … should it not be one of the “swords” we leave at the “Feet” … freeing us from that somewhat selfish ambition … making room for the flow of God’s Grace to carry us there? Deirdre had a point. Oh Well, “Confusion” is my middle name … but Jesus is my Best Friend:)

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