When asked: “Doesn’t it give you great joy to see the fruits of your spiritual endeavours?” a guru replied: “How much joy does it give a tool to see what the hand has done?” said Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991) — who led the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983 — who always considered himself an instrument in God’s hand.
Pedro — Spanish for “Peter” — began his career as a medico. However, on a pilgrimage to Mother Mary’s shrine at Lourdes, he saw a cripple miraculously healed. He quit medical school and joined the Jesuits. Eventually, earning a doctorate in medical ethics, he worked in Japan.
Referring to “hands”, Arrupe believed: (a) His life as safe in God’s hands; (b) His hands as God’s tools for healing, and, (c) That all can work hand-in-hand to help the poor and heal a bruised earth.
In August 1945, Pedro experienced being safe in God’s hands during the atomic blast at Hiroshima. He made his house a makeshift hospital and healed hundreds. He said: “Our house, half-destroyed, was overflowing with the wounded, lying on the floor, suffering terribly, twisted with pain.”
Arrupe believed that God was with him even in life’s darkest moments. He was accused of being an American spy and imprisoned in Japan. He continued helping prisoners, fortified by fasting and prayer. His leadership qualities were recognised in 1965 when the Jesuits elected him as their numero uno: Superior General!
The 1960s were turbulent years for Catholics. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was revolutionary in its outreach — opening out the Church to new ventures like dialogue with other religions and secular sciences, while specifically serving the “poor”. Many conservatives — including some Jesuits — resisted renewal. Governing with a firm, yet fatherly hand, Arrupe insisted that Jesuits follow the mandates of the Council.
In the 1975 trailblazing 32nd General Congregation under Arrupe’s leadership, the Jesuits adopted a faith-cum-justice decree, stating: “Our faith in Jesus Christ demands of us a commitment to promote justice and enter into solidarity with the voiceless and the powerless.” This led to bold Jesuit initiatives — working hand-in-hand with all people to serve refugees, migrants, bonded labourers and other voiceless victims worldwide.
In his bestseller A Planet to Heal, Arrupe appealed for special care of mother earth, who nourishes us. Sadly, a stroke in 1981 rendered him half-paralysed and almost mute. He wrote: “More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.”
February 5, 1983: Arrupe surrendered his life into God’s hands. He reminds us: You are God’s hand! May God use us to help and to heal.