A Force for Transforming the World, Pedro Arrupe (1978)

“The Apostleship of Prayer can and ought to be a great force for transforming the world,” declares Pedro Arrupe in the following address. His remarks closed the 1978 International Congress of National Secretaries of the Apostoleship of Prayer in Rome. It was the organization’s first meeting since new statutes were approved after the Second Vatican Council. The statutes—like Arrupe’s address—seek to place the organization within the general pastoral efforts of the Catholic Church, encouraging apostolic prayer in the clergy, religious, and laity. Using Gaudium et Spes”as a starting point, Arrupe expresses his “wish that the Apostleship of Prayer may enter more completely into the multiform movement of solidarity in prayer which we are living in the Church today.” He offers creative ideas for such a development, both for the Apostleship of Prayer and for the Society of Jesus. Transformation, the Jesuits’ superior general believes, could happen on three, interconnected levels: the life of the individual Christian, the social plane of the Church, and the aspect of Eucharistic transformation of the world.”

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




It is very important for us to understand the value possessed by the Apostleship of Prayer at the moment in which we are living, and to be aware of the new favorable circumstances in which it is placed and the effectiveness it can have in present circumstances; for today the world finds itself at a crossroads, not only that, but also at a time of creation of a new culture and a new mankind.


The history of mankind is the history of salvation; the philosophy of history comes to coincide with the theology of history. It is the spirit of God—he who renews the face of the earth—who directs the history of humanity. Man makes his plans, but it is God who guides the world: “A man’s heart seeks out the way, but it is God who directs his steps.”


We are able to discern this hidden action of the Spirit by looking at the signs of the times. The world, social phenomena, the course of human history are as it were a book written by two authors: the Spirit of God and human liberty, united in collaboration and forming a community which is a true mystery: the mystery of Providence and infinite wisdom on the one hand, and the mystery of human freedom on the other. “We know that all of creation is groaning in birth pains.”


The Apostleship of Prayer can and ought to be a great force for transforming the world.


When I speak of the “world,” I do not mean it in a philosophical and general sense, but concretely and historically: as the generality of men and things that go to make up our present world. It is the world that the Council had in view:


“The world of people, the entire human family seen in the context of everything that envelops it. It is the world as the theatre of human history, bearing the marks of its travail, its triumphs and its failures; the world which in the Christian vision has been created and is sustained by the love of its maker. It indeed fell into the slavery of sin but, through the Cross and Resurrection, Christ broke the stranglehold of the Evil One and liberated it in order that it might be transformed according to God’s design and brought to its fulfilment.”


The transformation here mentioned is effected through the world being assumed into Christ “so as to make a new creation beginning from this earth,” which will attain to its fullness on the last day. The risen Christ is the beginning of this fresh creation: Primatum habens.


And this commencement is dynamically present in the Church—primitiae creationis novae—as a transforming force. This power works through the Word of the Gospel and the Sacraments, in the whole of the ecclesial Community, and it spreads to all creatures “who await the manifestation of the glory of the Son of God.”


In the Church, the Apostleship of Prayer is a privileged organ of this force. It “canalizes” it, and makes it present and operative. It helps Christians to live and work in that power. It is thus a choice means “for bringing to perfection” our brothers and sisters in the Church (the purpose of the Society).


Let us now look more closely at how the Apostleship of Prayer is an instrument for transformation of the world: let us look at the facts and the potentialities.


I would like to distinguish three levels which are closely linked: (i) the individual Christian; (ii) the social dimension: the Church; (iii) the cosmic dimension: the world.



I.     Transformation of the Christian’s life

On the level of liberty, of the moral, free act. An essential for liberty is intention. Let us give the word “intention” its full force. Not intention as it sometimes is weakly understood, and conceived in an excessively exclusive voluntarist way, on the level of will; but rather let us consider it as belonging to the intellect above all; as in the great current of scholastic tradition. (Today we might more readily speak of “mentality,” or of the “dimension” of conscience). We could say that it is intention which gives form to the act. There can be several intentions in a single act. An intention may also be more or less “actual.”


The Christian’s great intention is identification with the intention of God the Creator, as the Council said in the text quoted above: “God himself wills to assume the whole world in Christ, so as to make a new creation of it,” or as the Exercises put it in the Foundation; it is thus also identification—by the same token—with Christ’s intention, as it is expressed in the “Kingdom” in the Exercises.


This intention was accepted by the Christian at the moment of baptism. But for Christian life to become more perfect there is need for this intention to transform (“inform”) his mentality and be able to become an “actual” dimension of this conscience.


The Apostleship helps to actualize or realize this intention by placing it in “actuality:” by bringing the great actual intentions of the Church before his mind.


This actualized and topical intention can transform man’s life. By living in this new dimension the Christian will thus hear the appeal of God’s will more intensely, and be readier to give a response.


Since this actualization of the intention is accomplished through conformity to the Church’s great intentions, which are expressed by the Holy Father, the Christian will thus also live with the Church more intensely. So we come to the social aspect, the Holy Father’s great actual concern at present, which ought to be integrated into the Apostleship of Prayer.



II.     Transformation=Conformation with and in the Church

It might seem tautological to speak of the ecclesial character of the Apostleship of Prayer. Yet there are perhaps some community aspects in the life of the Church today to which the Apostleship of Prayer seems to remain, as I said, something of a stranger.


In the Church today there are many movements for community prayer: houses of prayer, prayer in base communities, in Communities of the Christian Life, rediscovery of common prayer in religious communities, and so many other forms. The Holy Spirit is at work in souls and in Christian groups.


We may here recall words which the Holy Father himself addressed to participants in a congress of prayer groups: “We rejoice with you at the renewal of spiritual life which is making itself known in the Church today under differing forms and in varying environments. Certain common features may be seen in this renewal…desire to give oneself totally to Christ, great readiness to respond to the calls of the Holy Spirit, more assiduous attention to Scripture, wide fraternal commitment, and a will to make a contribution to the Church’s services. In all this we may recognize the mysterious and discreet work of the Spirit, who is the soul of the Church….”


We may also note that there are many Jesuits who take active part in these movements.


The Apostleship of Prayer is eminently ecclesial in its intentions, yet it has perhaps remained somewhat in the form in which it has so far been lived, rather limited to the individual dimension.


I would wish that the Apostleship of Prayer may enter more completely into the multiform movement of solidarity in prayer which we are living in the Church today—without losing anything of its strength in the life of each Christian. May the Apostleship of Prayer live and express such solidarity in prayer not only through common intentions and by means of written communications, but may it also creatively seek new forms of prayer in common, in religious communities, in parishes, and so on:


—Through practice of prayer of intercession in the local community. This prayer of intercession has perhaps been forgotten a little today, or at least it is not very much accepted, even though it is otherwise so natural and human.


—By entering into existing prayer groups, so as to make them more fruitful with the inspiration proper to the Apostleship of Prayer. Likewise with other active apostolic forces. (Perhaps these groups are sometimes a little closed, shut in on themselves. The importance of the Church’s present intentions.)


—By accepting the Holy Father’s watchword for the Holy Year: the reality of true reconciliation.


—By exploiting the possibilities which liturgical celebration gives us today for prayer of intercession.


—And so many other ways that the Spirit will suggest to you. He himself, who gives to each person and each period “‘prout vult.”



IV. Eucharistic Transformation of the World

The Apostleship of Prayer has always had a Eucharistic character. It might be said that the Council made its own that spiritual attitude which is lived in the Apostleship of Prayer, when it said:


“All their [the laity’s] works, prayers, and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labor, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even in the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. During the celebration of the Eucharist, these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord’s body. Thus, as worshippers whose every deed is holy, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.”


This “consecration of the world” is a transformation and a sanctification. The Council mentions this transformation and this sanctification when speaking of religious and laity:


“…By their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the Beatitudes. But the laity by their very vocation…are called by God so that by exercising their proper function and being led by the spirit of the gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within, in the manner of leaven.”


Men have been enabled by the paschal mystery to collaborate in the transformation of the human and natural world, which transformation is celebrated and mysteriously made present in the Eucharist, “the sacrament of the world”:


“He makes all men free so that, putting aside love of self and bringing all earthly resources in to the service of human life they may devote themselves to that future when humanity itself will become an offering acceptable to God. The Lord left behind a pledge of this hope and strength for life’s journey in that sacrament where natural elements refined by man are changed into His glorified body and blood, providing a meal of brotherly solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.”


There is the power and dynamism of the Apostleship of Prayer in the world of the future, as the organ and instrument of that Eucharistic and ecclesial spirituality which lives from this great intention of the Church’s:


“Thus the Church prays and labors at the same time, in order that the fullness of the whole world may pass into the People of God, the Body of the Lord, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and that in Christ, Head of all, all honor and glory may be rendered to the Creator and Father of the Universe.”




A. What the Apostleship of Prayer could do—How can the Apostleship of Prayer give practical aid to the modern world?


1.     By teaching to pray. There is a real thirst for prayer, for contact with God, experience of God, dialogue with God. The “Teach us how to pray” of Luke 11:1 is of vital relevance today. To teach how to pray is one of the prime apostolates of our day; it means collaborating with the Spirit and laying the basis for every other spiritual activity, both interior and apostolic. Without prayer there can be no Apostleship of Prayer; this is why the first apostolate of the Apostleship is to teach how to pray. And to pray in the twofold dimension which is of the individual and of the community. These are two aspects, two forms of prayer which complement each other and stimulate each other.


2.     By showing the meaning and reality of the apostolate today. To expose the reality of the world and its dramatic character, and show how urgent it is for the world to arrive at a solution, which cannot but come from God, from God who is at work and is moving men to act according to his Spirit. When understanding is gained of the urgency of the apostolate and the difficulties it has to face, and when we consider the apostolate in all its breadth, it is much easier for prayer to arise spontaneously.


3.     The Apostleship of Prayer as service to humanity. One of the groups has mentioned this idea: of giving the Apostleship of Prayer the meaning of service to mankind; that is to say, to orientate the Apostleship’s prayer and spirituality in the direction of impelling souls to service of their neighbors in the whole vast range of services that the Church lays before us today as being proper for Christians. Not that we should go and transform the Apostleship of Prayer into a group of activists; but neither should we reduce ourselves to a group which prays but has no awareness of its responsibilities and the necessity to cooperate effectively in finding solutions for the problems of the world about us.


Today more than ever the world is sensitive to those words of the Apostle James: “What benefit is it, my brethren, if a man say, I have faith, but has not works? … Faith, if it has no works, is really dead.”


It is necessary to combine prayer with the service of action. This is a very Ignatian idea, and it is also dear to the present Pope, Paul VI. It ought to be carefully meditated and considered with a view to integrating the service which the Apostleship of Prayer already gives through prayer with other kinds of service, of a social, charitable order, etc.


4.     Give instruction in a modern manner about the meaning of “contemplativus in actione,” “finding God in all things,” “contemplata aliis trader.” These are expressions which concern a similar reality, even though there are shades of difference in the ways of considering the spiritual life. In the spiritual man everything ought to tend towards the unity of a life orientated “ad maiorem Dei gloriam.”


5.     Make much use of the liturgy. Not only Holy Mass, which is always the center of the whole of the liturgy, but also the liturgies of the word or the paraliturgies, adapting them in such a way as to lead the world of today to pray for the apostolate and for evangelization.


6.     Cultivate the domain which has so far been neglected of prayer together with separated brethren, and even with other religions, such as Islam and others that believe in the true God. This is an immense though sensitive field, and the Apostleship of Prayer can carry out valuable activity in it.


It is certain that the Church’s unity is the work of the Holy Spirit, and it is a mystery for the world of today how to gain that unity; yet it is no less certain that prayer for union and prayer “uno ore et uno corde” will be one of the most efficacious ways of arriving at complete union in the faith. Everything we can do in this regard will constitute excellent collaboration for that “union of Christians” which the Church and the Holy Father have so much at heart.



B. What the Society of Jesus ought to do

1.     Be convinced that the Apostleship of Prayer today retains its essential value, even though it has to be adapted to the modern world in its exterior manifestations and applications. We should even say that it is precisely in this age that it has its greatest value, hence we should make a serious and effective effort to make use of it to the full.


For this reason it is for us (you and especially me) to try to present it to the Society in the most favorable way, demonstrating all its topicality.


2.     Pray for the Apostleship of Prayer. In present conditions it will be very proper to pray to the Lord for the Apostleship of Prayer itself, so that he may enlighten us and help us to find solutions to the basic problems at present facing our organization.


And let us be assured that if ever the Sacred Heart ought not fail to accomplish his promise to bless us “beyond our hopes” and aid us, then it is very much the case today. It is for us to have much hope, “dilatando spatia caritatis et spei….”


3.     Look for more collaborators. If the Apostleship of Prayer wishes to carry through a work as the efficacious result of its adaptation to the modern world, it needs more collaborators outside, but above all inside the Society.


The difficulty of finding young people who will enthusiastically and competently join in may be largely explained by the development going on in all sectors of the apostolate in the Church and in the Society of Jesus.


More concretely, in an apostolate like yours the difficulty is increased by the fact that numerous and varied problems are met with, of a theological, spiritual, psychological, pastoral order, etc. The Apostleship of Prayer is related to Christology, with the forms of spirituality, with the psychological significance of symbols, with ways of shaping pastoral action, and everything that that entails of diversity in devotions and exterior practices, which has marked the Apostleship of Prayer up to the present.


This is why I think that in order not to fall into a vicious circle- that is, not renewing ourselves because we have no young people, and having no young people because we are not renewing ourselves- we ought to try to provide the Apostleship of Prayer with an inflow of youth, and at the same time make sure that traditional methods shall be open enough for them to be capable of being renewed.


We have to avoid two extremes: to wish for young people to adapt to methods and a mentality they regard as old fashioned, and to oblige present Directors to abstract from an experience and tradition and even a doctrine which retains many solid and essential features, even though some of its elements have been superseded.


In order to obtain real, spontaneous, and lasting collaboration from our own, it is necessary for us to be able to present this apostolate as something having great value today; this is not a result to be obtained from arguments imposed from outside, but from conviction arising from inner experience and reasons and necessary openness to well founded experimentation subjected to periodic revaluation.


Reference has been made on many occasions to lack of collaboration on the part of Superiors of the Society. I think our effort at persuasion ought to begin with some of them. When they establish the priori ties for their Provinces in all sincerity and with a sense of their responsibilities, perhaps they consider the Apostleship of Prayer as something that was valuable once but has lost its relevance for our day. We will not gain anything by throwing our faults up in each other’s faces; we ought to enter into constructive effort and engage in sincere dialogue so that all, superiors, those in charge of the Apostleship of Prayer, the young and not so young, may together rediscover those values that have to be rediscovered and give the Apostleship of Prayer a face and a reality which shall express all its topical value and convince everybody of its importance.


That is the initial work we have to do, if we wish to see the Apostleship of Prayer bloom again and be renewed in the circumstances of our time. So, set to work as soon as you get back to your Provinces. We will do our part here.


4.     Persevere in studying and adapting the way of presenting the devotion to the Heart of Jesus. This will be another great service which the Apostleship of Prayer can do for the Christian world today.


There is need not only for theological investigation, such as is necessary for gaining ever deeper knowledge of the “riches of the wisdom of the knowledge of God,” but also for pastoral examination of how doctrine is expounded and devotion practiced.


We cannot be blind to the difficulties which the latter presents today. It is a quite difficult point in catechetical pedagogy, and solving it calls for analysis of the various aspects of the problem: theological, psychological, affective, esthetical, etc. These ought to be considered in a practical and up to date way. Clearly this also calls for openness, comprehension, prudence, and patience; this supposes that we know how to put ourselves in others’ mentalities, and understand them without condemning them a priori, even though it may be sometimes very difficult for us to allow certain positions, expressions, or manifestations.




The devotion to the Heart of Jesus

We ought to thank God for the gift he made of this devotion to the Society. It is our treasure. This devotion is characteristic of the Apostleship of Prayer. It “personalizes” this transforming force, makes it something personal.


The glorious Christ—he who showed himself to Thomas the Apostle and let him see the wound inflicted by our sins, he who showed himself to St. Ignatius at La Storta, bearing the Cross upon which he redeemed us—is he who has shown us his Heart transfixed on the Cross, a furnace of love.


This loving attention to Christ glorified, wounded by love, “agnus tamquam occisus,” reveals the sacrificial nature of this life of prayer and action for transformation of the world to which members of the Apostleship of Prayer commit themselves.


Sacrifice means suffering, which means total forgetfulness of oneself: which means dying to oneself. Sacrifice does not only mean patiently bearing with the adversities of life. The Christian spirit of sacrifice is a supremely active attitude, it is a gift of oneself—et omnia sua—in love, with generosity having divine dimensions; it is a bond of love in which man cries out (in that strong, almost brutal prayer quoted by Father Teilhard de Chardin):


“Lord, enclose me in the depth of your Heart. And, when you have me there, burn me, purify me, set me afire, raise me up to perfect satisfaction of your pleasure, unto the most complete annihilation of myself.”




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, “A Force for Transforming the World,” pg. 31–43.

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