“Mission, the Gospels, and the Exercises,” Pedro Arrupe (1974)

The Jesuit International Congress of 1974 was held in Loyola, Spain, the birthplace of the order’s founder, Ignatius of Loyola. The gathering had a theme of “The Spiritual Exercises and the Constitutions as Instruments for Renewal in the Society.” Pedro Arrupe delivered remarks to the congress, a portion of which appears below (as it did in a publication from Jesuit Sources). Arrupe addresses here how mission relates to a Jesuit’s reading of the Gospel and to his reading of the world of 1974 according to Ignatius’ Exercises.

For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.




1. Ignatius’ Experience of the Person of Christ

If we want to understand what “mission” signifies in all its dimensions in our Constitutions, we must approach the source from which it grew, which is nothing else than the Gospel, meditated upon in the Spiritual Exercises. The Constitutions are rooted in the experience of the Exercises.


The Gospel is an infinite treasure, something which gives rise to an innumerable variety of inspirations and experiences. One of these experiences is that which came to be crystallized in the Exercises.


For Ignatius the key to the Gospel is to be found in the person of Christ, and in His condition as that of being one “sent” from the Father in mission to man, and this implies the Incarnation—His identification of man with Himself—and His death for man. The whole of the Exercises revolves around the person of “the Lord who has become man for me” (Spir. Ex., 104); the life of Christ, especially His public life, His passion and His resurrection, are a living reality which the exercitant ought to meditate upon, “as though I were present there” (Spir. Ex., 114) asking with insistence for “an intimate knowledge of our Lord … that I may love and follow Him better” (Spir. Ex., 104). Christ appears to the eyes of the exercitant as the Eternal King to whom is present the whole world; and to the world, and to each man, He gives the same invitation to work for all others “and thus to enter into the glory of My Father” (Spir. Ex., 95). For the exercitant, Christ chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples, etc., and sends them throughout the world to spread His sacred doctrines (Spir. Ex., 145).


2. The Kenosis of Christ

The Christ of the Gospel is seen and experienced in the Exercises as Christ who is poor, humble, the servant who is obedient to the Father; as the Christ of the kenosis, “formam servi accipiens,” who has become one of “the many,” like unto a man needing redemption. He is the Christ of the Beatitudes and the Christ of the cross. When He sends His disciples to continue His mission, He sends them as neighbors to man, as unconditional servants of all men in fulfilment of the will of the Father. He sends them in poverty, to be humiliated as He was and like Him to suffer and be laden with injuries for the redemption of the world.


Well, then, what is formulated as an individual experience in the Exercises is subsequently crystallized in the Constitutions as a communitarian experience—the same charismatic experience of Ignatius and of his first companions. “The Constitutions are writ through with the spirit that God our Lord inscribed in the hearts of our first Fathers, and this the Lord communicated to them by means of the Exercises.”


All these companions had lived the same basic experience of the Exercises, but to experience themselves as “friends in the Lord” they planned, if it was the will of that same Lord, to form a body. At the end of their deliberations of 1539, they became convinced that they should always be united not only by the bond of charity, but also by that of obedience to one who was to be elected from among themselves. This was truly the expression of the “group,” in which all participated in one and the same grace, and in one and the same vocation.


3. The Experience Relived by the Jesuit

This lived experience is repeated, according to degree, in each Jesuit: the intimate, personal perception of his vocation and the realization that this special charism includes essentially the pertaining to a body—in as much as all the members arrive, through one and the same experience, to one and the same mission.


This charismatic experience of Ignatius and his companions has been approved by the Church. We are dealing, therefore, with an authentic experience since the authoritative mark of the genuineness of charism is always its approbation by the Church.


Thus the Constitutions come to be the inspiration of an authentic way of life; they come to be a situs if you will, a hermeneutic instrument, one that offers us a specific key for reading the Gospel, one that is ours, one that belongs to those who desire to live according to the “founding” charism of Ignatius, a vocation the essence of which is apostolic mission.


This key to the reading of the Gospel and of the Exercises is also evident in the Constitutions: Christ as Savior—humble servant, obedience—He who sends His disciples.


4. The Jesuit a Man with a Mission

The obverse of this coin is the key to the life of the Jesuit: “I am the one to be sent—by Jesus—in poverty and humility—in service—and in obedience—in salvific mission.” Truly this is an admirable key, fashioned in the mould of St. Paul and of St. John. It is specific, rather than general, and is at the same time open to all of the possible correlationships which are to be found in the context of the Gospel.


This key is both traditional and original, because it does not represent the whole, but rather a means of coming into contact with the whole. “The key must be distinct from the door: therefore it must be something that, while taking up a part of Scripture, permits us to read it and to make of it as from a rather shapeless material, a two edged sword.”


In order to deepen and renew his vocation which contains in itself the reality of “mission,” the Jesuit must read the Gospel from this particular perspective: namely that of one who is sent by Christ to continue His redemptive work, one who is sent to be an “apostle,” one who is sent. This will be like an intense light for his life. He will reflect upon history “in order that he may derive some fruit” (Spir. Ex., 114), and this method of reflection will involve asking himself in each Gospel passage that he meditates: how can he better fulfill the mission he has received from Christ through the Society; what concrete lesson can he take from each passage to help him in his life as an apostle. This will always be the key which opens to him the “jewels of wisdom and knowledge” which are contained for him in the Gospel, comprehended within the specific charism of his vocation, a charism which he must ceaselessly go on discovering for himself.




5. Sent to the World

The Constitutions lead us to consider the world as the object of our mission and its purpose. If we are “sent,” it is for the sake of serving and saving the world, and this fact makes it obligatory that we know the condition of the world, that we become involved with its needs and its opportunities—if we are to make real the kind of service that we can offer it.


Destined by his vocation to the world, to “the help of souls,” to be “dispersed to any part of Christ’s vineyard, to labor in that part of it and in that work which has been entrusted to him, the Jesuit ought to be a co-worker of Jesus Christ in the salvation of this world. The Constitutions, which describe our vocation, give emphasis to this character of mission, and, at the same time, they determine its modalities.


The Jesuit must look on this world, the world to which he is sent, with love; he must look at it with the eyes and under the light that are proper to his charism; with eyes that are full of love for men and for all other creatures in function of man, a love which “proceeds from the divine and highest Goodness,” by reason of which he experiences himself as “sent,” as a companion of the Word, and from whom there descends this love which extends itself to all his neighbors; he looks on this world with the eyes of a universally loving one who “embraces all kinds of persons,” “even though they are adversaries one to another,” who knows how to serve them without offending them, “for it is proper to our Institute to serve all in our Lord.”


6. Incarnation for Universality

In order to understand and complete his mission, the Jesuit must see the world with the breadth and depth and nearness of God:

How the three Divine persons were looking upon the whole extent and space of the earth, filled with human beings; to see the great extent and space of the world, where dwell so many different nations and peoples; to see all the different people on the face of the earth, so varied in dress and behavior. Some are white and others black; some at peace and others at war; some weeping and others laughing; some well and others sick; some being born and others dying, etc. to consider what the people throughout the world are doing; how they are wounding, killing, and going to hell, etc.


In the face of the depth and universality of this field in which he must realize his “mission,” the Jesuit experiences in depth the meaning of the phrase: “that I may more closely follow and imitate our Lord who has just become incarnate” (Spir. Ex., 102) in obedience to the decree of the Trinity (Spir. Ex., 107). Mission and Incarnation are inseparable; that is to say, mission involves making his own in as far as possible, the reality of the man he must save.


For the Jesuit then, all human history, all his personal life is thus focused through the optic of his “mission,” of his more effective collaboration with Christ in the salvation of the world. The world is, as it were, the “field” in which he must make real his mission of service to God through men with the means and the manner that is “in conformity with our Institute.”




Original Source:

Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “The Exercises and the Jesuit,” pg. 277–282.

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