I am finally resuming my travel narrative from Spain! This comes between unpacking boxes Mom and Dad have had in storage since the house was flooded... Now there are about 25 boxes of books in the garage. I think we have most of the kitchenware, although the food processor has still not appeared. The books are an interesting problem. When the den was redone, two of the floor-to-ceiling bookcases were not replaced. That leaves us with a lot of homeless books, the literary flotsam and jetsam of a 50 year marriage. We have a whole library of Merton books (by and about), innumerable versions of Shakespeare (Mom was an English major), assorted novels from the book of the month club, assorted books of devotion (if I find Dad's old Raccolta from his days in the minor seminary at St. Ben's, I'm asking for it). There are various volumes from the "Best in Children's Books" (I think I was a charter member), kids' classics (Charlotte's Web), grownup classics (Graham Greene--including titles I never heard of)... And no where to put them. Except the garage floor, for now.
Anyway, back to Azpeitia.
We had spent our afternoon at the wonderful "Holy House" where Ignatius was born and converted to the Lord, and then returned to the Hotel Loiola for some supper, which the Basque, like Spaniards generally, eat quite late. We made reservations to dine as early as possible in the hotel restaurant, and made our way at the appointed time, which was around 8:30. Unfortunately for us, there was a group of teenagers in the small banquet room attached to the restaurant, and most of the staff was involved in moving trays of food and pitchers of drink over there. Occasionally, a kindly woman came to our table to take a bit of our order. Eventually, food arrived. All over Spain we had been told about the extraordinary Basque cuisine, so we made sure only to select items that were explicitly noted as local specialities. It seems they are especially enamored of a green sauce that appeared on everything. I remember little of the meal (I had clams that had a very strange odor, but tasted okay; Karen had fish--a kind I remember from Italy as "merluzza" but have no clue what it corresponds to in American fish--the clams and the fish were seasoned with green sauce, of course). We tried the local wine, and kept asking (in vain) for water. As we finished our meal, the waitress eventually came by to see if we wanted coffee. "Agua, por faovor!" we begged again. It took a while, but she did bring us each a bottle of water so we would have something to sustain us!
Our plans for the morning were to have a quick breakfast (the hotel did have a very fine breakfast available) and attend the 9:00 Mass in the conversion room, now "converted" into a chapel. We both kind of wondered if we would have any trouble getting into the tower house itself, but all the doors were wide open. First we paid a quick visit to the Basilica, promising to give it more time and attention later. Then we headed up the silent stairs to chapel. It was the Feast of the Visitation, and the entrance antiphon was absolutely perfect for Mary, Ignatius and me: "Come, all you who fear God, and hear the great things the Lord has done for me."
After Mass, I stayed to make my hour of adoration, and Karen went to scope out the terrain in terms of gift shops. We had been told that Azpeitia was virtually the only place in the world where you could find a statue of St. Ignatius! So while Karen went looking for Iñigo, I stayed with Jesus AND Iñigo (his statue, at any rate!) in that room where God's grace had worked so powerfully for the Church and evangelization. I basically had the entire tower to myself for that hour. It was in this very room that the Western Church re-received the wisdom of discernment, and so I prayed for that grace for myself and my community. I didn't even realize how quiet it had been there until a group came into the building some time after the heavy bells tolled the hour. When my prayer was finished, I found myself "waiting for Karen," but that gave me an opportunity to take some pictures... I even leaned out of the windows to get a view of the Moorish brickwork, the surrounding countryside Ignatius would have seen if he looked out of the window just a few yards from me, the window of Ignatius' room (the room stretched across half the tower, and the "sanctuary" of the chapel is surrounded with an iron grate, so I couldn't go near the actual location where Ignatius recovered from his battle wounds and later cosmetic surgery.
When Karen came back to get me we visited the Basilica. More pictures. Karen's came out. A few of mine did, but only the ones I took with the digital camera! Karen had learned that a narrated tour of the house was available. You simply asked at the tiny office for a card for your language group. At several stations on each floor was a device into which you would insert the card, at which a loudspeaker would fill you in on the interesting details of the location. Our narrator had an Irish accent. At the end of the narration, a chime would tell you to move along, and a strobe flashed from the next narration box. So we did the whole house over again.
There were several things of particular interest besides the conversion room. For instance, on a patch of wall near a window, there is a pencil drawing of a sailing ship. Did a youthful Iñigo draw that, thinking of the older brother who had gone to America? There is the family chapel with its image of the Annunciation by some Dutch painter (the name is in the souvenir book I bought). This painting was a wedding gift from Queen Isabella (yes, that Isabella) to her lady-in-waiting, Magdalena, who was marrying the firstborn of the Loyola boys, Martin. I took any number of pictures of it, with every camera at my disposal, but was unable to get a really good image. However, when I was going through my photos, I did notice that the entire frame has an inscription, so I want to go back and see if I can figure out at least what it says. This chapel was much loved by the first Jesuits, even in Ignatius' lifetime. Francis Borgia said his first Mass here, and his chalice and vestments are on display in the tiny chapel. Quite near the chapel is a sort of all-purpose room with a built-in bookcase in the wall, original to the house. On display there are copies of the same editions of the Life of Christ and Lives of the Saints that were so important in Ignatius' life that he took pen and ink to copy key passages so that he would be able to continue meditating on them even after he left home, as he had decided to do. We learned here that the musical instrument Ignatius played was not the clavichord, as I had previously thought, but the lute, and indeed there was a guitar-like instrument on a wall near the staircase representing that very Spanish musical culture.
I should add that it was in the Holy House and adjoining Basilica that the "magic camera" took charge of Karen's photos. The thing would lock in on a particular angle and framing and not let Karen snap the shutter except at that point! Despite the low lighting (the flash was not "magic"), these photos came out the best of all. It was our heavenly friend taking charge of his own photos!
Karen had befriended Cristina, the shopkeeper at the tiny souvenir kiosk outside the shrine. From her we learned that a group from New Orleans had been at the shrine the very day before! Too bad they were on the way to Pamplona... I would have loved to see them.
Outside it was bright, but chilly enough that I needed to keep my windbreaker on. There was still so much to see! The "diarama" and the museum, the hospital where Ignatius served the sick after he got sick in Paris and was ordered to "take his native air" as a cure, the place where he taught the town children, the parish church... But it was getting late: we had to have lunch (lest I faint) and check out of the hotel on time. A tiny restaurant nearby accomodated us, and we had a second experience of Basque cuisine (not as good as Galician, we would later decide).
It was time to say good-bye to Azpeitia and hello to Asturias.