Monday, February 7, 2011

Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of the Death of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ

by Juan Masiá, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
February 5, 2011

February 5th is the 20th anniversary of Pedro Arrupe's entrance into the parade of the saints, as Fr. Llanos used to say. Instead of a Gregorian Kyrie, I'd rather sing a clarinet gospel song with Armstrong: “Oh, when the saints go marching in...” (SPEX 139). Arrupe doesn't need to get in line at the box office of miracles and beatifications. To enter this procession, he already had a reservation, with a handwritten note from Jesus in Japanese: Irasshai!, Welcome!

Welcome...for having placed yourself on the side of the poor and the victims of injustice, for having lived compassionately in a merciless world, for having encouraged Sobrino in taking the crucified down from their crosses, for peacebuilding and for suffering to promote liberation and justice. Welcome, Pedro, for having spent your life busying yourself with the nets of the Kingdom, to catch women and men for Life...

The novices who did the month of Exercises directed by Arrupe in Hiroshima in 1942, remember the roots of his formation style in Ignatian meditation on the Kingdom: "With Jesus, for His project and through His way, that will get us into the mess of building peace and suffering for justice."

They told Arrupe it was utopian to choose dreams. But his was the dream of the Kingdom, that doesn't go out of style. Today, February 5th, twenty years have passed since his Extinction (as the Buddhists would say), twenty years since his biological life ceased in order to return to the Source of Life. He had spent ten years in the silent witness of the final illness, after his ouster by those who had forgotten a key phrase in the gospel according to Mark: "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you." (Mk 10:42-43)

A few days ago, in an interfaith meeting at the Peace Institute, I was commenting about the role of John XXIII in the Church and of Pedro Arrupe in the Jesuits. My Buddhist colleagues, who admire the trend of Vatican II in the Catholic Church and are raising the question of reform and tradition within their respective currents and faiths, were interested in the presentation on Arrupe's proposals on liberation, inculturation and interdenominationalism in the 70s, when even using these words wasn't yet the norm. But they asked me if it's true that the Catholic Church today is suffering a crisis of "involution and regression." I didn't want to get into apologetics and preferred to acknowledge that we are having a hard time. But, drawing on the twentieth anniversary of Arrupe, I said his life, thought and spirituality encourage me and I use them as an antidote to the pathologies that my church is suffering today because of disillusionment and disenchantment syndromes.

Disillusionment on the part of those who are bent on denying the reform of John XXIII and Vatican II, who yearn to return to the arrogant Church of the past. Disenchantment on the part of those who experienced the commitment to this reform and are now suffering crucifixion by the grace of the restoration that wields the power in high places in the Roman and diocesan curiae.

Arrupe's style would be a good tonic to detoxify disillusionment and disenchantment, both of those who live expecting to restore a past and of those who feel their energies worn out by sparring against the restoration.

Arrupe's style, inspired by the gospel, was neither "against", nor "anti", neither "dis-" nor "re-". Not reaction, or restoration, or disillusionment, or disenchantment, or anti-missile shield, or counter-attack. It was "pro-vocative" thought and leadership, stimulating creativity and futurity. A spirituality of the Promise, which gives hope.

The hopeful optimism of Arrupe wasn't naive. It was "passed through the Cross". But not the Cross exalted by the spritualities of suffering that linger morbidly on self-torment with the excuse of the "servant of Yahweh" or "expiation".

No, rather "a different theology of a different Cross". The theology of the Resurrection that speaks through the mouth of the Crucified One saying: "Don't stay looking at Me on the Cross and crying. Climb up here by My side. See how the world looks from the height of a Cross that is Resurrection, and come down from there to the task of uncrucifying the crucified. That is the theology that the parade of saints proclaims to us: Romero, Ellacuria, Teresa Kim and Teresa of Calcutta, Juana Inés, Arrupe and...hundreds and hundreds more.

Photo: Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ shines the shoes of a boy who has just shined his.

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