On July 31st, the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, I (and 16 others from the residence) went to Loyola for a day trip. Our objective was to see the basilica of St Ignatius, built next to the Santa Casa (Holy House) where he was born and was 'converted', taking advantage of the fact that his feast day happens to be the day when we had a break during the summer course. We went with intent to have more leisure than to exercise piety, but we were quickly disabused of that notion.
We drove from Pamplona, and arrived a little before 1pm, and to our (well, mine really) surprise, the parking lot was full and there were throngs of people everywhere. There was a Mass (in Basque) being said, and when we came to the doors of the basilica, we had to be 'restrained' outside until hundreds of people streamed out at the end of the Mass. The next Mass, this time in Spanish, ensued at 1pm. I'm just plainly surprised that the local people are just naturally pious. To come to the basilica of St Ignatius on his feast day is the normal thing to do :)
We watched an introductory video about Loyola (more about Loyola than about St Ignatius) at the tourism office, which is just below the basilica. I didn't understand a single thing, since it had the style of Shakespearean Spanish.
After briefly seeing the basilica, taking a few hurried shots as the Mass was under way, we went to the Santa Casa, which is the center of attraction. The basilica in fact, was built just next to it. Admission costs 2€, and guided tour costs 3.5€, but somehow, just somehow, somebody managed to convince the counter guy that since there were 17 of us, we should be let in for much less. So we forked out 1€ each and got ourselves a guided tour ;) The guided tour really means that our group gets a card that is to be scanned by card-readers at every station (there are 12 in total) in the Santa Casa. When the scanner reads the card, an automatic voice recording plays and thus we heard the history of St Ignatius - from his birth until his conversion.
It was very well done. I am impressed at its quality and comprehensiveness. It informs us of the very well-documented facts of the life of St Ignatius, from the significance of the location of this house and its political alliance, to the significance of the construction of the house (which has no windows on the lower part of its walls—characteristic of a fortress), to the more elevated aspects of the life of St Ignatius, culminating (the tour, that is) in the Chapel of Conversion (the room where se entregó a Dios Iñigo de Loyola)
What impressed me most of all is the devotional and 'elevated' style of the guided tour. It has the style of a Christian meditation. In fact, some of my friends jokingly added "Amen" at the end of several of the stations. We heard through the recorded voice that Iñaki (Iñigo in Basque) asked himself - given that God had given him so much - what has he done for God? Then we were asked to 'reflect' what God wanted of each of us ;) Mind you, my friends are exactly some of these pious people who could appreciate such elevated discourse, but the unexpectedness of it all brought much humour to the situation. Indeed, we came out nearly two hours(!!!) later, having piously (and humorously) heard 'the meditations' and praying for the intercession of St Ignatius on behalf of all the persons & the intentions entrusted to us by our friends who couldn't be there, half-dying with hunger and had a picnic lunch in the park outside the basilica.
So far, this is one of the best excursions (not to mention the madness of Sanfermin!) I have had in Spain, very characteristic of this land — both playful and pious at the same time.