An Ignatian Pilgrimage Week #1: The Place Where a Person Begins

Countryside around St. Ignatius Loyola’s homeplace in Spain
Countryside around St. Ignatius Loyola’s homeplace in Spain

As you probably know, Loyola Press, the host of this blog, is a ministry of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. And this society is the legacy of St. Ignatius Loyola, who formed it 500 years ago with a few companions who, with him, wanted to help souls and change the world.

Over the next few weeks, we will follow Ignatius’s life story and use key moments in it to prompt reflection on our own life stories. We’ll call it our autumn Ignatian pilgrimage.

This week, we begin at the beginning, for all of us: birthplace and early life. Ignatius was born to a family of minor nobility. His mother died when he was just a child, and the local blacksmith’s wife became his nurse. That family, for all practical purposes, brought up the child Ignatius. He grew up in a lush region of northern Spain full of crops and livestock. He grew up not in a cosmopolitan city but a rural community. His family fell out of favor with the regional monarch, which severed important social and economic ties for the family. Ignatius left the estate as a young man to serve as a page in the court of a nobleman with whom they still had good relations. There he learned how to behave at court, and he trained to be a soldier.

Where Did You Begin?

family hearth in St. Ignatius Loyola's birthplace
Family hearth in St. Ignatius Loyola’s birthplace

Each one of us is shaped, to some degree, by the place where we started and the people who shared that place with us. This is not to say that our beginnings determine who we become but that we need to factor in how those early years affected us.

  • What places were key locations in your life as a child and teenager? Did you have a hometown, or did you move around too much to identify with any one place?
  • Who were the people involved with you on a daily basis when you were growing up? Did you belong to a “gang” of kids in your family or neighborhood who were together all the time? Who were the adults who made the biggest impact on the way you thought or behaved?
  • Identify the gifts of your childhood location(s) and the people who dwelled with and around you.
  • Identify the hurts and trials that came with those early-life settings and people.
  • What kind of culture helped shape you as a youngster? Were you a small-town kid? A military brat? A city dweller? The child of ministers or missionaries? Surrounded by a large extended family? An only child?

Gratitude for My Beginning

Creator God,
I know that your grace is possible anywhere and anytime.
My beginning cannot be changed, and it was not perfect. Nevertheless,
for the place of my beginnings, I give thanks.
For the season of my beginnings, I give thanks.
For the people who were part of my beginning, I give thanks.
For the world as it was at the time of my beginning, I give thanks.
For the gifts of that early life, I give thanks, and I ask for the grace
to continue unwrapping them throughout my life,
using them to the best of my ability,
and giving them back to you.
Amen.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 173 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

9 Comments on An Ignatian Pilgrimage Week #1: The Place Where a Person Begins

  1. From the beginning of my life was difficult. Full of fear, anxiety and confusion. Our dysfunctional family life was never talked about, not even among the 4 of us. It was “our family secret.” I came to believe all families were the same as ours. My life was full of fear and anxiety. My early school years were spent daydreaming verious senerios which had occurred or I believed could happen to us. At home the thoughts of past or possible situations were terrorizing.
    At the age of two I looked at a beautiful image of the Child Jesus hanging on my wall. I had loving and caring feelings looking at it. Jesus is pointing his finger at me. Mom would read the words every night. I would stand in my crib pointing my finger on his while Mom read, “You I seek, you I mean, You yes you I love you.” I stood pointing my finger lovingly back on His. I felt love from Jesus and I loved Him. Once I had it memorized I did it many times a day. The love I felt from Jesus and that I gave back was awesome. Over the years that image remains hanging above my bed(I’m 70 years old tomorrow). I believe this image of Jesus has special qualities. The Love I felt from Jesus sustained me through my life, especially at difficult times. The image is embedded in my brain!! Such an awesome experience. That image sustained me all my childhood. I don’t know what my childhood would have been without His loving image

  2. I thank the Lord for all the gifts bestowed on me in my early life. I feel my real strength came from the trials endured in my early years. Those trials tempered by good times and the many lucky breaks that followed enabled me to live a like blessed by Gods Love and the gift of faith.

  3. My happy childhood and young teen years were special. Thanks for keeping my mind there for a while. I needed those moments of gratitude.

  4. Loved this reflection. It is always, I think, beneficial to reflect on where we came from and the people who influenced our early years. Thank you.

  5. This is very apt for me at this time of my life and I do remember so much from very early in my childhood. Born 1936. It is the short-tern things I am forgetting. Thank you Vinita, always a pleasure to read your reflections. A.M.D.G.

  6. I found it so evocative to reflect on my experiences as a child, the happy times and the occasions of pain and hurt. Thank you especially for the prayer of gratitude. I will look forward to the journey through the life of St Ignatius.

  7. Wow! This is so poignant at this stage of my ‘Me’ journey. I feel an excitement just looking through the reflection questions and thoughts for consideration. I know there will be mixed emotions.
    Perhaps I may sit with another person and talk about our responses.
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    Blessings.

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