This year, 2023, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s famous exhortation “Men and Women for Others” we are delighted to share article #2 of the series Beloved Don Pedro “Man For Others”.
This series of articles written by Fr. Hedwig Lewis SJ, a great Jesuit writer of Gujarat Province in India, covers anecdotes from Fr. Arrupe’s life, his writings, lived experiences, and spiritual thoughts.
All educators in our global community are invited to learn and reflect on who Fr. Pedro Arrupe was and his legacy to Jesuit education!
We will be sharing one article per month. You are all welcome to share your reflections and comments in the comment section located at the bottom of each article.
We wish you an enjoyable journey getting to know Fr. Pedro Arrupe and the roots of his famous exhortation “Men and Women for Others”.
Here is article #2 “DEVELOPING MIND AND HEART ”.
DEVELOPING MIND AND HEART
In 1922 Pedro Arrupe enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine of Madrid University. For a year Pedro stayed with his married sister’s family in Madrid, till they moved to Bilbao. For Pedro the bustling life of a university student in a large metropolis was a huge emotional wrench from the safe and secure haven he had known in Bilbao. Pedro studied hard, spending many hours over his books.
But he also made time for friends. One of them was Enrique Chacón, who was studying mining engineering. One day Pedro found Enrique pacing up and down the corridor of the students’ residence, where he was lodging, a sheaf of notes in his hand. Enrique had not slept a wink the previous night. He was preparing for his examination and was mortally afraid of his father’s ire if he did not pass it.
Pedro gave him a reassuring pat and promised to help him see it through. He let Enrique study in his own room so that he could stay away from distractions. Since he had trouble waking up in the morning, Pedro would threaten to pour a glass of water on his head. Thanks to Pedro’s encouragement and attention, Enrique was successful in the examination. Enrique later joined the Jesuits, and became a well known scholar. He wrote a large volume on economics.
After his sister left Madrid, Pedro had to find a new place to live. He joined Enrique at the “students’ residence” or hostel. It was situated on the two top floors of the tallest building in the city, having seven floors. There were forty students residing there, from all over Spain. The group represented almost all the specializations at the University.
A year after his stay at the residence, the topmost floor, where Pedro lived with 24 other students, decided to become an independent unit since they found the “mess bill” a little too much for their pockets. So they started their own mess. Occasionally a mother of one of them would assist in the cooking. They were a happy community, full of laughter and fun. “This was a very delightful time in my life,” recalled Pedro later.
Pepe, the oldest student among the hostelites had started a wing of the St Vincent de Paul Society. It comprised only of students who were interested in helping the poor. Pedro joined the group, little realising that he was in for a rude shock. He had been used to a comfortable life at home. Now he found himself confronted by a reality so very different. He felt greatly “embarrassed” at the poverty and destitution he now witnessed. “We didn’t know what too say to these people,” he confessed.
“I found terrible suffering – widows with children begging for bread, sick people begging for medicine, waifs running through the streets like stray dogs…” His conscience began to prick him: “I began asking, ‘Why did I come into this world?’”
Pedro performed brilliantly in academics: in 1922 he won the First Prize for anatomical studies; in his second year he won the Physiology prize; in 1926 the prize for therapeutics. A distinguished career in medicine seemed to lie ahead. He was unanimously voted as the best student of the year.
”I liked my medical studies very much,” he confided. “After my family, the greatest sacrifice I made on entering the Society was giving up Medicine.”
Making time: Though absorbed with his studies and having a healthy ambition to excel, Pedro made time to reach out to those in need: his companions in the hostel who needed his help; the poor in the neighbourhood. It is interesting to note that Enrique was an Engineering student, and not on the Medicine. So what he received from Pedro was an emotional boost and a conducive environment when he was facing fear and lack of self-confidence. These got him through his difficult period and made for success in studies.
Hobbies: Pedro also believed that what was important in life was to be an all-rounded personality. He made time for other activities outside his study-schedule, like the theatre, music and the opera. His special hobby was reading. He did not care much about literature, but “preferred scientific works on physics, chemistry, medicine, physiology, and especially works concerning the new chemistry for therapeutics.” He did not realize it at the time, but his readings in therapeutics would be the basis for high honours at a conference he would attend later as a scholastic. His interest in books would also help him increase his knowledge in different languages – he was well-versed in seven languages, and consequently enable him to communicate with a wide variety of people from different cultures as well as to write books in different languages.
Fun and laughter: For Pedro, it was not all work and no play for him. Pedro was outgoing by nature. He was always bubbling with joy and optimism. He also took part in the fun. The medical students, for instance, would dangle skeletons, borrowed from their anatomy classes outside the windows of their neighbours below to frighten them. One day an irate neighbour smashed in the head of the tormenting skeleton.
Pedro was much sought after at picnics and parties. He had a deep singing voice – like his father, and would never shy from singing his favourite Basque songs. He was also a good mimic and would tell and re-tell fairy tales and everyday stories in a variety of tones and gestures, that would have people splitting their sides with laughter. Pedro not only at the general jokes that others told, but even jokes about himself. This sporting spirit made it easy for people to deal with him.
On the spiritual side, the hostel helped him develop his faith. There used to be daily Mass, and over thirty of the 40 students who attended it would receive Holy Communion.
Arrupe On Youth
I like young people very much, because youth is the future. And I am convinced that fundamentally, the young people of today are good… Therefore, to understand young people we must first of all listen to them, really listen to them – that is to say, without prejudice. They have other ways of acting, other attitudes, other symbols, other ways of expressing themselves, even before the Blessed Sacrament, in a way that shocks us. However, we cannot judge them by the standards of thirty years ago… Their idealism, sometimes impatient, is a proof of vitality and a source of hope. Pedro Arrupe SJ
Receiving From The Poor
On a visit to a Jesuit province in Latin America Fr Arrupe was invited to celebrate Mass in a suburb, the poorest in the region. After Mass a big-made, fierce-looking man, said to Fr General, “Come to my house, I have something to honour you.” Fr Arrupe showed some hesitation, uncertain whether to accept the invitation or not. but the priest who was accompanying him said reassuringly, “Go with him, Father; the people are very good.”
Arrupe accompanied the fellow to his house which was but a half-falling shack. He made Father sit down on a rickety chair. From where he was seated the sun, which was just setting, was clearly visible. The man then said: “Señor, see how beautiful it is!” And they remained silent for a few minutes.
The sun disappeared. The man broke the silence: “I did not know how to thank you for all that you have done for us. I have nothing to give you, but I thought that you would like to see this sunset. It pleased you, didn’t it? Good evening.”
He then stretched out his hand to Fr Arrupe. “As I was leaving,” recounted Fr Arrupe later, “I thought: ‘I have met very few hearts that are so kind’.”
In May 1971, on a flight from the US to Latin America, Fr Arrupe was seated next to a young man. Who noticed his clergy suit and asked: “Are you a priest?”
Fr Arrupe nodded.
“Not a Jesuit, though?”, he queried further.
Fr Arrupe nodded again.
“Really?” said the youth, “Have you read Fr Arrupe? A real revolutionary!”
Again Fr Arrupe nodded, this time with a bigger smile.
The young man’s day was made. He had sat next to a real revolutionary.