Igniting Our Values
Igniting Our Values

February 21, Saturday

Our Lady of Aranzazu

These past few days, we “disposed ourselves” for our shared Lenten observance by asking a variation of Jesus’ own question, “Who do you say I am?” Our reflection contributors suggested a few answers. We are disciples, foremost, called by Jesus to pick up our crosses and walk in his path, to embrace the task of building the Kingdom. We are pilgrims, too: people of faith, committed to the spiritual rigors of the Church’s great Lenten journey. And we are penitents: sinners following Jesus through the desert toward forgiveness, reconciliation and the waters of New Life.

On Saturdays, we will take a respite from our journey and celebrate Our Blessed Mother. In the shade of Her embrace, we’ll consider the past week’s progress and ask for Her guidance and protection during the next leg of our Jesuit/Ignatian pilgrimage.

Fr. Jack Bentz, SJ, introduces us to Our Lady of Aranzazu, a favorite devotion of Iñigo de Loyola.


The Blessed Virgin of Aranzazu

A crippling drought, a desperate town, a shepherd and a thorn bush — such are the elements of this quintessentially Basque devotion to Our Lady. In 1468, the Virgin appeared to the young shepherd Rodrigo de Balanzategui. Astonished to find the Queen of Heaven standing in a hawthorn bush, Rodrigo exclaimed "Arantzan zu?!" (“You? In the thorns?!”) Our Lady leaned forward and whispered a message of hope to the shepherd: the drought would end and water — life-giving water — would gush from the sky. The villagers laughed at the boy and marched out into the blazing sun to investigate the thorn bush, where they found Our Lady, smiling. And the saving rains began.

Daily Reflection

Our Lady of Aranzazu
by Jack Bentz, SJ

Perched awkwardly on a little stump with a rusty cowbell to the side, Our Lady of Aranzazu appears completely out of place. Stunted, weather-beaten and on her lap is a strange looking baby; I wonder what exactly did Ignatius see in her? But isn’t that always the question, when a family member brings home a new love? What could he possibly see in her?

As Catholics, we are often being introduced to the friends, new loves and strange relatives of our friends. Faustina Kowalska, Thomas Merton, John Paul II and Hildegard of Bingen have all been introduced to me and some became my dear friends and others remain nodding acquaintances. If they are friends of a good friend I try harder, so if St. Ignatius had a devotion to Our Lady of Aranzazu I want to know why.

What compelled him to make the journey up the steep hills to the very small shrine as he began his pilgrimage? I think it is because St. Ignatius was a truster. Even though he became the champion of finding God in his own experience, he was able to trust the devotional life of his culture and expand it, deepen it. If there was a holy hermit in his neighborhood he would visit her, if there was a miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary appearing in a thorn bush he would pray before it. Who was he to judge that grace was not happening? For Ignatius, God was able to speak in a thousand languages and he wanted to hear God whenever and wherever other people had heard Him.

I am not a born truster and even though my dial is always set to “prove it,” I have become more willing to make conversation with the friends of St. Ignatius. So I Google Our Lady of Aranzazu, and read her history, and then even bring her up in a conversation with God. And slowly get to the point where I can ask her, “So, what’s up with the cowbell?”

Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu
Por: Jack Bentz, SJ

Encaramada embarazosamente sobre un pequeño tocón, con un cencerro oxidado al costado, Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, se ve completamente descolocada. Pequeña y maltratada por el tiempo. En su regazo un bebé con una apariencia extraña. Me pregunto, ¿qué fue exactamente lo que San Ignacio vio en ella? Pero acaso, ¿no es ésta la pregunta que siempre nos hacemos cuando algún miembro de la familia trae a nuestro hogar un nuevo amor? ¿Qué es lo que ha podido ver en ella?

Como Católicos, a menudo somos presentados a los amigos, nuevas relaciones y familiares extraños de nuestros amigos. Faustina Kowalska, Thomas Merton, Juan Pablo II, e Hildegard de Bingen me han sido presentados y algunos se han convertido en mis buenos amigos. Otros continúan siendo conocidos. Si son amigos de un buen amigo me esfuerzo más. Así es que, si San Ignacio fue devoto de Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, quiero saber porque.

¿Qué lo impulsó a hacer este viaje, subiendo por colinas escabrosas para llegar al pequeño santuario, cuando comenzó su peregrinaje? Creo que se debe al hecho de que San Ignacio fue una persona que confiaba. Aunque fue un campeón en encontrar a Dios en su experiencia personal, fue capaz de confiar en la vida de devoción de su cultura y expandirla y profundizarla. Si había algún ermitaño santo por donde vivía, lo visitaba. Si había alguna estatua milagrosa de la Virgen María apareciendo entre las zarzas, rezaba frente a ella. ¿Quién era él para juzgar que allí no había gracia alguna? Para Ignacio, Dios era capaz de hablar en miles de idiomas y él quiso escuchar a Dios donde sea y cuando sea que otra gente lo escuchaba.

Por naturaleza, no soy una persona que confía y aunque estoy sintonizado más en “probar,” me he vuelto más propenso a conversar con los amigos de San Ignacio. Así es que busco en Google a Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, y leo su historia y hasta la hago partícipe de mi conversación con Dios. Y lentamente llego al punto donde puedo preguntarle, “¿Y, qué es esto del cencerro?”

Fr. Jack Bentz, SJ, serves as the Catholic chaplain at Boise State University.

Originally from a ranch in Eastern Oregon, Fr. Bentz is a theater worker by training and has worked in vocation promotion and direction before being asked to ignite the Jesuit mission to Boise.



Almighty, all powerful God,
create in me a strong walled empty space.
A space empty enough to hold your people
as you hold them,
but with strong enough walls
to support the rest of me around the work.
Give me even a part of your endless compassion for your people
and so help me to recognize you in strength and brokenness,
seeking you in the darkness knowing that finding you is my
deepest desire.


I have great doubts about the salvation of those who do not have a special devotion to Mary.
: St. Francis Borgia

The thorn bush is the old obstacle in the road. It must catch fire if you want to go further.
: Franz Kafka

Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesu’s; you whom the East
With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,

God shall o’er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.
: Gerard Manley Hopkins



Playlist (Spotify users login, then click)

Learn more about St. Ignatius and the Shrine to Our Lady of Aranzazu

Questions about the program? Email the coordinator by clicking here.

Click here to download the announcement PDF for "Igniting Our Values".

Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 10/14/19

America 9/30/19

America 9/16/19

Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House
Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House is located on 80 acres of gently rolling meadows and wooded countryside just 40 miles northwest of Chicago.