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2. To Manresa via Montserrat

THE JOURNEY TO MONTSERRAT

[13] And as he was thus mounting his mule, another brother of his wanted to go with him as far as Oñate. On the way he persuaded this brother that they might like to keep a vigil at Our Lady of Aránzazu.13 Praying there that night so as to draw new strength for his journey,14 he left his brother in Oñate, at the house of a sister whom he was going to visit, and himself went off to Navarrete. From the day he left his homeland he would always take the discipline each night.

And remembering a few ducats they owed him at the Duke’s house, it seemed to him it would be good to claim them and he wrote a formal note to the treasurer to this effect. When the treasurer said they had no money and the Duke came to know of this, he said that they could default on everything but they wouldn’t default on Loyola: he wanted to give him a good lieutenancy, were he willing to accept it, in recognition of the credit he had earned in the past.

He received the money, sending it to be distributed among certain people to whom he felt himself obliged, and a part of it to an image of Our Lady, which was in bad repair, so that it could be repaired and very finely adorned. And with that, dismissing the two servants who had been travelling with him, he went off alone on his mule from Navarrete to Montserrat. [14] And on this journey something happened to him which it will be good to have written, so that people can understand how Our Lord used to deal with this soul: a soul that was still blind, though with great desires to serve him as far as its knowledge went.

He was resolved, as has been said, to do great penances, with an eye at this point not so much to making satisfaction for his sins as to pleasing and being agreeable to God.* And so, when he would make up his mind to do some penance that the saints did, his aim was to do the same, and more besides. And in these thoughts he had all his consolation, not considering anything within himself, nor knowing what humility was, or charity, or patience, or discernment in regulating and balancing these virtues. Rather, his whole purpose was to do these great exterior deeds because so the saints had done them for the glory of God, without considering any other more individual circumstances.15

[15] So then, as he was going on his way a Moor caught up with him, a rider on his mule; and as the two of them were going along in conversation, they came to talk about Our Lady. And the Moor was saying that he could well accept that the Virgin had conceived in the absence of a man, but he couldn’t believe in her having given birth while remaining a virgin, offering for this the natural reasons that were occurring to him. Despite the many arguments which the pilgrim16 gave him, he couldn’t dislodge this opinion. At that the Moor went ahead, with such great speed that he lost sight of him as he remained thinking about what had passed with the Moor.

And at this there came upon him some impulses creating disturbance in his soul; it seemed to him he had not done his duty. And these caused him anger also against the Moor; it seemed to him he had done wrong in allowing that a Moor should say such things of Our Lady, and he was obliged to stand up for her honour. And thus there were coming upon him desires to go and find the Moor, and stab him for what he’d said.

Carrying on a long time with the conflict aroused by these desires, in the end he remained doubtful, not knowing what his duty was. The Moor, who had gone on ahead, had told him that he was going to a place which was a little further along his own route, very near the main road, but the main road did not go through the place. [16] So, having tired of analysing what it would be good to do, and not finding anything definite on which to decide, he decided on this: namely, to let the mule go on a loose rein up to the point where the roads divided. And if the mule went along the town road, he would look for the Moor and stab him; and if it didn’t go towards the town but went along the main road, he’d leave him be. He acted in accord with this thought, and Our Lord willed that, though the town was little more than thirty or forty paces away, and the road leading to it very broad and very good, the mule took the main road, and left the one for the town behind.

And arriving at a large town before Montserrat, there he wanted to buy the clothes he was resolved to wear, the clothes in which he was to go to Jerusalem. And so he bought cloth, of the kind from which they normally make sacks: a kind which is not very closely woven and which has many prickles. Then he ordered a broad garment going down to his feet to be made from this, buying a staff and a small gourd,17 and put it all in front of the mule’s saddle-bow. And he also bought some canvas sandals, of which he wore just one. And this not for decorum’s sake but because he had one of his legs all tied up in a bandage and in a rather bad state: so much so that, although he was travelling on horseback, each night he found it swollen. This foot he felt he had to have shod.

BEFORE THE BLACK MADONNA

[17] And he went on his way to Montserrat, thinking, as was always his habit, of the exploits he was to do for love of God. And because he had his whole mind full of those things from Amadis of Gaul and books of that sort, he was getting some thoughts in his head of a similar kind. Thus he decided to keep a vigil of arms for a whole night, without sitting or lying down, but sometimes standing up, sometimes on his knees, before the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat, where he had resolved to abandon his clothes and clothe himself in the armour of Christ.18

So having left that place he went along, as was his custom, thinking about his intentions. After his arrival at Montserrat, having said a prayer and come to an arrangement with the confessor, he made a general confession in writing, and the confession lasted three days.19 He also arranged with the confessor that he should give orders to have the mule collected, and that his sword and dagger should hang in the Church at the altar of Our Lady. And this was the first person to whom he revealed what he had resolved, because up till then he had not revealed it to any confessor.

[18] At night on the eve of the feast of the Annunciation, in the year 1522, he went as secretly as he could to a poor man, and, stripping himself of all his clothes, he gave them to this poor man and clothed himself in the attire he wished for. And he went to kneel before the altar of Our Lady. And sometimes in this posture, at other times standing, he spent the whole night with his staff in his hand. And as dawn was breaking he left so as not to be recognized,20 and he went off, not on the road straight to Barcelona, where he would have found many who would have recognized him and done him honour, but took a detour to a town called Manresa, where he was set on staying a few days in an almshouse,21 and also to note down some things in his book. He was carrying this with much care, and thanks to it he was travelling along in great consolation.

And as he was now walking along, three miles from Montserrat a man caught up with him – this man had been coming after him in great haste – and asked him if it was he who had given some clothes to a poor man as the poor man was saying. And as he replied ‘yes’, the tears poured from his eyes, tears of compassion for the poor man to whom he had given his clothes: compassion, because he realized that they were making things difficult for him, thinking he had stolen them.

But however much he would try to avoid admiration, he couldn’t be much around Manresa without people saying great things: the report had got about as a result of the Montserrat business. Later the rumours grew to the point of saying more than was the case: that he had left behind such a great income, etc.22

FIRST DISTURBANCES

[19] He used to ask for alms in Manresa each day. He wouldn’t eat meat or drink wine even if they gave it to him. On Sundays he didn’t fast, and if they gave him a little wine he would drink it. And because he had been very careful about keeping his hair as was the fashion at the time (and he had it nice), he decided to let it grow just anyhow as nature took it, without combing it or cutting it, nor covering it with anything by night or by day. For the same reason he was letting the nails on his toes and fingers grow, because on this point too he had been careful.

While he was in this almshouse something happened to him, many times: in full daylight he would see clearly something in the air alongside him, which would give him much consolation, because it was very beautiful, enormously so. He couldn’t properly make out what it was an image of, but somehow it seemed to him that it had the shape of a serpent, and it had many things which shone like eyes, though they weren’t eyes. He used to take much delight and be consoled by seeing this thing, and the more times he saw it, the more his consolation would increase. And when that thing used to disappear from his sight he would feel sad about it.23

[20] Up to this time he had always persisted almost in one identical interior state, with largely unvarying happiness, without having any acquaintance with spiritual things within the self. In those days, while that vision was continuing, or some short time before it began (because it went on for many days), there came to him a harsh thought which troubled him. The difficulty of his way of life would present itself to him, as if it was being said to him inside his soul: ‘And how are you going to be able to stand this life the seventy years you’re meant to live?’24 But to this he responded, also interiorly with great force (sensing that it was from the enemy): ‘You wretch! Can you promise me one hour of life?’ And in that way he overcame the temptation and was left calm. This was the first temptation that came to him after what has been recounted above. It was while he was entering a church where he used to hear the main mass each day, as well as vespers and compline, all sung, feeling great consolation at this. And he would normally read the Passion during mass, always going along in a state of serenity.

ENSNAREMENT BY SCRUPLES

[21] But then, after the temptation just spoken of, he began to undergo great variations in his soul, finding himself sometimes so much without relish that he found no savour either in praying or in hearing mass or in any other prayer he made, and at other times something coming over him pulling him towards so much the opposite, and so suddenly, that it seemed someone had taken away the sadness and the desolation from him like a person taking a cape from someone’s shoulders. And at this point he began to be frightened at these variations, which he had never previously experienced, and to say to himself: ‘what new life is this we’re beginning now?’

At this time he still used to talk sometimes with spiritual people, who thought he was genuine and wanted to talk to him, because, although he had no knowledge of spiritual things, still in his speaking he showed much fervour and a great will to go forward in the service of God. There was in Manresa at that time a woman advanced in years, and moreover a very long-standing servant of God, known as such too in many parts of Spain, so much so that King Ferdinand had once summoned her in order to share some matters with her.25 This woman, in conversation one day with the new soldier of Christ, said to him: ‘O, may it please my Lord Jesus Christ that he will to appear one day to you.’ But he became frightened at this, understanding the matter in this crude way: ‘How is Jesus Christ meant to appear to me?’

He was still persisting with his normal confessions and communions every Sunday, [22] but here he came to have many problems from scruples.26 For, although the general confession he had made at Montserrat had been suitably careful, and the whole thing in writing as has been said, still it seemed to him sometimes that there were some things he had not confessed. And this was causing him great pain, because, although he would confess this, he didn’t end up satisfied. And so he began to seek out some spiritual men to cure him of these scruples. But nothing was of any help to him. Finally a learned man from the Cathedral, a very spiritual man who used to preach there, told him one day in confession to write down everything he could remember. So he did, but, after he had confessed, still the scruples came back, with things getting more pernickety each time, with the result that he was in a very troubled state. And although he was almost aware that those scruples were doing him a great deal of harm and that it would be good to get rid of them, still he couldn’t accomplish this on his own.

He sometimes thought it would cure him were his confessor to command him in the name of Jesus Christ not to confess any of the things from the past. He therefore wanted the confessor to command this of him, but he didn’t have the courage to tell the confessor this. [23] But without his telling him this, the confessor did get to the point of commanding him not to confess anything from the past unless it was sufficiently clear. But since he had all those things very clear in his mind, this directive was of no use, and so he was still left disturbed.

At this time, the said person was in a little room which the Dominicans had given him in their monastery, and he was persisting in his seven hours of prayer on his knees, getting up at midnight continually, together with all the other practices already mentioned. But in none of these was he finding any cure for his scruples, and many months had passed with them tormenting him. Once, from a state of great distress caused by them, he set himself to prayer. And in the heat of this prayer he began to shout out loud to God, saying, ‘Help me, Lord: I can find no cure in human beings nor in any creature. If I thought I could find it, no struggle would be hard for me. You, Lord, show me where I am to find it. Even if I have to follow a little dog so that it can give me the cure, I’ll do it.’

[24] While he was in these thoughts there often used to come over him, with great impetus, temptations to throw himself out of a large opening which the room he was in had, and which was beside the place where he used to pray.27 But, mindful that it was a sin to kill oneself, he would revert to shouting again, ‘Lord, I won’t do anything that would offend you’, repeating these words, like the first ones, many times.

And so there came into his thoughts the story of a saint, who, in order to obtain from God something he greatly desired, went without food for many days until he obtained it.28 And thinking about this for a good while, in the end he decided to do it, saying to himself that he would neither eat nor drink till God did something for him or death seemed as near as could be. For if it should happen that he felt he had reached the limit – the kind of situation where, if he didn’t eat, he’d inevitably the soon – then he was decided to ask for bread and to eat (as if, in that extremity, he would have been able in fact to ask or to eat).

[25] This happened one Sunday after he had been to communion. And he persisted the whole week without putting a single thing into his mouth, while not ceasing from his normal religious practices (also going to the divine offices), nor from making his prayer on his knees (and at midnight too), etc.29 But when the following Sunday came with the need for confession, since he was accustomed to tell his confessor what he was doing in great detail, he told him also about how he had not eaten anything during that week. The confessor directed him to break that fast, and, though he still had some strength, he obeyed the confessor. And he discovered he was free of scruples that day and the next. But the third day, i.e. the Tuesday, while in prayer, he began to remember his sins. And thus, like something unravelling itself, he went on thinking about sin after sin from times previous, and it seemed to him he was duty-bound to confess them again.

But at the end of these thoughts there came to him some feelings of disgust for the life he was leading, and some impulses to cease from it; and with this the Lord willed that he woke up as if from sleep. And since he now had some experience of the difference in kind of spirits through the lessons God had given him, he began to mull over the means through which that spirit had come. As a result he decided, with great clarity, not to confess anything from the past any more. Thus from that day onward he remained free of those scruples, holding it for certain that Our Lord in his mercy had willed to liberate him.30

FURTHER DISCERNINGS

[26] Besides his seven hours of prayer, he was occupying himself in helping some souls31 who would come and find him there in spiritual matters, and all the rest of the day remaining to him he would give to thinking about things of God, based on what he had meditated on or read that day. But when he went to bed, often great ideas would come to him, great spiritual consolations, in such a way that they were making him lose a lot of the time that he had allocated for sleep, which was not much. And mulling this over a few times, he came round to thinking to himself that he had a certain amount of time set aside for dealing with God, and all the rest of the day afterwards. That led him to begin to doubt if these ideas were coming from the good spirit, and he came to the conclusion that it was better to leave them aside and to sleep for the allotted time; and so he did.32

[27] He was continuing in his abstinence from meat, and was firm on that – in no way was he thinking of making a change – when one day, in the morning when he had got up, there appeared to him meat for the eating, as if he could see it with his bodily eyes, without any desire for it having been there before. And together with this there also came upon him a great assent of the will that, from then on, he should eat meat. And although he could still remember his intention from earlier, he was incapable of being doubtful about this: rather he could not but make up his mind that he had to eat meat. And when he recounted this afterwards to his confessor, the confessor’s line was that he should consider whether perhaps this was a temptation. But he, examining the matter well, was incapable of ever being doubtful about it.33

GOD’S TEACHING34

At this time God was dealing with him in the same way as a schoolteacher deals with a child, teaching him. Now, whether this was because of his ignorance and obtuse mind, or because he didn’t have anyone to teach him, or because of the resolute will that same God had given him to serve him, it was his clear judgement then, and has always been his judgement, that God was dealing with him in this way. On the contrary, were he to doubt this, he would think he was offending his Divine Majesty.

Something of this can be seen in the following five points.

[28] 1. He used to have great devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, and so used to pray each day to the three persons separately. And as he was also praying to the Most Holy Trinity as such, a thought used to occur to him: how was he making four prayers to the Trinity? But this thought troubled him little or not at all, as something of little importance. And, one day, while praying the office of Our Lady on the steps of the above-mentioned monastery, his understanding began to be raised up, in that he was seeing the Most Holy Trinity in the form of three keys on a keyboard,35 and this with so many tears and so many sobs that he could not control himself. And on walking that morning in a procession which was leaving from there, at no point could he restrain his tears until the mealtime, nor after the meal could he stop talking, only about the Most Holy Trinity, and this with many comparisons, a great variety of them, as well as much relish and consolation, in such a way that the impression has remained with him for the whole of his life, and he feels great devotion when praying to the Most Holy Trinity.

[29] 2. Once the way in which God had created the world was represented in his understanding, with great spiritual joy: it seemed to him he was seeing a white thing, from which some rays were coming out, and that God was making light out of it.36 But he neither knew how to explain these things, nor could he fully and properly remember those spiritual ideas that God was at those times impressing on his soul. (In Manresa itself, where he was for almost a year, once he began to be consoled by God and saw the fruit he was bringing forth in souls as he dealt with them, he left aside those eccentricities he had from before. Now he cut his nails and his hair regularly.)

3.37 Similarly, while being in that town in the church of the said monastery, and hearing mass one day, as the body of the Lord was being raised, he saw with his interior eyes some things like white rays which were coming from above. And although after so long a time he cannot properly explain this, still what he saw clearly with his understanding was to see how Jesus Christ Our Lord was present in that most holy sacrament.

4. Often, and for a long time, as he was in prayer, he used to see with his interior eyes the humanity of Christ. As for the form that used to appear to him, it was like a white body, not very big nor very small, but he did not see any distinction of limbs. He saw this often in Manresa. Were he to say twenty or forty times, he wouldn’t be so bold as to judge that this was a lie. He has seen it another time when he was in Jerusalem, and again when travelling near Padua.38 Our Lady too he has seen in a similar form, without distinguishing the parts. These things he has seen confirmed him back then, and they always gave him such great confirmation regarding the faith, that he has often thought to himself that if there weren’t Scripture to teach us these matters of the faith, he would be resolved to die for them solely on the basis of what he has seen.39

[30] 5. Once he was going in his devotion to a church, which was a little more than a mile from Manresa (I think it is called St Paul’s), and the way goes along by the river. Going along thus in his devotions, he sat down for a little with his face towards the river, which was running deep below. And as he was seated there, the eyes of his understanding began to be opened: not that he saw some vision, but understanding and knowing many things, spiritual things just as much as matters of faith and learning, and this with an enlightenment so strong that all things seemed new to him. One cannot set out the particular things he understood then, though they were many: only that he received a great clarity in his understanding, such that in the whole course of his life, right up to the sixty-two years he has completed,40 he does not think, gathering together all the helps he has had from God and all the things he has come to know (even if he joins them all into one), that he has ever attained so much as on that single occasion. And this left him with the understanding enlightened in so great a way that it seemed to him as if he were a different person, and he had another mind, different from that which he had before.41

[31] After this had lasted a good while, he went off to kneel at a cross which was nearby in order to give thanks to God. And there appeared to him there that vision which had often been appearing and which he had never recognized: i.e. that thing mentioned above which seemed very beautiful to him, with many eyes. But being in front of the cross he could well see that that thing of such beauty didn’t have its normal colour, and he recognized very clearly, with strong backing from his will, that it was the devil. And in this form later the devil had a habit of appearing to him, often and for a long time, and he, by way of contempt, would cast it aside with a staff he used to carry in his hand.42

BEING NEAR DEATH

[32] Once while he was ill at Manresa, he arrived, as the result of a very violent fever, at the point of death: he clearly judged that his soul was due very soon to depart. At this a thought came to him, telling him he was just.43 He struggled against this thought so much that he did nothing but push it back and bring his sins forward; he had more of a struggle with this thought than with the fever itself. But he couldn’t conquer such a thought however much he struggled to conquer it. However, on being relieved from the fever a little, he was now no longer at the deathly extremity he was at before, and he began to shout loudly at some ladies who had come there to visit him to the effect that, when they saw him at the point of death again, they should for the love of God shout at the top of their voices at him, calling him ’sinner!’, and telling him to remember the offences he had caused to God.

[33] Another time, when he was travelling from Valencia to Italy by sea and in very stormy weather, the rudder broke on the ship, and the matter got to the point where, in his judgement and in that of many who were travelling in the ship, they couldn’t escape death barring a miracle. On thoroughly examining himself at this time, and preparing himself to die, he couldn’t be afraid of his sins, nor of being damned, but he felt great confusion and sadness from judging that he had not used well the gifts and graces which God Our Lord had imparted to him.

Another time in the year 1550 he was very sick as the result of a very severe illness which, in his judgement and indeed that of many, was to be regarded as his last. Thinking about death at this time he had such great joy and such great spiritual consolation at being due to die, that he was melting totally into tears. And this came to be such a recurring thing that he often used to refrain from thinking about death so as not to have so much of that consolation.

WINTER IN MANRESA

[34] As winter was coming on, he fell ill with a very severe illness, and to cure him the city put him in the house of the father of a certain Ferrer, who was later in the service of Baltasar de Faria. There he was looked after with great care, and many of the chief ladies used to come and watch over him at night out of the devotion they now had for him.44 And when he recovered from this illness, he still remained very debilitated and with frequent pain in his stomach. So, for these reasons, and also because the winter was very cold, they made him dress properly and wear shoes and cover his head. Thus they made him take two drab doublets of very coarse cloth, and a hat from the same material, something like a beret. And at this time there were many days when he was very eager to speak about spiritual matters, and to find people who were receptive to them.

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