“Aspects of the Ministry of Reconciliation,” Pedro Arrupe (1970)

Pedro Arrupe’s first official visit to England and Scotland as the Jesuits’ superior general took place in January 1970. This was not the first visit to England by a leader of the Society of Jesus, as Arrupe notes in the homily below. Arrupe delivered these remarks at the Farm Street Church in London, a Jesuit parish. In attendance was John Heenan, the English prelate of the Catholic Church, along with the apostolic delegate to Great Britain and Thomas Roberts, the Jesuit who previously served as archbishop of Bombay. Arrupe’s homily discusses “some thoughts about being a Jesuit in the contemporary world,” by focusing on the ministry of reconciliation.

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Your Eminence, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.


This is not the first time a Jesuit General has been to England. Saint Ignatius himself, in his student days, came to London and was deeply moved by the generosity of the people. In 1848 Fr. Roothaan came here, fleeing revolution, and. Fr. Martin came towards the end of the last century. Unlike Saint Ignatius I have not come to beg, and unlike Fr. Roothaan I am not fleeing revolution. I have come simply to visit and encourage my brethren of the English Province. This visit has been a great joy to me and I want to share with you, on this occasion, some thoughts about being a Jesuit in the contemporary world.


These thoughts will be very simple—and they spring out of the readings we have just heard. Every religious order—and the Society of Jesus is no exception—represents an original attempt, inspired by a charismatic personality, to rediscover the spirit of the Gospels and live out that spirit in its own time. When the first companions of Saint Ignatius were trying to work out how best to serve the Lord, they came upon this text of Saint Paul: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” This text summed up what they wanted to do in the world, and why. Christ, “our peace,” first reconciles us to the Father, wins us access to the Father. Those who wish to serve Christ become his “ambassadors,” handing on his message, following in his footsteps, using his methods, and striving, through prayer, to catch something of his spirit.


So their ministry is appropriately described as “the ministry of reconciliation.” There are so many levels of reconciliation. In practice, reconciliation means breaking down the barriers that separate men from God and from each other. In an increasingly secularized world, the reality of God is more difficult to realize: Jesuits, having learned to pray themselves, would hope to help others to lift up their hearts to the Lord and speak to him in familiar conversation of prayer. That is the condition of a fruitful apostolic work. It is a necessary condition.


But then the ministry of reconciliation extends into many other spheres. It is found, first of all, in the Church, since charity is in the Church, not as in a container, but as its constitutive element. The peace and unity of the Church are best served by working with the bishops of the Church. Four years ago, this Church of Farm Street, after 120 years, became a parish church. Cardinal Heenan said on that occasion: “This event mirrors … the spirit of the recent Council, but it also symbolizes the entirely changed relationship within the Church between the religious orders and the hierarchy and the diocesan clergy.” We Jesuits are not individualists. We are at the service of the Church today, and at the service of the local Church. The move of Heythrop College from the country to London is another step in that direction.


There is another aspect of the “ministry of reconciliation” which we cannot overlook especially during this Octave of Prayer for Church Unity: reconciliation with our separated brothers in Christ. In history the Jesuits have been associated with the implementation of the Council of Trent. Today, following the mandate of Pope Paul, the Jesuits are concerned with the implementation of Vatican II, and that includes, not as optional extra, the work of ecumenism. Happily the English Province counts among its members some of the pioneers of the ecumenical movement. At the heart of this movement which is the work of the Holy Spirit in our day, is the desire to seek together the Christ into whom we have all been baptized. Dr. Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, expressed the ecumenical task memorably when he said: “Our quest is not just the right doctrine or the right institution, but through them the sanctification of human lives in Christ in the adoration of the mystery of God.”


But the unity of the Church is for the service of the world, and there are other, higher barriers which “the ministry of reconciliation” impels us to break down: the barriers of prejudice between classes and peoples and races. The new pattern of Jesuit education in this country will keep these aims in view. From our diversified schools, we would hope to see emerging mature Christians who are not afraid to commit themselves to the transformation of society as a whole. And what is true of educational work in England, is even more urgently true of education in the mission territories entrusted to the English Province in Guyana and Rhodesia.


The ministry of reconciliation excludes nothing from its scope, neither science nor art nor any truly human enterprise. Saint Ignatius has a “Meditation to grow in love” and the grace of this meditation is that we may “seek God in all things and find all things in him.” The last General Congregation spoke of the way prayer “is a precious chance to see the unity of creation and to refer creation to the Father.” Here we see echoed the great theme of Saint Paul: “For in Christ the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” This is the vision that has sustained so many humble, hidden apostolic lives. This is the vision which was shared by your English Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, who saw the glory and grandeur of God flashing out from the created world. Reconciliation means, finally, renewal. “Therefore,” says Saint Paul, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” We need to innovate with fidelity, to make courageous decisions for the future while respecting the past but not being imprisoned by it. The English Province—everyone knows—has a glorious past, with its martyrs to provide inspiration: but now it moves towards its future in “joyous hope.” We all recognize the difficulties. But the words spoken by Edmund Campion, as the Jesuits came to England, are still relevant and still ring in our ears; “The enterprise is begun: it is God: it cannot fail.”




Original Source:

Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “Aspects of the Ministry of Reconciliation,” pg. 199–202.