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Celebrating Servant of God, Pedro Arrupe, SJ

On Monday, the BC High community came together to honor and celebrate Servant of God, Pedro Arrupe, SJ. Superior of the Jesuit Community, Fr. Jim Croghan, SJ delivered a homily on Fr. Arrupe and his visit to BC High nearly 60 years ago:

“ A little before 10:00 o’clock on a Monday morning in early April, 1966 Fr. Pedro Arrupe landed at Logan Airport after a short flight from New York where he had arrived a couple of days before from Rome. From Logan he came here, right at the beginning of a 12-hour visit to Boston. He did some other things during his brief time in Boston like visiting Cardinal Cushing and then later on having Mass and dinner at BC with the Jesuits of the New England Province. If you want to know what was served at that dinner you can ask Fr. MacMillan who was there. [Actually, you might want to chat with Fr. MacMillan to talk about his experience of Fr. Arrupe. Fr. MacMillan was in the Rome in the 1990-1991 academic year and frequently visited with Fr. Arrupe, and was present in his room when Fr. Arrupe died.]

But Fr. Arrupe started his Boston visit here. After being introduced by the senior class president & football team captain, Bob Bouley ’66, Fr. Arrupe spoke to the assembled students from the steps of Walsh Hall, 41 years before it became the home of the Arrupe Division. In his remarks he told the students they were part of the then 400 year history of Jesuit education and that BC High would make them leaders—of this country and the world. Fr. Arrupe was only here for about 45 minutes, and before leaving he gave the students the rest of the day off.

“You will be leaders of this country and the world.” Those words were an invitation and challenge when Fr. Arrupe spoke them and they remain an invitation and a challenge today, 56 years later. But I think even more his words were an expression of his hope as he looked out at the BC High student body that Monday morning in the Spring of 1966. They remain an expression of hope today on this Monday morning in Winter 2022. They are words which connect you with everyone who has come before you and everyone who will follow you on this campus.

A question we can ask this morning is how will you become those leaders? It’s an aspirational goal in an increasingly challenging world and it is also a vocation, a call to service, a call to grow into being “men for others,” that phrase we know so well from Fr. Arrupe’s 1973 address to Jesuit school alumni gathered in Valencia, Spain, three words which have had an enormous impact on the works of the Society of Jesus all around the world right up to the present day. We are called to be men and women for others. It is a calling we have in common. It is our shared vocation.

I recently heard vocation defined like this: given your gifts and talents how do you want to love the world? How do you want to love the world?

The first, and more important step, is knowing how much you are loved and then, secondly, loving the world as God loves it. We hear both these elements in our readings which tell us how much we are loved and how we are to love the world as God loves it.

Deuteronomy speaks to us of God’s love for his people who are called to obey God’s commandments and engage in loving and just behavior by caring for the poor, for those neglected and ignored; to care for everyone in need. To be a people for others.

Paul’s message to the Romans—and to us—could not be any more clear, nothing can separate us from the love of God. In living out Fr. Arrupe’s invitation and challenge to be leaders in the country and the world, can anything separate you from that love? No, Paul tells us: Not anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword. “No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.”

But it is in today’s gospel that we have an image of both how much we are loved and how we might love the world. The father sees his son from a distance and runs to embrace his child, this knucklehead who lost everything and brought shame upon their family. In this story Jesus is telling anyone who will listen that this is how God loves. And it gives us a model of how we are love in return: foolishly, generously, with arms outstretched ready to welcome and embrace.

When Fr. Arrupe came here in 1966 he was already pretty familiar with the United States. Years earlier on his way to being a missionary in Japan he did theology studies in Kansas, his tertianship—the final stage of Jesuit formation—in Cleveland, before working as a chaplain in a maximum security prison in New York as he did the paperwork that was needed for him to travel to and stay in Japan. Finally, on September 30, 1938 he boarded a ship in Seattle bound for Yokohama, fulfilling his great dream as a young Jesuit to be a missionary in Japan, where he would serve until his election as superior general. Seven years after his arrival in Japan when he was novice master at the Jesuit novitiate in a small town overlooking Hiroshima the atomic bomb was dropped on that city of over a quarter million people, killing tens of thousands.

In trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible magnitude of the explosion and the destruction, knowing that he couldn’t go into the city itself—he could see fires and dark smoke everywhere—he went into the novitiate chapel, a building where one whole wall had collapsed from the shock wave of the explosion, to pray. In the midst of darkness, he prayed for light. Later on as he remembered that day, he wrote: “Everywhere there was death and destruction, and we were reduced to impotence. And God was there, knowing everything, contemplating everything, and waiting for our offering to take part in the work of rebuilding everything.”

Fr. Arrupe made his offering in those days of immense suffering using everything he had learned from when he was studying to become a doctor before he entered the Jesuits. He used all his gifts and talents to love the world by loving all those in need around him, and there were many.

When Ignatius of Loyola was canonized, Pope Gregory XV said that “Ignatius had a heart big enough to hold the universe.” We don’t have to wait until Pedro Arrupe’s canonization to know that is true of him as well. And you don’t have to wait to start making it true of yourself.

If we recognize Pedro Arrupe as a man of great love, we can easily see why a prayer we have often heard is attributed to him, but which he probably didn’t write. Instead, he modeled it in everything he did.

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, 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 do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom 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.

Servant of God, Pedro Arrupe. Pray for us!”