The power of pilgrimage
Can you, today, highlight all that is good?
I was first made aware of the Jesuits as a child when I attended a local church, which was formerly served by Jesuit priests. I remember my grandmother telling me that Sacred Heart in Accrington was a Jesuit church, and I used to admire the paintings of St Ignatius on its walls, but I had no concept of what that meant, or how it was going to influence me in the future.
A Lancashire funeral and a job advertisement
After going to university, travelling the world, and teaching English in Japan, I found myself back in Lancashire again for my grandmother’s funeral in March 2003. On the evening of that day, I came across a job advertisement for an English teacher at Stonyhurst College and I felt compelled to apply. Knowing very little about the school, I sent off my application and was quite taken aback when I received an invitation to attend an interview and later offered a position at the College. This was to be the start of my introduction to Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality, and the beginning of a personal and spiritual journey in life.
Finding peace and strength in the teaching of St Ignatius
Having had a Catholic education and upbringing, I already had an understanding of prayer and the importance of fighting for social justice in the world. However, I feel that working at Stonyhurst has deepened my connection to my faith and strengthened my relationship with God. I have been able to explore my faith in action for the first time, and have been moved by the impact that Ignatian Spirituality has had on my own faith and belief in God. I have also found peace and strength in the teachings and practices of Ignatian spirituality, and have particularly enjoyed the practice of a silent retreat, which I have experienced at St Cuthbert's and St Beuno's, and is something which I want to explore more in the future.
Spirituality as a journey
One particular Jesuit priest and writer who has inspired me is Fr Gerard W Hughes SJ whose books, ‘In Search of a Way’ and ‘Walk to Jerusalem’, have inspired me to view my own spirituality as a journey and to recognise the power of pilgrimage on our faith and understanding of God and humanity. Since reading them, I have been on pilgrimage in Israel and will be returning to do the same later this year, before embarking on the last 100 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago in 2018 with the Stonyhurst Association.
Finally, living and working in a Jesuit school has given me the opportunity to explore and strengthen my faith in God, and learning about the teachings and ways of St Ignatius of Loyola has provided me with the tools to become more resolute in my love of God and his creation.
On Monday 31st July we will celebrate the feast of St Ignatius. All alumni and friends of the Jesuits are welcome to these special feast day masses with light refreshments afterwards, one in Preston and the other in London
Gerard W Hughes SJ has been mentioned in a number of the reflections in the first half of our 31 days. Read more about him >>