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Falling in Love With God by Pedro Aruppe, S.J.

Christine Vernon
Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Falling In Love With God
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.

~ Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Pedro de Arrupe Y Gondra was born in 1907, into a prosperous Basque family in Bilbao, Spain. Beside his mother and journalist father, Pedro had four older sisters. He attended medical school at Valladolid and was thought to have inherited some of his father's gift for writing. In 1927, he joined the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) in Loyola and was ordained in 1936 in Marneffe, Belgium. Also in that same year, he was allowed to participate in the International Conference on Eugenics for those specializing in medicine and psychiatry. At that time, all Jesuits were sent into exile by order of expulsion by the Republican government of Spain at that time. So, once he was ordained a priest, he was sent off for doctoral studies in medical ethics in the US. Around 1936, Father Aruppa was sent to Jesuit Theologate in Kansas and lived in Cleveland, Ohio working with Hispanic immigrants. In 1939, he was sent to Japan. He worked at Sophia University in Tokyo and for 35 days in 1940 was a prisoner accused of spying.

In 1945, when the first atomic bomb was dropped, Father Aruppa was three to four miles from the site. His skills as a trained doctor enabled him to lead the first rescue party to arrive in Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped, the novitiate was used as a hospital.

Later in his life, Arrupe gave a talk about some of that experience. In 1950, he recalled some of his memories helping the victims of the Hiroshima bombing (account provided by Nathan O'Halloran, S.J.):

At first, without electricity or radio, we were cut off from the
rest of the world. The following day cars and trains began arriving
from Tokyo and Osaka with help for Hiroshima. They stayed in the
outskirts of the city, and when we questioned them as to what had
happened, they answered very mysteriously: “The first atomic bomb has

”But what is the atomic bomb?”

They would answer: “The atom bomb is a terrible thing.”

”We have seen how terrible it is, but what is it?”

And they would repeat: “It's the atomic bomb...the atomic bomb.”

They knew nothing but the name. It was a new word that was coming
for the first time into the vocabulary. Besides, the knowledge that it
was the atomic bomb that had exploded was no help to us at all from a
medical standpoint, as no one in the world knew its full effects on the
human organism. We were, in effect, the first guinea pigs in such

But from a missionary standpoint, they did challenge us when they
said: “Do not enter the city because there is a gas in the air that
kills for seventy years.” It is at such times that one feels most a
priest, when one knows that in the city there are 50,000 bodies which,
unless they are cremated, will cause a terrible plague. There were
besides 120,000 wounded to care for. In light of these facts, a priest
cannot remain outside the city just to preserve his life. Of course,
when one is told that in the city there is a gas that kills, one must
be very determined to ignore that fact and go in. And we did.

Father Aruppe's vision for the Jesuits is spelled out in “Our Mission Today: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice, Of GC XXXII. This decree basically defined all of the Jesuits work as having an essential focus on the promotion of justice as well as the Catholic faith. This tied him and other Jesuit theologians to the movement in South American known as “liberation theology”. (condemned by Joseph Ratzinger in the 1980's in his capacity of Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. Arupped had a special relationsip with the Jesuits in South America who made great sacrifices for their faith. In 1977 when those 47 Jesuits were threatened with death, Father Arrupe responded “they may end up as martyrs by my priests are not going to leave (El Salvador) because they are with the people.” In 1989, six Jesuits were killed at Jesuit University of Central America and non-Jesuit Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed.

In 1965, Aruppe was elected to be the order's 28th Superior General and he served in that position until 1981 when he had a stroke which left him dependent on others and unable to speak. He died in 1991.

The following is from the website of Boston College:

Arrupe led the Jesuits through their landmark Thirty Second Congregation, a meeting of representatives from all over the Jesuit world, held from December 1974 to March 1975. He was instrumental in promoting the famous “fourth decree,” which defined the modern mission of the Jesuits in terms of “faith that does justice”. In the words of this decree, “Our faith in Jesus Christ and our mission to proclaim the Gospel demand of us a commitment to promote justice and enter into solidarity with the voiceless and the powerless.”

Arrupe's belief that the gospel requires effective solidarity with a suffering world had roots in his early years as a priest. Before entering the Jesuits in 1927 he had studied medicine, but an experience of conversion had set him on a different course. After his ordination in 1936 he was assigned to Japan. On August 6, 1945, Arrupe was serving just four miles from the center of Hiroshima, close enough to be nearly blinded by the flash of the first atomic bomb and to feel the blast that sent the walls of the seminary crashing around him. The memory of that day and the suffering survivors whom he tended in the following weeks was present to him in each Mass he celebrated for the rest of his life.

The compassion evoked by this experience developed over time into a conviction that ministry to oppressed and suffering peoples must not remain on the personal level alone. It was necessary also to promote structural changes in the world to alleviate the sources of oppression and violence. Thus, Arrupe was a pioneer in urging the combination of pastoral concern, biblical reflection, and social analysis.

Arrupe was aware that the Jesuits would suffer consequences for this new understanding of their mission, and he urged them to be prepared for criticism and even persecution. His concern was prophetic. Within three years, five Jesuits had laid down their lives in the pursuit of justice, and criticism was quick to follow. The Jesuits were accused of substituting politics for the gospel, and Arrupe was personally charged with leading the Society astray.

(below is taken from the website of Creighton University....)

Superior General of the Society of Jesus

This is the speech that Fr. Arrupe gave to the gathering of Alumni of Jesuit schools.  Valencia, Spain, 1973.  Many in his audience walked out.
Defining what he meant by doing the “works of justice” he said:

First, a basic attitude of respect for all people which forbids us ever to use them as instruments for our own profit.
Second, a firm resolve never to profit from, or allow ourselves to be suborned by, positions of power deriving from privilege, for to do so, even passively, is equivalent to active oppression.  To be drugged by the comforts of privilege is to become contributors to injustice as silent beneficiaries of the fruits of injustice.
Third, an attitude not simply of refusal but of counterattack against injustice; a decision to work with others toward the dismantling of unjust social structures so that the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized of this world may be set free.
Pedro Arrupe, S.J. died in 1991, ten years after suffering a debilitating stroke.
Christine Vernon

Christine Vernon is the founder and editor of Women's International News.