February – Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ
The cause for the canonization of Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ was introduced in 2019. Fr Arrupe was a crucial figure in the Catholic Church of the 20th century and was a firsthand witness to some of that century’s lowest points, including the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Yet, Fr Arrupe is remembered for his hope and enthusiasm and his vision of a future in which the Kingdom of God would be lived with integrity and mercy be embraced by all.
Fr Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ served as the Director of the Social Secretariat of the Jesuit Curia in Rome under Fr Arrupe in the 1970s. He has recently shared some of his thoughts and those of others about this man who had such impact. In an introduction to a collection of the Father General’s writing, A Planet to Heal, John Harriot wrote of him as one of the most genuinely loved and admired Jesuit Generals in history, a truly captivating human being. He also noted that Fr Arrupe was charismatic, humble and possessed of a delightful sense of humour which he often directed against himself. He was a man for whom prayer was as essential as breathing and spirituality was at the core of all that he was. However, his willingness to embrace change and innovation was not without its critics and there were those who were concerned by the pace of the changes instituted at the time.
Many credit Fr Arrupe with leading the Society of Jesus in a new direction by rediscovering its roots in the spirit of its founder Ignatius of Loyola. Fr Campbell-Johnston speaks of Arrupe’s convening of the thirty-second General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1974-75, noting the deep conviction, “that the modern mission of the Society had to be redefined to meet the needs of a world that had changed and was changing so dramatically”. Decree 4 stated: “The mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement”. Fr Arrupe spent the remainder of his generalate trying to put this decree into effect throughout the Society.
A great emphasis on walking with the poor and marginalised in a spirit of humility to promote a more just world permeated his work and the initiatives which were key to this, including the establishment of the Jesuit Refugee Service. However, Fr Arrupe’s prophetic approach was not always embraced or appreciated and at times made him a controversial figure. Writing in tribute to Fr Arrupe, the Spanish Cardinal Vincente Enrique y Tarancón wrote: “Arrupe, an exceptional charismatic prophet, could see the future. For that reason, he was ahead of many who could not follow his footsteps. He was not only ‘a man of his time’ but he wished to prepare his men for the third millennium.”
It is difficult to say what Fr Arrupe would make of the challenges of this new millennium. However, it seems certain that his boundless love of God, prayer and hope for the future continues in the endeavours of the Companions of Jesus today. This is a vision which, inspired by Fr Arrupe, serves as a beacon for Jesuits and their lay coworkers in the 21st century as we attempt to be true to that vision to establish a more just world.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
(St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Thank you to Fr Campbell-Johnston for sharing the article on which this reflection is based.
Lynn McWilliams, Outreach Coordinator
Image: Volunteers respond to Fr Arrupe’s call for a faith that does justice.