Working in the light of Arrupe’s inspiration

November 9, 2007 in General, News

Arrupe in Time MagazineJesuit education, like most other areas of Jesuit activity, was dramatically affected by Pedro Arrupe, says Bruce Bradley. He sees Arrupe as profoundly Ignatian in being attuned to the most pressing concerns of his times.

I joined the Jesuits in 1962, just as the Second Vatican Council was opening in Rome. For us, as novices shut away from ordinary life for the next two years in rural Co. Laois, the much-quoted words of the late Archbishop McQuaid at Dublin Airport, on his return from one of the early sessions of the council, rang all too true: ‘Nothing will be permitted to disturb the tranquillity of your Christian lives’.

Little enough did change for us until 1965, and we had no idea what the Council was going to mean for the Church and the Society. Then, in May of that year, the election of the Japanese provincial, Fr Pedro Arrupe, a Basque like Ignatius, who even looked a bit like him, a medical student, a survivor of Hiroshima, a man who had spent his whole working life in the Far East, changed everything for us.

His impact on the 31st General Congregation which had elected him – he required the delegates to reconsider submissions made by younger Jesuits to the Congregation which had been, in his view, much too quickly rejected – was immediate. His impact on the worldwide Society followed soon after as he began his travels to province after province, marking him as not only a man of the modern world but also allowing us to encounter his great personal warmth, infectious enthusiasm and obvious sanctity at first hand. He came to Ireland in 1967 and charmed our families by greeting them individually and thanking them for giving us to the Society. His confidence in what we could do in the future and his own intense commitment to the work of the Church made a deep impression. He seemed at once much older and wiser than we were and yet somehow the same age as we were too.

In the bitter winds that blew after Vatican II, the flame of his inspiration continued to burn brightly, despite the choppy waters around us and the wholesale departures from our ranks. We were proud to see him featured as the cover-story in Time magazine, even if part of the sub-text was that the Jesuits were once more living dangerously under their new, charismatic General. The firm commitment of the 32nd General Congregation to an understanding of transcendent Christian faith that was, by definition, committed at the same time to the work of justice in the all too earthbound realities of human society clearly bore his stamp.

Soon after that I myself began working in Belvedere. I still remember the excitement of first encountering his address, ‘Men for Others’, which applied that understanding to the sphere of education and gave us a language in which to express with great clarity what we were trying to achieve. Later, searching for what he called memorably the ‘ignacianidad’ of our work, he set up the commission that eventually produced ‘Characteristics of Jesuit Education’, the charter according to which all of us in this field continue to direct – and evaluate – our efforts.

I was a tertian, under Pedro’s close collaborator and profound admirer Herbert Dargan, when the news broke of Pope John Paul II’s intervention in the administration of the Society in 1981. Herbert was deeply stricken, not for himself but for Pedro. But he need not have worried. My abiding memory of Pedro now is his heroic fortitude in his suffering, after his disabling stroke at that time, and the authentically Ignatian example of unshakeable loyalty to the Pope and the Church that he gave all of us, before he entered the long silence of his final illness. We who lived through the eighteen years of Pedro’s generalate know now how profoundly privileged we were.