Spiritual Testament, Pedro Arrupe (1981)

Appearing below are the concluding paragraphs of the letter Pedro Arrupe sent to all the members of the Society of Jesus following his debilitating stroke in 1981. The letter emerged from an address he had given earlier that February at the end of a program hosted by the Ignatian Center of Spirituality at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. For several years, Arrupe had given a lecture to close the annual, five-week program. The 1981 lecture, which proved to be his last, was entitled “Rooted and Grounded in Love.” In the text, Arrupe reflects in such a personal and sincere way that the selection soon became known as “Father Arrupe’s Spiritual Testament.”

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



Let me end now greeting you all, as well as every Jesuit who will read these pages, with that wonderful Pauline formula: Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying.



The Center of the Ignatian Charism

Having reached this point, when we see that love is the very core of Christian—and therefore Ignatian—spirituality, I feel somewhat obliged to add a final consideration.


What I have said so far may be synthesized as follows:


1.     Love (service) for our brothers, for Christ for the Father, is the single and indivisible object of our charity.


2.     Love resolves the dichotomies and tensions that can arise in an imperfectly understood Ignatian spirituality. For instance:


The tension between faith and justice is resolved in charity. Faith has to be informed by charity, “fides informata caritate,” and so too must justice, which thus becomes a higher form of justice: it is charity that calls for justice.


The tension between one’s own and one’s neighbor’s perfection. Both should be the perfection of one and the same charity which tends to keep growing, as well intensively in itself, as extensively m the spread to and perfection of our fellow men.


The tension between prayer and active apostolic work is resolved in the “contemplative in action,” in seeking God in all things (the Contemplation for Attaining Love).


The tension among the three religious vows disappears when their motivation and observance are inspired and impelled by charity (the same can be said of the fourth vow).


The tension between discernment and obedience. Charity should be present both at the origin and in the final goal of discernment: the presence of this “agape” enables us to discern God’s will, it is an intuition of charity. Obedience similarly is an expression of that same divine will. Both superior and subject ought to be animated by charity, with the intuitiveness that is proper to love.


3.     Love is the solution to the apostolic problems created by the wickedness (anomia) of today’s world.


4.     Love is the very depth of the personality and work of Jesus Christ, that which gives unity to it all.


5.     Love is also the deepest element of our life and activity, since with Jesus Christ we share one common Spirit (the Person, who is love), who makes us cry out like Christ: Abba, Father!


Love, then, understood in all its depth and breadth (both charity and mercy), is the synthesis of the whole life of Jesus Christ, and should be that of the Jesuit’s whole life too.


Now, the natural symbol of love is the heart. The heart of Christ, therefore, is the natural symbol for representing and inspiring our personal and institutional spirituality, leading us to the very source and abyss of the human-divine love of Jesus Christ.



A Contradiction: Love and Silence?

And so, at the close of this address, I would like to tell the Society something that I believe I should not pass over in silence.


From my noviceship on, I have always been convinced that in the so-called “Devotion to the Sacred Heart” there is summed up a symbolic expression of the very core of the Ignatian spirit and an extraordinary power—“ultra quam speraverint”—both for personal perfection and for apostolic fruitfulness. This conviction is still mine today. It may have surprised some that during my generalate I have said relatively little on this topic. There was a reason for it, which we might call pastoral. In recent decades the very phrase “the Sacred Heart” has not failed to provoke emotional and allergic reactions in some, partly perhaps as a reaction to forms of presentation and terminology linked with tastes of a bygone age. So I thought it advisable to let some time go by, in the certainty that that attitude, more emotional than rational, would gradually change.


I cherished, and still do cherish, the conviction that the immense value of so deep a spirituality—which the Popes have termed excellent, which employs so universal and so human a biblical symbol, and a word, “heart,” that is a genuine source-word (Urwort)—would before long come back into usage.


For this reason, much to my regret, I have spoken and written relatively little on this subject, although I have often mentioned it in private conversation with individuals and find in this devotion one of the most profound affective sources of my interior life.


As I bring to an end this series of conferences on the Ignatian charism, I could not but give the Society an explanation for this silence of mine, which I trust will be understood. And at the same time, I did not wish to draw the pall of silence over my deep conviction that all of us, as the Society of Jesus, should reflect and discern before Christ crucified what this devotion has meant for the Society, and what it should mean even today. In today’s circumstances, the world offers us challenges and opportunities that can be fully met only with the power of this love of the Heart of Christ.



A last message to the Society

This is the message that I wanted to communicate to you. There is no question of seeking to force or impose anything in an area where love precisely is involved. But I do wish to say: Give thought to this message, and ponder on what presents itself to your mind. It would be sad if, having so great a treasure in our spirituality, even our institutional spirituality, we were to leave it aside for largely specious reasons.


If you want my advice, I would say to you, after 54 years of living in the Society and almost 16 of being its General, that there is a tremendous power latent in this devotion to the Heart of Christ. Each of us should discover it for himself if he has not already done so- and then, entering deeply into it, apply it to his personal life in whatever way the Lord may suggest and grant. There is here an extraordinary grace that God offers us.


The Society needs the “dynamis” contained in this symbol and in the reality that it proclaims: the love of the Heart of Christ. Perhaps what we need is an act of ecclesial humility, to accept what the Supreme Pontiffs, the General Congregations and the Generals of the Society have incessantly repeated. And yet, I am convinced that there could be few proofs of the spiritual renewal of the Society so clear as a widespread and vigorous devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Our apostolate would receive new strength and we would see its effects very soon, both in our personal lives and in our apostolic activities.


Let us not fall into the presumptuous temptation of considering ourselves superior to a devotion that is expressed in a symbol or in a graphic representation of it. Let us not join the wise and prudent of this world from whom the Father keeps hidden his truths and mysteries, while he reveals them to those who are or make themselves little ones. Let us have that simplicity of heart which is the first condition for a profound conversion: Unless you change and make yourselves like little children. Those are Christ’s words, and we might translate them in this way:


“If you want, as individuals and as a Society, to enter into the treasures of the Kingdom and to help build it up with an extraordinary effectiveness, make yourselves like the poor whom you wish to serve. You keep on saying so often that the poor have taught you more than many books; learn from them, then, this very simple lesson: acknowledge my love in my Heart.”




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, “Father Arrupe’s Spiritual Testament,” pg. 147–151.

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