My favorite en-route saint

OK so let me tell you about my favorite saint-on-the-way, Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ.

Betsy found out that she had been accepted to LMU and awarded the Pedro Arrupe Scholarship on the same day that the “Saint of the Day” in my go-to devotional, Give Us This Day was Pedro Arrupe. A few weeks later, as my non-praying daughter prayed for discernment on her college choice, her youth leader started a talk with a quote attributed to Pedro Arrupe. (When another Arrupe mention popped up a few weeks later, she told me she whispered, “OK, God. I got it the first time.”)

So, for starters, he’s Betsy’s advocate upstairs. 

But, even if you set that personal connection aside, listen to his story (pulled from Kevin Burke’s introduction to Pedro Arrupe: Essential Writings in the Modern Spiritual Masters Series, which I highly recommend).

  • Born and educated in Spain, the youngest and only boy of five children, like me
  • Lost his mother at the age of 10 and father at 18
  • Finished high school at 15 and started medical studies
  • He went to Lourdes as a Medical Verification Volunteer, witnessed miraculous healings there, and decided to drop medicine in favor of ministry as a Jesuit
  • When the Spanish kicked out the Jesuits in 1932 he studied in Belgium, Holland, and DC (where he conducted research in psychiatry) before finishing up his studies in Kansas and Cleveland. He asked to be a missionary.
  • His first post was in Japan, just before World War II, where he was imprisoned (including more than a month in solitary confinement) on suspicion of espionage
  • After being released, settled in as novice master in a suburb of the Japanese city of Hiroshima
  • HE WAS THERE WHEN THE FIRST ATOMIC BOMB WAS DROPPED and dusted off his medical skills to turn his house into a hospital that cared for more than 150 victims of the bombing.
  • After the war (a-after the war) rose up the (tiny) ranks of Jesuits in Japan, becoming their first provincial in 1958.
  • In 1964 the head of the Jesuits died, so Arrupe went to Rome with the other provincials to select a new Superior General. They picked him, the guy from the Jesuit backwater.
  • As the new head of the Jesuits, he attended the final session of Vatican II and contributed to the discussion of the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et spes)
  • Became known as the “second founder of the Jesuits;” the tl;dr version is that anything you know about the Jesuits – the emphasis on “men and women for others” (his quote), social justice, concern for refugees, etc. – came from him, while at the same time he resuscitated and refocused attention on elements of Ignatian spirituality and discernment
  • Because of his support of liberation theology, he was viewed with some suspicion by St. Pope John Paul II. When Arrupe suffered a debilitating stroke in 1981, the pope stepped in to remove Arrupe’s chosen #2 and establish a more conservative delegate to lead the Jesuits. Though deeply grieved by the move as well as his own physical challenges, Arrupe remained loyal to the Jesuits and the papacy. He was never able to speak to his fellow Jesuits again, but his final homily was delivered on his behalf in 1983. He passed away in 1991.

Fr. Arrupe’s writings and speeches – on spirituality, prayer, theology, education, and an array of social justice issues – are wide-ranging and inspiring.

He probably didn’t write that quote Betsy heard, but it’s still good:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. 

Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Father Arrupe, pray for us. (Especially Betsy.)

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