Silently inspiring and guiding the Ignatian’s every step in the journey to Christcentredness is his chivalric devotion to “Our Lady”. In this way he follows in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Antioch who once stated that “he who is devout to the Virgin Mother will certainly never be lost”, and also in the footsteps of St. Ignatius Loyola. The above image evokes the first solemn religious act of the knight Inigo de Loyola, who after his conversion, traveled to the mountain-top shrine of Our Lady at Montserrat. There, on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, he renewed what he had done before being knighted by keeping a vigil of arms throughout the night, either kneeling or standing, before the altar and statue of Our Lady of Montserrat at whose feet he laid his sword and resolved to don the armor of Christ. In this way the chivalric Inigo de Loyola crossed the Rubicon that set him decisively on the journey that would transform him into the knight of a higher order, the chivalric St. Ignatius of Jesus.
In his book, the Spiritual Exercises, in the crucial meditation on spiritual warfare with its portrayal of the two armies headed by “Christ our Lord our Commander-in-Chief” and “Lucifer our human nature’s deadly enemy” in confrontation, he urges the retreatant at midnight to place himself in the presence of Our Lady “asking her to get me from her Son and Lord the favour of being admitted under His [Christ’s] flag” in order to combat, without heeding the wounds, alongside the Eternal King for the eternal salvation of souls. It is in this spirit that the Ignatian consecrates himself to the Heroic Heart of Jesus Christ through kneeling at the feet of the Queen of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Ignatius of Loyola had always been devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a child and youth Ignatius had often prayed before the lovely painting of the Annunciation in the castle of Loyola. In his autobiography he recalls how as a young man, fresh from his conversion, he spent the last ducats of his pay “to have a picture of our Blessed Lady which was in poor condition restored as beautifully as possible”. Even as a dissolute courtier, Ignatius, before engaging in a duel, would compose verses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And, on one occasion, after someone had insulted her honor, he wanted to stab the offender with his dagger.
This ardent devotion to Our Lady was typical of the medieval knight. History records the story of the knight Walewan, renowned for his bravery, who decided to transfer to the higher order of knighthood in monasticism. Fully armed, he rode down the central aisle of the monastery church to the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary where he took off his armor, laying it at the feet of the heavenly queen, before donning his monastic robes.