What the Sacred Heart of Christ Means to the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe (1970)

Pedro Arrupe delivered the following homily at the Shrine of the Great Promise (Santuario de la Gran Promesa) in Valladolid, Spain, on May 8, 1970. The celebration took place on Arrupe’s first visit to Spain after his election as the Jesuits’ Superior General in 1965. The shrine marks the location of a former Jesuit theologate’s church where, in 1733, two Jesuit priests received special confidences from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This event began the devotion to the Sacred Heart in Spain. Arrupe uses this homily to express his belief that devotion to the Sacred Heart will help the Society of Jesus to bring the complete Christ of the Gospel to the People of God.

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1.     Importance of the Heart of Christ

We have been entrusted with the sweet task (“munus suavissimum”) of spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so fundamental in our spirituality which however at times, owing to some erroneous interpretations, falls into oblivion and disuse. I am therefore today extremely happy to have the opportunity in this Shrine to say that the Society of Jesus feels itself very closely bound to the Heart of Christ, because in this devotion it sees what the Supreme Pontiffs have ever so often told us: a compendium of all Christian teaching.


The Society of Jesus has undoubtedly but one ideal, that of serving the Church and serving the people of God, to bring Christ to the whole of mankind. And, as we know, the person of Christ comes to be known only when he is known in all the riches of his Heart, which on the one hand is the symbol of his love, and on the other has been the material organ that has beaten with the human love of Christ for men.



2.     Knowledge of the Complete Christ

This knowledge of Christ is the basis of all knowledge. And Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life, has to be known under this meaningful image, which can be discovered in each page of the gospel when we read it at leisure.


This image is sublime, immense, infinite; it takes many shapes. There is the lovable Christ who fondles little children; the Christ who denounces and castigates the hypocritical pharisees; the Christ who commands the angry winds and tempestuous waves to be still; the Christ whose divine attributes seem to fade away and vanish in the dark hours of Gethsemane; the Christ who speaks with the greatest simplicity and utters at the same time the most sublime teachings, which no man can ever fully comprehend in their fathomless profundity.


And when we try to find the reason for this authenticity and unmatched uniqueness of Christ, we discover that there is an exceptional aspect in this figure—he is the Savior. Every page in the gospel unravels the mysterious process of salvation through this exalted and divine person.


Christ is the Savior because he saved us, each of us: “He loved me and he delivered himself for me.” But if we search the gospels for the ultimate reason of the love that throbs in each of their pages, we shall find a further and much deeper reason. This love of Christ for men has a profounder Trinitarian source: the love of the Word for his Father.


It could be said that every line of the gospel, every word of it, is throbbing with the boundless love of Christ, who is burning with love for each human being and desires to ransom them in order to give glory to his eternal Father.


To the question whether this is the complete picture of Christ, the answer is in the negative; because Christ delivered himself for us he laid down his life for us, but he rose from the dead. And Christ today is a living person. Where is he? He is at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf; and in the tabernacle, the Eucharistic Christ. And searching for the reason of this intercession in heaven and of this real presence in the Blessed Sacrament, we find it to be no other than the infinite love of Christ for us, with whom he wishes to abide for all time.


Does therefore, this historical Christ, this risen and glorious Christ this Eucharistic Christ, sum up the entire personality of Christ? Augustine gives us the answer, and this is No. “If you wish to love the whole Christ, you must open your heart wide; for Christ, as the Head, is in heaven at the right hand of the Father, but his presence extends to the whole world in his members, that is, in each human being.”


Nor is that all. We know that the one and only person that is in Christ, that is, the Word of God, dwells in the innermost depths of our heart. This truth provokes St. Bernard’s question: “Where is the one who speaks from the most hidden recesses of our soul? Which way did he enter? Did he enter through the eyes? Or was it through the ears or touch?” And the saint supplies the answer: “None of these ways, because this presence is something of my own intimate being.” This, which is my innermost self, has been within me from the very first moment of my existence. It needed no door through which to enter. This divine Word, which dwells in the depths of my soul and speaks to me, is also the person of Christ. This is the complete Christ, the infinite love, symbolized in that Heart, which wishes to identify itself with us.



3.     Bringing the Complete Christ to the People of God

Our only objective, therefore, as members of the Society of Jesus, is to bring this complete Christ to the people of God at this most interesting historical moment, a time marked by chaotic confusion and at the same time by a cultural evolution, out of which a new era seems to be emerging with the creation of a new technological humanism.


At present, we Jesuits, along with you all, my dear friends, are endeavoring to find ways and means to bring Christ to the people in an efficacious manner. This makes the present juncture a crucial one in history, beset with many difficulties, to which Christ alone can supply a suitable solution. “Christus solutio omnium difficultatum.”


Christ, the core of whose personality is love symbolized in this Heart, is the very same lovable Jesus Christ who walked this earth two thousand years ago, powerful and at the same time helpless, who died on the cross for us; he is the same one present here in the tabernacle; the one again abiding in the innermost recesses of our souls, inspiring us what we ought to do. In him we find the answer to all our problems.


All of us—priests, religious, and lay persons—all ought to feel this personal responsibility and not to take it lightly, because the philosophy of the death of God is more wide spread than we might think. Let us not rest content with these ritual functions and religious practices, so consoling for us. Let us remember that outside the church there are large numbers of the people of God who do not attend them out of unavoidable ignorance, or sheer impossibility, or perhaps downright negligence. We ought to be conscious that we are the heralds of Jesus Christ and should go out and contact this people who, in many cases perhaps with the best will in the world, find themselves, as I have said, outside the sheepfold of Jesus Christ. What is needed is the apostolic drive, the desire to work for Christ, the urge to bring Christ to the people and the people to Christ. With this, that total triumph of Christ our Leader will soon become a reality.



4.     Trust in the Heart of Christ

For this task we count also with the promise of Christ who offers extraordinary graces. We need them today to combat atheism and to bring a spiritual outlook to a world more and more naturalistic. Christ is the only one that can give us the inspiration, from him alone can we get the strength to sustain our efforts and keep our hope alive.


This explains why the devotion to the Heart of Christ, founded on a theologically sound basis, is endowed with a profound solidity from day to day better known in the Church, and with a dynamic energy which can render our apostolate more efficacious and fruitful.


Today, when so many new sources of energy are being discovered, when we stand amazed at all the triumphs of scientific research in atomic physics and in the energy of the atom that may transform the whole universe, we do not sufficiently realize that all human power and natural energy is as nothing when compared with the superatomic energy of this love of Christ, who by giving his life vivifies the world. We, human beings that we are, can only transform already existing energy; but there exists an extraterrestrial source of energy which increases the energy of the world, an energy which has its source in the infinite love of Christ.


If we wish to transform this world of ours under its social and religious aspects, of the individual, the family and society, here we have the only energy that can achieve this transformation. This is the infinite love of Christ which we acknowledge with St. Paul: “He loved and delivered himself for me.”


Thus, therefore, in this touching Eucharistic celebration in this Shrine we are going to come into close contact with this truly superatomic source of the Passion of Christ, who is going to offer himself on the altar. May an atom leap from this altar to the wide world, in order that everybody may know Christ’s power.


We shall now offer this Victim, in union with this generous Heart that regards every human being with love. Let us also with generous hearts confidently ask him: “Lord, hasten the days of abundance, when the whole world will be your people. May this mystical Christ extend wider and wider, so that the day may soon dawn when we shall say that indeed you are the Head of the whole human race.” With this intention we are going to offer this holy Sacrifice to the Father with the greatest possible devotion, asking these graces through Christ our Lord.



Original Source (English translation):

Arrupe, Pedro. In Him Alone Is Our Hope: Texts on the Heart of Christ (1965–1983): Selected Letters and Addresses—IV, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1984, “What the Heart of Christ Means to the Society,” pg. 5–10.