I have spent the last seventeen years of my life believing there was something important that came from Loyola. I work at a parish known as St. Ignatius of Loyola. I’ve heard the name over and over again in my life. Loyola, Loyola, Loyola. In fact, I even attended Loyola University in Chicago. Loyola must be an important place if it is the name of a university in the second largest city of the United States!
Well I’ve been duped. It is all a lie. I WANT A REFUND!
I spent the entire night in a sleeper train from Santiago de Campostella to Madrid. I bought the reservation back in Santiago. The nice man in the ticket booth told me that to get to Loyola, I first needed to go to San Sebastian, where I could catch a train to Loyola. Fine. No problem. I buy the reservations, but don’t realize until I get to Madrid that the man sold me a reservation to go to San Sebastian the next night, eighteen hours after my arrival in Madrid.
A quick trip to the ticket counter fixes all of that, and I am on my way to San Sebastian. Basically, I’m on the train for 14 hours straight. I arrive in San Sebastian, and I discover the first thing that bothers me.
I’ve been ripped off. They don’t spell it LOYOLA, they spell it LOIOLA. What’s going on with the inconsistency? Now I have to scratch out the “Y” on my diploma and put in an “I”! How disappointing.
So I go to LOIOLA, and wouldn’t you know it, there is no shrine to St. Ignatius there. The biggest highlight of LOIOLA is a local penitentiary right off the LOIOLA train station. In one of my smarter moves of the pilgrimage I decided not to knock on the door of the prison to see if they could give me information about the local area.
I was a little upset. Was I even in the right place? I am in the North of Spain, and this is Loyola, or Loiola, or whatever. Did the man at the ticket counter not understand me? I’ve dreamed of going to see the birthplace of St Ignatius for years, do I get so close and abandon everything?
I pull out my laptop. Insert my G3 broadband internet connect card, search for the right network, and do the research I should have done before I got to LOIOLA. (Unfortunately, I haven’t had a good internet connection for a few days, so I haven’t been able to do much preparation for my visits.) Turns out, Ignatius is not from Loyola. Loiola is a now the name of a suburb near San Sebastian. Ignatius is really from a village know as Azpetia.
Azpetia? Azpetia! Whoever heard of Azpetia? I didn’t graduate from the University of Azpetia in Chicago. I graduated from the University of LOYOLA. It is called LOYOLA. Not LOIOLA! Not AZPETIA! LOYOLA!
So I go back to the train station. No trains to Azpetia. At all. Ever.
Busses? Maybe. I walk two kilometers to the bus station. No buses in any convenient time frame.
It’s time to give up, or go long, and like I have done the entire pilgrimage… I give up. No wait! I mean… I go long… really long.
I go back to the train station where I saw a place to rent cars. Now mind you, I probably would never have done this had I not rented the scooter last week back in Rome. I know that I CAN rent a car in Europe, but never HAVE rented a car, and WOULD rather not.
There are so many elements working against this move that I know I’m bound for trouble. I barely speak enough Spanish to understand the rental agreement. I am completely unfamiliar with the way Europeans place their traffic signs, and what the different symbols on the road signs mean. I haven’t driven in four months, and European driving styles are much different than in the United States. I have only the name of the place that I’m going, I don’t have a map, and I don’t know the general geographical landscape of the area. I don’t even know which direction Azp…what’s-it’s-place… is even in.
As I’m driving with the sales representative to pick up the car, the rental agreement already signed, she asks me, “Most of the cars in America are automatic transmission, aren’t they?”
“Yes. They are.” I reply.
[Wait for it to sink in…]
“The car I’m going to have? What is it?”
“It is like this one.”
Oh man… how difficult do you need to make this God? Didn’t I have enough strikes against me? Now I have to drive a stick shift on top of being completely uncomfortable with the situation. I’ve logged maybe 20 hours of time driving a stick shift during my entire life! Now you want me to do in a foreign country, in which I don’t know the signs, and darkness is only an hour away?
I just want to use this moment in cyberspace to thank my brother Jay for letting me nearly ruin his transmission a couple years back when I drove his stick-shift car. The damage I did was well worth the lessons learned, because without a hitch, I started the car and was down a highway in Northern Spain in no time.
And I did make it to Azpeitia… in time for the sun to set. Azpeitia is a beautiful little city in the northern mountains of Spain. I’m sure a historian could tell you why Ignatius’ family referred to themselves as “Loyola” and we don’t refer to him as St. Ignatius of Azpeitia. I have no idea what that is all about.
I can however show you the pictures I took, if you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer. I made a pictorial of the Basilica of St. Ignatius and the house of his birth which you can view by clicking here.
The birthplace of St. Ignatius is amazing. He was the youngest of thirteen children and was actually born in the tower which you can see in the pictorial. It is a tower which used to serve as the sign of ownership of the feudal areas back in the medieval times. The tower was destroyed, but Ignatius’ grandfather rebuilt the four-story home. I took pictures of the bedroom where Ignatius was born, and also the room where he experienced his conversion, after his leg was severely wounded in a battle in Pamplona.
The doorway to the tower holds the sign of the Loyola family. It is two wolves coming to a kettle. It is a sign that the Loyola family had so much prosperity, that even the wild animals were fed from their copious fecundity.
I had to pay nearly $120 to rent a car. That quadrupled my budget for the day. I figured if I paid $120 for anything, it should also give me a place to sleep, so I slept in the tiny car, outside the Basilica of St. Ignatius.
For $120, I should have had a better night’s sleep, but it didn’t matter. Being here in this valley of prosperity, I could easily imagine how someone could grow up with the belief that he could accomplish great things.
No refund necessary.
And if you’re ever interested in seeing what I had the great privilege of discovering today, don’t go to LOIOLA.
Go to Azpeitia.