Arrupe suffered a debilitating stroke in August 1981, during his sixteenth year as superior general of the Society of Jesus. Rejecting Arrupe’s preferred replacement, Pope John Paul II appointed Paolo Dezza as the Jesuits’ interim superior until a general congregation could gather to elect Arrupe’s replacement. Greeting the delegates, Arrupe was confined to a wheelchair and could not speak. The following remarks—offering words of welcome and offering his resignation—were read on Arrupe’s behalf. Arrupe was the first superior general to resign from office. He died in 1991.
September 3, 1983
How I wish I were in a better condition for this meeting with you! As you see, I cannot even address you directly. But my General Assistants have grasped what I want to say to everyone.
More than ever, I now find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life, from my youth. And this is still the one thing I want. But now there is a difference: the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in his hands. At the end of eighteen years as General of the Society, I want first of all, and above all, to give thanks to the Lord. His generosity toward me has been boundless. For my part, I have tried to respond, well knowing that all his gifts were for the Society, to be shared with each and every Jesuit. This has been my persistent effort.
In these eighteen years my one ideal was to serve the Lord and his Church—with all my heart—from the beginning to end. I thank the Lord for the great progress which I have witnessed in the Society. Obviously, there would be defects too—my own, to begin with—but it remains a fact that there was great progress, in personal conversion, in the apostolate, in concern for the poor, for refugees. And special mention must be made of the attitude of loyalty and filial obedience shown toward the Church and the Holy Father, particularly in these last years. For all of this, thanks be to God.
I am especially grateful to my closest collaborators, the General Assistants and Counsellors—and to Father O’Keefe in the first place—to the Regional Assistants, the whole Curia, and the Provincials. And I heartily thank Father Dezza and Father Pittau for their loving response to the Church and to the Society, on being entrusted with so exceptional a task by the Holy Father. But above all it is to the Society at large, and to each of my brother Jesuits, that I want to express my gratitude. Had they not been obedient in faith to this poor Superior General, nothing would have been accomplished.
My call to you today is that you be available to the Lord. Let us put God at the center, ever attentive to his voice, ever asking what we can do for his more effective service, and doing it to the best of our ability, with love and perfect detachment. Let us cultivate a very personal awareness of the reality of God.
To each one of you in particular I would love to say—“tantas cosas”: so much, really.
From our young people I ask that they live in the presence of God and grow in holiness, as the best preparation for the future. Let them surrender to the will of God, at once so awesome and so familiar.
With those who are at the peak of their apostolic activity, I plead that they do not burn themselves out. Let them find a proper balance by centering their lives on God, not on their work—with an eye to the needs of the world, and a thought for the millions that do not know God or behave as if they did not. All are called to know and serve God. What a wonderful mission has been entrusted to us: to bring all to the knowledge and love of Christ!
On those of my age I urge openness: let us learn what must be done now, and do it with a will.
To our dear brothers too, I would like to say “tantas cosas”—so much, and with such affection. I want to remind the whole Society of the importance of the brothers; they help us to center our vocation on God.
I am full of hope, seeing the Society at the service of the one Lord and of the Church, under the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Christ on earth. May she keep going along this path, and may God bless us with many good vocations of priests and brothers: for this I offer to the Lord what is left of my life, my prayers, and the sufferings imposed by my ailments. For myself, all I want is to repeat from the depths of my heart:
Take, O Lord, and receive: all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All I have and all I possess—it is all yours, Lord: you gave it to me; I make it over to you: dispose of it entirely according to your will. Give me your love and your grace, and I want no more.
Original Source (English translation):
Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, “Message of Fr. Pedro Arrupe to the Society,” pg. 477–478.