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News Story

By Mike
Jordan Laskey

19, 2018 — Last Wednesday, after it
was announced
that there are plans to launch the sainthood cause of
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who led the Jesuits as their superior general from 1965
until 1983, I started working on a “Five Great Pedro Arrupe Quotes” list. (As
an internet writer like me is wont to do.)

Here was
the first quote I found: “Nowadays the world does not need words, but lives
which cannot be explained except through faith and love for Christ’s poor.”

The world does not need words, I learned as I was Googling
around to find Fr. Arrupe’s words. Oops. A list of quotes was out.

Pedro Arrupe, SJ, with Mother Teresa

maybe it makes more sense to reflect on Fr. Arrupe’s legacy and what it means
for us today by focusing on the second half of that quote: The world needs
witnesses, lives defined by their faith and their love of the poor. Fr. Arrupe
was a very fine writer and speaker to be sure, but he is so revered for his
leadership of the Society of Jesus during the turbulence of the 1960s and
beyond because of his vision of a faith that led to concrete actions in pursuit
of justice in the world.

So, here’s
the list I’m going with: “Three inspirational ways Pedro Arrupe put his faith
into action.”

1. He accompanied Japanese Christians
during World War II and cared for victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast.

serving as the Jesuits’ superior general, Fr. Arrupe spent 27 years as a
missionary in Japan, starting in 1938. Right after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor
in 1941, Fr. Arrupe was arrested and imprisoned for over a month because
government authorities suspected him of espionage. The Christians he had been
accompanying in his ministry were so devoted to Fr. Arrupe that they came to
his prison cell to sing Christmas carols he had taught them, risking their own

Arrupe in Hiroshima in 1947

“I was
unable to contain myself. I burst into tears,” he
wrote later
, so moved by their display of compassion and solidarity.

Four years
later, while living on the outskirts of Hiroshima, the devastating atomic bomb
blast shattered the windows of Fr. Arrupe’s residence and shook the building.
Drawing on medical training he had received before entering the Society of
Jesus, Fr. Arrupe and his Jesuit companions cared
for about 150 people
who had suffered bodily injuries and the
mysterious, largely invisible symptoms of radiation poisoning.

Arrupe in Japan

Francis, a great
admirer of Fr. Arrupe
, often talks about the need for Christians to
follow the example of Jesus and go to the “peripheries,” those edges of society
where people are often forgotten or ignored. Fr. Arrupe also used that word,
and he lived it: His care for Japanese Christians despite the incredible risks
— a world away from the power centers of Catholicism in Western Europe — is the
definition of going to the peripheries.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (left) celebrates Mass with Fr. Arrupe. (Jesuit Curia, undated)

example makes me wonder if I integrate quality time with those living on the
peripheries into society into my own faith life deeply enough. Sometimes, I
think I’m too content to stick to comfortable, familiar places. Not Fr. Arrupe,
who might one day be a patron saint of leaving your comfort zone.

2. He
founded Jesuit Refugee Service.

Drawing on
his own experiences on the peripheries, and moved
to compassion
by the plight of Vietnamese people fleeing violence in
their homeland on perilous boat journeys on the open sea, Fr. Arrupe used his
position as superior general of the Society of Jesus to push for the creation
of the Jesuit Refugee
Service (JRS)
, which was founded in 1980.

encounters on the margins led him to work to change systems of oppression,
using the Society of Jesus’ institutional resources to respond to Christ’s call
to “welcome the stranger” on a large scale. Today, JRS serves hundreds of
thousands of refugees in over 50 countries and works in legislative advocacy to
fight for public policies that are more hospitable to refugees and asylum
seekers. When we spend time with those who are suffering, and when we take just
a few minutes to contact our elected
in collaboration with JRS to lobby for more just migration
laws, we’re following Fr. Arrupe’s lead.

3. He surrendered to God during his own great
personal suffering.

A 1981
stroke left Fr. Arrupe badly debilitated, leaving him unable to continue in his
leadership role. He resigned his position during a gathering of Jesuit leaders
called a General Congregation.
He was wheeled into the meeting hall, and, unable to speak, his final address
was read aloud.

than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my
life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely
with God,” he wrote. “It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and
feel myself so totally in God’s hands.” The address was met with “thundering
applause and a torrent of tears.”

The stroke
sapped Fr. Arrupe’s incredible energy and prevented him from continuing his
work as the superior general. But his illness didn’t take away his faith-filled
leadership ability, as he modeled for his brother Jesuits — and for all of us —
reliance on God in the midst of great personal suffering. It’s one thing to say
we trust in the Lord when all is going well; it’s quite another to truly live
in trust when things go badly.

Whether he
was caring for victims of an atomic blast, founding an international
humanitarian relief organization, resting in the peace of Christ during his own
illness, or serving the church and the world through countless other actions of
selfless love, Fr. Pedro Arrupe was a leader and disciple worth emulating. As
we pray for his sainthood, we
ask Fr. Arrupe to pray for us

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