Our Lady of the Way Chapel, Hyde Park, NY
Not affiliated with Ignatian Virtual Retreat Center
Our Lady of the Way
Patron Saint of Pilgrims
St. Ignatius' Journey
Ignatius' veneration of Our Lady was a deep and profound part of his spirituality in his journey as a pilgrim and in the founding of the Society of Jesus. Her intercession had a powerful impact on his soul, as well as anyone who has fled to her protection. In the account of his life, we find he referred to himself as the pilgrim where one can see why Our Lady of the Way became the patroness of the Society and of pilgrims.
It was said St. Ignatius was under the protection of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary during his time as a soldier for the king when he sustained a serious injury during a battle. During his long and painful period of convalescence, he received the graces for his conversion of heart, and where he began his journey as a soldier of Christ. While he was recovering, he received his first vision of our Lady; she was holding the holy Child Jesus (#10).* This was his first noticing of her intercession that continued throughout the rest of his life of her pointing the way to Christ.
He began his pilgrimage by first stopping at the shrine of Our Lady of Arantzazu (#13), where he took a vow of chastity and prayed for her intercession for strength for his journey. There he left funds for her statue to be cared for. He then traveled on to the Abbey of Montserrat. There before the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat, he held an all-night vigil where he laid his sword exchanging it for the armor of Christ (#17). Then before he left for Manresa on the eve of Our Lady’s Annunciation during an all-night vigil, he took the vow of poverty. That night he exchanged his fine clothing with a beggar to become poor in every way (#18).
During his time in Manresa, he felt many consolations while praying the Office of Our Lady (#28). While reciting the office, he described an experience of being elevated to a place where he saw the Holy Trinity as the figure of three keys thus understating the mystery. There and in other places he traveled, he continued to experience visions of Jesus and Our Lady (#29).
At Montmartre in Paris, Ignatius and his first companions took their first vows on the Feast of the Assumption. After the approval of the Society by the Pope, their first profession of solemn vows was celebrated at Our Lady’s altar in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
When writing up the Constitution, he shares how Our Lady interceded for him and, often at times, confirmed what he had written (#100).
Modeling the Spiritual Exercises after Blessed Mother
Jesus proclaimed "I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and Our Lady pointed the way. Ignatius modeled the Spiritual Exercises after the faith of Mary, for her 'yes' was the grace given through the Holy Spirit, for she pondered the Word of God (Luke 2:19).
Painting of Santa Maria Della Strata
In 1540 Pope Paul III gifted the Company of Jesus the church of the Madonna Della Strada which became the first church of the Society. Housed within the church was a fresco of Our Lady of the Way painted in the 13th C. Later the Gesu was resurrected in its place. Today the fresco is enshrined between the main altar dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus and the altar dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola. It is where the Jesuits pronounce their vows. Santa Maria Della Strata stands today as the patron saint of the Society and of Pilgrims.
Fresco Madonna Della Strada, at the Gesu Rome, Italy
* (# numbers taken from the book Saint Ignatius Own Story As told to Luis Gonzalez de Camara
translated by William J. Young, S.J.)