WHY MOVE AWAY from lofty Monserrat and the holy places?
To here, which is nowhere much, just a place made of mud-dust:
the cave and the river and the bridge,
the cathedral a dark slab;
the Cardoner, indigo and lurid green,
an industrial drain.
He eats no meat, he drinks no wine,
He begs alms every day.
Is he a hermit, a pilgrim, another failed soldier,
or a sackcloth man?
Whatever he was is threadbare:
dirt brown – and dirt black;
everywhere the air is hot and metallic,
dogs nose him with interest.
A form in the air glitters, and gives queasy delight;
his past life hunts and hunts him down.
Is this where his efforts get him?
Seventy years of self threaten ahead.
He is a twist of rope twisted and twisted on itself.
The waters of the well glint oblivion:
can light spit at him? can it be darkness lunging?
He is so lost he would follow a little dog.
A cloak snatched from his shoulders;
the lord awakens him as from a dream.
He has nothing to do but watch
The unnerving shifting patterns of darkness,
and so learn by heart the grammar of light.
He puts the strategies of love into his little exercise book.
He is schooled at length
In lessons he will relearn throughout his life.
Imagine a human king, imagine Christ King eternal;
Imagine Babylon, imagine Jerusalem.
Under the rockshelf
he and some locals and the dogs
make a primitive church.
On the horizon: Monserrat, a shining altar
of the whole world – with his life upon it.
Already they call him ‘that holy man’.
A whole year his Master teachers him to be generous;
all his hardness is eroded by the gift of tears.
Andrew Bullen SJ
Ignatius the Pilgrim – Poems for Prayer, 2013