“Contributions of the Jesuit Brother,” Pedro Arrupe (1978)

Pedro Arrupe delivered the following remarks at a meeting of all the brothers in Jesuit houses in Rome. His topic is “the problem of the Brothers,” a topic also addressed previously by the Jesuits’ 31st and 32nd general congregations. The problem that Arrupe sees is how to “understand a little more deeply the value of the specific contribution of the Jesuit Brother to the apostolic community to which he belongs.” He offers reflections and practical conclusions but leaves it to the rest of the Society of Jesus to continue a dialogue to find a solution to the problem. The talk took placed on October 31, 1978, the feast day of St. Alfonso Rodríguez, the lay brother who worked as a doorkeeper at the Jesuit college in Majorca for 46 years. Rodríguez died in 1617 and was canonized in 1888. Following this meeting in Rome, Arrupe would share these remarks with all major superiors in the Society of Jesus.

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



I would like to take advantage of both today’s feast day and the Golden Jubilee of one of the Brothers on our Curial staff in order to have an informal meeting with you, as I have done on other occasions, to consider some things of common interest. It is my hope that these meetings will become more frequent.


Naturally, our interest centers on our Jesuit vocation. And concerning this vocation of being a Jesuit, I am sure that you and many others would like to know how I see the problem of the Brothers.



I. Introduction

1. I would like, therefore, to begin by saying something about this. Without pretending to exhaust the subject or give the last word, I think that we must gradually re-formulate the problem on its many different levels. There is the level of study and reflection on all aspects of the Jesuit Brother’s vocation. But one of the most important and realistic levels is the existential one—that life now incumbent upon all Jesuits.


I would like to tell you that it is my intention to reconstitute the Brothers’ Commission, charged with the continuing study of Brother-related problems in the Society before the 31st and 32nd General Congregations and the pertinent decrees of both Congregations.


2. As you know, on the occasion of the Procurators’ Congregation the subject of Brothers was touched upon in various ways. In the first place, it was mentioned in a report sent to the Procurators that the state of the Brotherhood was among the ten most important subjects about which the Procurators should be informed. This is a public document. Secondly, several Provinces sent in postulates on the subject, asking Father General to arouse more interest in the pastoral vocation of Brothers or proposing the subject for a future General Congregation. Finally, in my report on the State of the Society, I made with profound sincerity a series of affirmations:

a) that it is a grave problem touching the charisma of the Society;

b) that the extinction of this grade of Brothers would be a great loss, a mutilation with grave consequences for the body of the Society and for its apostolate;

c) that the contribution of the Brothers, both to community life and that of the apostolate, is irreplaceable;

d) that the problem touches me personally, and should touch every Jesuit, demanding understanding and esteem for this vocation.


3. After having read all the reports of the Procurators and having talked with these men representing every Province of the Society, I would like to repeat here and now all these affirmations. It is certainly not my intention to give you a treatise on the subject. Rather I want to reflect with you, very simply, on the same life we both lead.


It is a problem that involves all Jesuits, since it concerns the Society which we all love. Anything touching the heart of the Society must be a concern to all—Fathers, Brothers, Scholastics. We cannot look on the situation with indifference or resignation or simple dissatisfaction. No, we must react seriously and vigorously seek out solutions. Perhaps we should begin with our own attitudes. I will mention only a few of the important points, hoping to contribute to the reflection on how to better understand the image of the Brother, how to enrich it in every possible way so that this vocation will be ever more efficacious in the service of the Church according to the spirit of the Society. And although I am speaking to you here in the Congregation Hall, I think what I say should interest every Jesuit, since all are in some way responsible for this situation. We must all leave ourselves open to the Spirit, who might be trying to tell us something important on this subject.



II. Contribution of Jesuit Brothers to the Apostolic Community of the Society

4. Let us, for a moment, discuss one of the affirmations I stated in my report on the State of the Society: that the contribution of the Brothers, both to community life and that of the apostolate, is irreplaceable. It would be a real profanation to understand this affirmation in the utilitarian sense. Why? Because the true contribution of the Brothers (as of every other member of the Society) is himself, his own person, the gift God gives to the Society in each vocation.


5. But how can we understand a little more deeply the value of the specific contribution of the Jesuit Brother to the apostolic community to which he belongs? I will make some principal reflections from which to deduce some practical consequences. Then we can discuss as much as possible—with the help of the Lord.


6. I think you know very well that the last two General Congregations have felt very strongly the need to consolidate the apostolic community of the Society of Jesus. They described this as of the highest importance and have set norms to attain it in all its profundity. The truth is, that if we do not build ourselves as a truly Christian community committed as such to a specific apostolate, we will not be able to give our best service to the community of men and women, helping them to mature in a Christian community. Today, apostolates, in order to be efficacious and a fitting response to the needs of the Church and society, cannot be merely individual ones since they require the collaboration of other people or groups.


7. In the projection of such an apostolic community, whose end is priestly, I affirm that the presence of Jesuit non-priests plays a specific and irreplaceable role so that such a community of the Society may actually come into being.


This specific role of the Jesuit Brother—what is it exactly and how is it revealed? The authentic community of the Society, like every other authentic Christian community, will be a community only insofar as every member lives and shares the triple dimension of the “koinonia, diaconia” and “kerigma.” This triple dimension of living points outwardly towards the Church and humanity, but also inwardly towards the centre of each community of the Society. And it is precisely this triple dimension that enriches the presence of Jesuit non-priests.


8. The “koinonia:” communion, sharing everything, welcoming and accepting everything, or better, everyone. It is not only a question of sharing material goods, ideas, sentiments, expressions of personal faith … but of sharing the life: “that which everyone has and is.” Obviously, we are talking about a dimension every Jesuit must live: but, by the very nature of the vocation (coadjutor), the mission that the Jesuit non-priest bears within his own person emphasizes strongly this dimension. It means to put all of your own existence permanently in complete koinonia—twenty-four hours a day—at the disposition of the community in order to build community.


It is precisely this koinonia that gives to the apostolic community of the Society and to its specific priestly mission the possibility of having a base of stability and intensity not found in any other kind of Christian community. And it is precisely this dimension of koinonia, this particular way of giving “that which everyone has and is,” that makes up the essential difference between Jesuit non-priests and the secular collaborators of the Society, even the most generous. The apostolic importance of the Jesuit Brother, since our communities are essentially apostolic, derives from· the fact that all the members of the community give to the community everything they have and are.


9. The diaconia (service): with more reason, perhaps, the very nature of the “cooperation” implied in the vocation of the non-priest Jesuit is expressed essentially in this term. It comes out frequently in technical services oriented to the building of the same community, that is, the human community in which the intimacy and privacy of its components have need of being guaranteed. It also comes out in diverse forms of preparation, sharing or completion of direct apostolic action.


But, evidently, the importance of this dimension of diaconia is not simply in service, or even less in the technical quality of service (which in reality could be carried out by non-Jesuits). What makes the service a true diaconia, as a dimension of the Christian community, is its gratuitousness as an unmistakable sign that this service is, in reality, love. It is this gratuitousness for love of Christ that converts service into Christian diaconia and builds the Christian community. For the same reason, this gratuitousness in service, which all of us Jesuits mutually owe, “serving one another in the Lord,” “esteeming others as superiors,” will eliminate in our communities the least trace of class distinction. We are all “servants and servers” and must feel ourselves such. If there is any tension, it should not come from the demands or insistence upon the rights of servers, but rather upon the will to serve. But there is another very important aspect and the 32nd General Congregation4 has underlined it. Read all these numbers. “And even in those enterprises which we can and should undertake, we realize that we must be willing to work with others: with Christians, men of other religious faiths, and all men of good will: willing to play a subordinate, supporting, anonymous role: and willing to learn how to serve from those we seek to serve.” Thus, the Society declares to the Church and to the world its desire to be a coadjutant. Every Jesuit should be and should consider himself a coadjutor of the Church and of the world, living this mysticism of coadjutant.


It is evident, then, that the presence of the Brother who happily lives this life of coadjutant in an apostolic community of the Society keeps alive this dimension which we often take for granted. They used to say that Brothers were the “nursers” of communities. No one uses this expression today, but its meaning is still valid. People full of affection and unselfishness have a great capacity for discovering the needs of others and enough love to pay the price of self-sacrifice. And how many examples of this there are!


This does not subtract from what the 31st General Congregation said: “Moreover, in addition to the offices mentioned above and in accordance with the judgment of superiors, Brothers properly undertake those other tasks for which they may have a God-given talent and in which they may be of assistance and example ‘for the help of souls.’ Among such tasks are teaching, practicing the liberal and technical arts, laboring in the fields of science and in whatever other areas their work, according to circumstances and places, may prove more useful in attaining the end of the Society.”


10. And finally “kerigma:” the announcement. The Lord Jesus, His Gospel have need of being proclaimed within the community in every possible way. It is the food of our faith, without which a Christian community, or even less a Jesuit apostolic community, cannot grow or even exist. The Church must begin “evangelization with itself” because “it has a need of being evangelized if it wishes to conserve its freshness and its strength in announcing the Gospel.” If the Church says this of itself, the Jesuit apostolic community, as a community of the Church, has even more need of .evangelization within itself. Within every community there is the function of announcement of testimony (called example by our predecessors) that is vital for the community itself: there is also an equal function of denouncement of anti-Christian values. Both of these functions are carried out by word of mouth, but more importantly, by the very life of the community. This testimony, viewed interiorly, has a great influence on the apostolic efficacy of the community, urging all members to dedicate themselves with maximum vigor and joy of the apostolate. It also has an external influence, not only because everything is reflected outwards, but because this spirit of dedication, when it exists, touches all the people outside of the community connected with the apostolate. And these new contacts have a spiritual depth all their own. This is also a dimension for every Jesuit: that is, both actively and passively announcing and denouncing. If we are realistic we must confess that in certain mental, cultural and social structures and categories (with their activisms, concepts of efficacy, hiding of religious personality, etc.), which we often mistakenly introduce into our communities—wanting to make them hotels, social service offices or “a pad for friends”—there are fundamental evangelical values that pass by us unnoticed, or that are not sufficiently emphasized. These values should be uncovered, for frequently they are components of the specific vocation of the Jesuit Brother.


As I said before, we are talking about dimensions for which every Jesuit is responsible. But our communities and apostolates will be enriched by Jesuit Brothers living these dimensions joyfully.


11. If these dimensions are not lived, or are lived tepidly, the apostolic mission of every Jesuit and of the corporate Society will suffer. This would cause enormous impoverishment in many ways. The mission would frequently become an isolated effort with limited results, depending completely on the strengths and duration of the individual. Today, more and more, we must face our tasks as the 32nd General Congregation recommends, as a body, as a true apostolic community made up of many different members.


Furthermore, it is said that more and more frequently Jesuits, both Brothers and priests, who feel within themselves a deep need, a kind of hunger, for a more personal and Christian community, will look for substitutes apart from the men whom the Lord has called with the same vocation as them. From this follows the loss of vocations, the loss of a corporate sense, a sense of belonging. Then follows inevitably a scattering of our apostolic force.


A third obvious impoverishment is that we will fail to give the world the witness we ought to give. That is, witness to the possibility that a Christian community can be formed of a wide variety of men, different not only in human qualities, but in personal gifts and in a diversity of apostolic attitudes and missions, but who are able to join together in a shared life, in mutual service, in love for one another as the Gospel teaches.


12. Now, I think that we can comprehend the richness which the Jesuit Brothers bring to the formation of our apostolic community. This richness consists not only in the impressive range of their capabilities and talents actually employed in the Jesuit enterprise, but more importantly in the project of conceiving and living out our corporate life, with a mystique of cooperation, of coadjutant, which their particular vocation contributes, even though his is not exclusively their vocation and is a dimension of every Jesuit’s life.


13. Finally, before moving on to the consideration of practical conclusions, it is evident that this concept of our corporate life as I have described it is already, through and in itself, kerigma, proclamation of the Gospel outwardly. A group of men who strive for this ideal are converted into a community that is radically apostolic. And the apostolic effectiveness of such a community derives from a direct share in the kind of labors which are termed apostolic in the more explicit sense of the word, works which can be assigned as a mission by the Society to a Jesuit Brother or priest.


I do not have enough time to develop the kerigma which the Brother proclaims outwardly. But nowadays such a silent witness enjoys a new richness and range since it is able to extend the field of apostolate in a characteristic way which prepares, accompanies, and complements the priestly apostolate of the Society in all its depth and breadth.


This is the important point: just as the Church exists to evangelize, so, too, the Society within the Church. This goal defines identity. And evangelization is carried on not only, nor even principally, by what is said, but by what the Church, or the Society, is. Thus, the spoken word will be an empty word, devoid of meaning, without roots in being.



III. Some Practical Conclusions

14. After reflecting with you on our actual situation and the demands of our committed life, I would like to formulate some practical consequences. Clearly I have every Jesuit in mind, but each one should take to heart before God those points which have more direct reference to himself or those for which he may have greater need. I do not intend to come up with anything new. It is rather a matter of expressing some points which I think should be emphasized today.


1. I assume as beyond question that our fundamental vocation to form the apostolic and priestly community which is the Society—and which each of our local communities should be—is a gift of God, given as “one and the same vocation” to every man called by Him to this Society. The diversity of “ministries,” whether directed within or without, is not and should not be an obstacle to this radical unity arising from the vocation to construct, in koinonia, diaconia and kerigma, an authentic apostolic community.

2. Furthermore, it is this call, which turns out to be in truth a convocation, which grounds our sense of belonging to this Society, which makes us members of one another through love, and which puts us all at the service of the will of the Lord which we seek and follow as a common labor.

3. From this perspective, which faith lends us and without which we will not understand the reality of our life, we should see clearly the necessity of regarding as equal, in terms of Gospel values, the services and ministries which the members of the Society perform. A reexamination in depth of St. Ignatius will help us to a renewed understanding of his classification of “humble offices” and “greater things,” terminology which can, in fidelity to authentic Ignatian teaching, legitimately be purified of that which embodies categories which are more sociological than theological. In the Society of Jesus today there are only services—or more properly, servants—of the Kingdom, responding to the demands of community (koinonia) and Gospel proclamation (kerigma) which service of the Kingdom implies.

Foreign to the Ignatian scheme of things would be any project or vision of any Jesuit whatever, which is not motivated by a desire for “greater service.” The same must be said of any personal self-fulfillment which does not turn the person into a “greater servant.” All the more so when such projects and self-fulfillment are carried on at the expense of the community and with damage to its mission. This kind of selfish effort and desire clearly distorts the triple dimension which makes us living members of an apostolic community. And it corrupts our mission itself.

4. On the contrary, what is apostolically valid is any kind of “ministry” (service) given to a Jesuit as a mission and accepted and fulfilled as mission. Our service is perceived in this way when viewed from the community perspective to which I referred above. Whatever the particular work may be it cannot be properly gauged apart from the Gospel. We cannot tolerate within the Society the worldly categories of servant and master. The more important person among us is the one who is more a servant of the Gospel of the Society, and of his brothers.

This is characteristic Ignatian teaching with roots in the meditations on the Kingdom, the Two Standards, and the Three Kinds of Humility (to imitate and resemble more effectively Christ our Lord). According to this “strong spirituality,” every Jesuit ought to be inspired by a preference for those missions which of their very nature imply more kenosis, more liberation from self love and self interest.

This is the orientation which the 32nd General Congregation has adopted and which permeates all of decrees on identity, life and mission of the Jesuit. The sense of the Society’s coadjutant vis-a-vis the Church and the world, which I have described above, the dynamics of identity and solidarity with the poor in sharing their experience, our striving for purification and renewal of our poverty, the goal of inculturation, and so many other fundamental aspects of the Congregation’s program will be superficially interpreted, with resultant mistakes in implementation, if they are not seen from our basic spiritual faith perspective.

5. Given the diversity of offices and ministries in which “the greater service of God and help of souls” finds concrete realization, it will often be impossible for a number of Jesuits, despite all their best intentions, to live out certain more radical forms of service. We accept our human limitations and the impossibility of embracing every kind of service, each of which demands a total commitment. And this is why we need each other. We have to accept a division of labor and duties according to circumstances. At the same time, we should be open to far-reaching reform in this area. Many of the common daily services required within an apostolic community do not really interfere with many of our other jobs and offices, no matter how unique and specialized they are. On the contrary, if we were to wait on one another, we would be enriched both humanly and religiously. I am speaking of common services which, ironically and paradoxically, we refuse to one another at home and then rush to render outside the community.

6. There are many young men today knocking on our doors, endowed with fine human qualities, who feel drawn by the Lord in a special way to serve in a thousand ways, in anonymity—whether as priests or not, it makes no difference. They are a gift of God—con-voked by Him to the Society as it exists today—and the Society, faithful, to her charisma, should receive and be grateful for this gift. Besides, there are many more young men in the world who would feel themselves attracted by such a life if they caught a glimpse of its possibility.

7. Quite clearly we cannot accept the stand of those who refuse to recognize the contemporary relevancy of the vocation of the Coadjutor Brother on the grounds that it cannot be adapted to the socio-cultural circumstances of our day. At the same time, keeping to the Gospel perspective described before, we cannot tolerate any attitude· which smacks of vindictiveness and retaliation on one side or domination and discrimination on the other. The 31st General Congregation was unambiguous on this point:

Since the Society wishes that the Brothers he brought closely into both the social and liturgical life of the community as well as into its works, as befits companions who live the religious life in the same family, fraternal union and communication are to be fostered more and more among Jesuits, by all the means which a discerning love may dictate. To this end the following will also be conducive: the avoidance if every social distinction in community life.

In this I am deliberately and consciously following the line established by the 31st General Congregation. If we cannot accept it, that means that we have not yet assimilated it, that there has not yet occurred in us that “conversion of minds” which the Congregation asked of us. Naturally, the 32nd General Congregation, which accepted and ratified the whole of the 31st, presupposes this conversion and assimilation when it expressly refuses to make distinctions of any kind among the members of the Society in matters of planning our apostolates, community life, poverty, formation. Sometimes the 32nd General Congregation was too optimistic. In any case, it is evident that this optimism which hoped to see already in effect the conversion asked for by the 31st General Congregation, confirms still more the necessity of such a conversion.

8. Still another practical consequence concerns the selection and formation of those who want “to follow this path.” It is clear from what I have said up to now that one of the conditions for examination and later formation of all candidates who present themselves to the novitiate—including Brother candidates—is the man’s capacity to live out the three dimensions which constitute the apostolic community. To be sure, such a community will require a certain cultural base. But it will not be possible, as in times past, to reduce everything to this base and judge by it a man’s capacity for our apostolic community. There is, after all, a knowledge that puffs up. There are other values to be considered, not only human values, but, more importantly, Gospel values.

9. With respect to new Brother vocations, there are today, close at hand by God’s grace, men endowed with these values, to whom the Society can offer a place in which to realize to the full their desires to serve men in the following of Christ.

It is our responsibility effectively to offer them not only our spirituality, our vision, and an evaluation of the world in Gospel terms, but also an adequate environment (men, means, spiritual and human atmosphere) in which we can together create a community of apostles, pursuing together our apostolic goals.

I am not talking about remote theory but about real situations which we should be providing, not just to find room for these men in our work, but rather in order that there come to be a great number of our Brothers who fulfill our Jesuit mission with great joy. Before God our Judge, it will be difficult to justify our silence and our hesitant reluctance in the face of this opportunity to provide and make known this way of life which, in the last analysis, is His gift.


15. And now I bring my observations to a close so that you can carry the discussion forward, or better, so that we can continue in dialogue. As I said at the outset, I limit myself here to developing one assertion: that I regard as irreplaceable the contribution of the Jesuit Brother to the very life of the Society and to its apostolate. I am very conscious of not having touched on all the aspects which relate to this issue. I could have referred to the range of concrete possibilities for apostolic service which the Society in fact offers to the Jesuit who is not a priest. But I have preferred to content myself with reflections on particular aspects of the contribution of the Brother to the life and apostolate of the Society which to me seem more central and more fundamental. It is precisely in such moments of history that we are able to undertake revisions and adaptations with liberty and confidence. This moment demands of us that we give living expression, with clarity and vigor, to the few fundamental realities which constitute the crucial point of our life. We dare not forget that these few basics are at the heart of the Exercises and that in returning to them we shall find new life in our vocation.


16. I invite you to go on exploring more deeply the several aspects of this one point which I have developed with you. I am confident that you will discover—we shall all discover—a wide field of new possibilities for yourselves and for others. This is the path, the concrete and particular way to God which lies before us, beckoning us on. We should step out realistically and without fear. Not a few generous young men want to wall with us.


It is your responsibility to make this valuable contribution to the body of the Society. It is the responsibility of the whole Society to accept it and give it explicit shape. We must be open to the life which the Spirit awakens in all of us. It is a rushing stream which we dare not dam, but let flow to others. Rooted in this Spirit-given life, with His strength and in fidelity to Him Who is the giver of our charisma, we shall keep reexamining and reflecting on our theological and juridical categories in which our life finds expression. In this way we hope to attract many young men of today’s world who seek an apostolic life in the kenosis of Christ, which is precisely the vocation of the Society, and in a special way the vocation of the Jesuit Brother.


Begging the Lord now for an increase in Brothers’ vocations, I offer 50,000 of the Masses celebrated or heard in the Society for the intentions of Father General; and I urge that in all Provinces prayers and Masses be offered for this intention.




Original Source:

Challenge to Religious Life Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—I, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1979, “Contribution of the Brother to the Life and Apostolate of the Society,” pg. 279–293.

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