Seminarian for the Diocese of Marquette
A cave is generally thought to be a home for animals. It might shelter people during times when no other shelter is available. It is not a location one normally thinks of as a place to write a famous masterpiece of Christian spirituality. Ignatius Loyola spent somewhere between eight and eleven months in a cave at Manresa composing a retreat known as The Spiritual Exercises. Since the sixteenth century, countless people have done this thirty day long (usually silent) retreat. I was blessed last summer to do the Exercises with the men in my seminary class.
Who was Ignatius? He was a soldier living a fairly worldly lifestyle who was injured in battle. When there were no more books on chivalry for him to read during his recovery, they gave him a life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints. He began to think, “What if I were to do what St. Francis or St. Dominic did?” He began to realize that different thoughts produced different kinds of interior movements. “When he was thinking about the things of the world, he took much delight in them, but afterwards…he found that he was dry and discontented…but when he thought of going to Jerusalem…not only was he consoled…but even after putting [the thoughts] aside, he remained content and happy.” These internal states would come and go, until one day he began to see how some thoughts brought him feelings of consolation and others had a different effect.