Lent 2019: Praying with Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Palm Sunday


Today’s second reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, includes this classic hymn:

“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”


In a sinful world, love will always encounter many barriers. In the ultimate act of love, Jesus sacrifices himself and surrenders to the will of the Father. How does this belief affect your daily life? Do you resonate with the idea of love as self-emptying gift, as the hymn describes?

The Stations of the Cross Prayer Experience

Enter into a visual, prayerful encounter with the Stations of the Cross on your computer, tablet or smartphone, which combines paintings of the 14 Stations, passages from Scripture and a brief meditation on how Fr. Arrupe offered his own suffering to the Lord.

Stations of the Cross

Words of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ:

Near the end of his life, after he had suffered a terribly debilitating stroke, Fr. Arrupe wrote this prayer, binding his own suffering to the suffering of Jesus:

“More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself
so totally in God’s hands.”

Fifth Sunday of Lent


At the end of today’s famous Gospel passage, the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus forgives the woman and sends her on her way after defending her from the mob:

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”


Playing the blame game usually worsens the situation. Forgiveness frees. How have we forgiven others? How have we received forgiveness? 

A Story of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ: 

During World War II, Fr. Arrupe served as a missionary in Japan. The following story is an excerpt from James Menkhaus’ essay “Lessons from the Spirit of Pedro Arrupe.” It is a powerful story of forgiveness in an extremely challenging and dangerous situation.

As the tension increased between Japan and the United States, eventually resulting in war, Arrupe’s recent visit to the USA drew attention from the Japanese military police, the Kempetai. In December 1941 Arrupe was arrested on suspicion of espionage. The letters written by Jesuits from all over the world that were found among Arrupe’s personal effects did not help his cause. He was put into a cell with an area of four square metres, containing a dirty straw mat, a metal receptacle and rats. The walls were stained with blood. Describing his first night, Arrupe later reflected, ‘It was very cold. One could not sleep; I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. There is absolute silence. The hours pass with the increased slowness of waiting.’ 

Arrupe’s time was spent either alone in the quiet cell or under interrogation from the Kempetai, who thought he would eventually admit to being a spy. Guards would come to speak with him about his religion and Arrupe enjoyed preaching to them about God. During interrogations, Arrupe often told his life story, how he was a doctor and became a priest after witnessing miracles at Lourdes. While interesting to his interrogators, his stories could in no way prove his innocence.   

Beginning at midnight on 11 January 1942 Arrupe underwent 37 hours of continuous interrogation in which he was questioned about politics, religion and numerous other ‘inconsistencies’ concerning his beliefs. After this interrogation he returned to his cell, fearing that his execution was imminent. A short time later he was escorted to the prison governor’s office and, to his surprise, was told that he was being released. The governor informed Arrupe that he had been imprisoned because of rumours against him, but that the Japanese people believed ‘one of the best ways of judging the innocence or guilt of the accused is to examine him closely in his everyday actions’. It was not his theological arguments that had saved his life, rather, ‘his internal completeness, his simplicity, his transparency of soul’. 

Upon hearing this news, Arrupe thanked his guards and the governor, telling them they had done him a service. To their astonishment, this man who had been mistreated and isolated for over a month was not angry or spiteful. When the flummoxed governor asked him to explain, Arrupe replied,   

You have taught me to suffer. I came to Japan to suffer for the Japanese people. Jesus Christ suffered more than any other man. The believer is not afraid to suffer with or like Christ. You have helped me to understand this.   

The policeman fought back tears as he told Arrupe he was free to preach his religion. After the war, US war crimes investigators asked Fr. Arrupe for the names of those who had held him captive, but he refused to divulge the information. He did not want revenge on those who had done him wrong, but to move on to forgiveness and healing. 

Fourth Sunday of Lent


Today’s Gospel reading is the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son. We invite you to reflect on this line from the passage:

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.


What are your experiences of love? How have these experiences changed your life? Which character or characters from the Gospel story do you most closely identify with?

Words attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ:

The famous prayer-poem about falling in love with God is often attributed to Pedro Arrupe, but it was written by American Jesuit Fr. Joseph P. Whelan in 1981. Nevertheless, themes from the poem resonate with the life and ministry of Fr. Arrupe, who said the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola were first and foremost an experience of God’s love. He let the love of God lead him in everything he did.

God’s own love for us is modeled by the father in the Prodigal Son story: God rushes out to meet us wherever we are and is always ready to welcome us home.

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. 

Third Sunday of Lent


In today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus, we hear the grumbling of the Israelites as they suffered while wandering in the desert:

“In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, ‘Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?’”

Words of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ:

Fr. Arrupe ministered in Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II. He describes his memory of August 6, 1945, the day the United States detonated an atomic bomb over the city:

“I was in my room with another priest at 8:15 when suddenly we saw a blinding light, like a flash of magnesium. Naturally we were surprised and jumped up to see what was happening. As I opened the door which faced the city, we heard a formidable explosion similar to the blast of a hurricane. At the same time doors, windows, and walls fell upon us in smithereens. We… were thrown to the floor…

“I shall never forget my first sight of what was the result of the atomic bomb: a group of young women, eighteen or twenty years old, clinging to one another as they dragged themselves along the road. One had a blister that almost covered her chest; she had burns across half of her face, and a cut in her scalp caused probably by a falling tile, while great quantities of blood coursed freely down her face. On and on they came, a steady procession numbering some 150,000. This gives some idea of the scene of horror that was Hiroshima. … We did the only thing that could be done in the presence of such mass slaughter: we fell on our knees and prayed for guidance, as we were destitute of all human help.”


As the Israelites thirst as they wander the desert in today’s first reading, we remember some of Jesus’ final words as he hung on the cross: “I thirst.” Jesus understands our suffering and accompanies us in the midst of it. What is our own response to the suffering of others? Do we look away and keep quiet pretending everything is all right? Do we become honest and rend our hearts and lament to God?

After Fr. Arrupe prayed for the victims of the atomic bomb blast, he took action, using the medical training he had completed before entering the Jesuits to help care for the wounded. The experience deepened in Fr. Arrupe his commitment to accompanying people in the midst of their suffering and working to build a more peaceful, just world, priorities that would guide him when he served as Superior General of the Jesuits later in his ministry.

Like Fr. Arrupe, may we pray for the grace to be “contemplatives in action,” uniting our prayer with concrete action on behalf of our sisters and brothers who are most in need.

Second Sunday of Lent


In today’s second reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, he writes: 

“For many…conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame.’ Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”


What prevents us from becoming more and more like Christ? What “earthly things” do we cling on to? How do we let go? 

Words of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ:

In “Simplicity of Life,” Fr. Arrupe writes that we are becoming “slaves in many different ways: slaves of propaganda, of that high-pressure salesmanship which is the distinguishing mark of a consumer society; slaves of acquisitiveness, the drive to accumulate possessions which begin as luxuries and end up as necessities.”

In “Men and Women for Others,” Fr. Arrupe challenges us to cultivate “a firm determination to live much more simply — as individuals, as families, as social groups — and in this way to stop short, or at least to slow down, the expanding spiral of luxurious living and social competition.  Let us have men and women who will resolutely set themselves against the tide of our consumer society.  Men and women who, instead of feeling compelled to acquire everything that their friends have, will do away with many of the luxuries which in their social set have become necessities, but which the majority of humankind must do without.”

An Ecological Examen

The Ignatian practice of the examination of conscience, or “examen,” is a prayer that invites us to review our experiences, to find God within the course of our daily life, and to let go of the things that prevent us from growing into relationship with God. This “ecological examen” uses the framework of the prayer form to invite us into reflection on how we might let go of what Arrupe calls “the drive to accumulate possessions” in order to both conserve natural resources and commit to a Christ-centered “simplicity of life.”

Ash Wednesday

“Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes…”  

So begins a personal prayer of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who served as the Jesuit superior general from 1965 to 1983 and whose cause for sainthood was opened earlier this year

It’s a perfect prayer for Lent, this time of spiritual renewal and preparation for Easter. How easy it is to forget that God is always with us, here and now, reaching out with love and inviting us to grow closer to him. How often we put our own selves at the center of the universe, failing to respond to or even notice the needs of the human family. How natural to get burnt-out, cynical or just plain tired. 

We need a new way of seeing.  

What if we could see other people, the planet and ourselves the way God does? How much more joy and peace would there be on earth? 

Holy men and women like Pedro Arrupe are essential guides for us disciples, pointing the way to Jesus and encouraging us to come along. This Lenten season, as the Jesuit community continues to pray for the canonization of Pedro Arrupe, we invite you to spend some prayerful time with the words and prayers of this revered Servant of God.  

Each Sunday of Lent, we will use a line or two from the day’s Scripture passages to uncover a theme, and then connect that theme to words of Arrupe’s. We’ll use videos, images and written reflections to enter into just a bit into his deep spiritual life. Because while you can learn plenty of facts about Pedro Arrupe by readings biographies or scholarly articles, you can learn something else entirely by praying with him.

Ignatian Resources for Lent 2019
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 10/14/19

America 9/30/19

America 9/16/19

Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House
The Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House is located on the shores of Lake De Montreville in Lake Elmo, Minn.