A Fire that Lights other Fires
Selected pages from
Father Alberto Hurtado, S.J.
Center for Studies and Documentation “Padre Hurtado”
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
“The Lord God is a fire that burns all before it” (Dt 4,24), the Bible tells us and Jesus declares solemnly: “I came to cast fire upon the earth and would that it were already kindled!”(Lk 12,49), while on the day of Pentecost, the apostles received “what appeared to be tongues of fire,” and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2, 3-4). Certainly this aspect of God, manifested in Christ, enduring in his Church through the work of the Spirit, was very evidently present in Father Alberto Hurtado, S.J.
Those who knew him frequently used the image of fire to describe his life: “His fire was able to enkindle other fires,” declared Bishop Francisco Valdés. His spiritual father testified that when Alberto was twenty years old, “his heart was like a boiling caldron,” while a Jesuit theologian and fellow student in Louvain, wrote the following after his death: “He was a flame: he was literally devoured” and in his funeral prayer, Bishop Larraín remembered the vocations that were born “from contact with the inflamed soul of an apostle, were the realization, in time, of the eternal word of Jesus: ‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth and would that it were already kindled!’ Testimonies of this type abound among his contemporaries.
Father Hurtado combined “under the watchful eye of God the Father, and protected by the motherly cloak of Mary, an ardent youth, brimming over with enthusiasm, a carrier of flaming torches, a soul filled with fire and love.” He was capable of this precisely because the fire of the love of Christ burned in him, and this fire, because it is a devouring fire, tends to propagate itself. His invitation was not to preserve oneself or protect oneself but to surrender and consume oneself: “God has given us the grace to become saints, and the Christian ideal is to consume oneself in flame, fire and action,” and with this in view, he exhorted youth to “consume yourself for Christ, like these torches that consume themselves in our hands.”
His was no “artificial fire,” seeking only to glow and fade. Fr. Hurtado’s fire was authentic and he himself tells us its source: “I take the Gospels, go to St. Paul and there I find a Christianity that is all fire, all life, all conquering, an authentic Christianity that grasps a man entirely, rectifies his entire life, embraces all his actions. It is like an incandescent river of burning lava that gushes from the very depths of religion.” His enormous apostolic fecundity was not only the fruit of his obvious human qualities; it was the fruit of his union with Christ which, like fire, took control of his life to the extent that he could say with St. Paul: “I live now, not I, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2,20).
This book does not pretend to describe the work and actions of Father Hurtado but rather to enter into his heart. For this reason we offer his written texts which will permit us to come to know his apostolic heart from within.
* Note: The purpose of this book is to diffuse the writings of Fr. Hurtado among a wider public. For this reason, the texts have been adapted to facilitate reading and in the case of longer documents, some paragraphs have been omitted. The reader has access to the complete texts which have been edited with introductions and footnotes, by Ediciones Universidad Católica de Chile. It is our hope that these pages will awaken interest in the complete texts. References to the origin of each document can be found in the appendix.
A brief Biography of Father Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S. J.
Selected pages from the writings of Fr. Alberto Hurtado S.J.
Who Are We to Love?
The Course of Life
The Search for God
Jesus Receives Sinners
The Blood of Love
The Vision of Eternity
How can I Fill up my Life?
Always in Contact with God
“You Are the Light of the World”
My Life Is a Prolonged Mass
A Competition in Self-Donation
The priestly Vocation, everyone’s Problem
Pessimists and Optimists
To Live forever
He who gives himself grows
Work at God’s Rhythm
The Multiplication of the Loaves
Priest of the Lord!
The Obligation of Charity
My Life, an Arrow Shot toward Eternity
Adoration and Service
The Man of Action
The Risks of Faith
Commitment in the Temporal Dimension as Testimony to Christ
In those Days of Abandonment
Sacrifice and Joy
Our Imitation of Christ
The Mission of the Apostle
With Great Haste…
The Success of the Failures
An Immense Responsibility
The Social Mission of the University Student
The Call of Christ
Let us Be Christians, that Is to Say, Let us Love our Brothers
“You Are Not Your Own”
The Mystical Body: the Distribution and Use of Riches
The Christian Reaction to Anguish
The Mother of All
A Healthy Spirituality
The Foundation of our Love of Neighbour
His last Message to the Friends of the Hogar de Cristo
Hunger and Thirst for Justice
My dear young couple
Testament of Faith
Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Justice
Norms for Remaining in Union with the Mind of the Church
Birth and Infancy
Born in Viña del Mar (Chile), on January 22, 1901, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga spent his childhood with his parents, Alberto Hurtado Larraín and Ana Cruchaga Tocornal and his only brother Miguel, younger by two years. They lived on the country estate of Fundo Mina Agua, near Casablanca. The death of his father in 1905 brought serious economic difficulties to the family, and later forced them to sell less valuable lands that were part of the family inheritance. For this reason, they moved to Santiago and not having a home of their own, began to live with a succession of different relatives. In 1909 Alberto entered St. Ignatius Academy and there made his first Holy Communion, receiving the sacrament of Confirmation the following year. Economic difficulties did not keep his mother, Ana Cruchaga, from working with the poorest in the Patronato San Antonio, founded by the Franciscan priest Luis Orellana. Alberto completed his studies at St. Ignatius in 1917.
“He was incapable of seeing pain without wanting to remedy it”
In March of 1918 he began his law studies at the Catholic University of Chile and involved himself intensely in university life, participating in the Law School’s Student Center. During those years he showed great concern for the poorest both in his apostolate with the Franciscans in the Patronato de Andacollo as well as in his political activity which he developed with evident social concern. He knew how to unite his own career with his desire to serve others and organized together with other law students, a legal bureau to counsel laborers. Augusto Salinas, one of his fellow students and the future Auxiliary bishop of Santiago, said of him: His life of union with Jesus Christ drew him to those who suffered. During the crisis among the nitrate miners he organized fellow students to serve these laborers who, having come to Santiago, were installed in precarious shelters.
Fr. Damian Symon, SS.CC., his spiritual director during those years, described him in these terms: “I met him when he was already a university student. The flowering and crystallization of his virtues was dazzling, particularly with respect to his charity which took the form of a compelling zeal which I had to moderate repeatedly to avoid exaggeration. He was incapable of seeing pain without wanting to remedy it, nor indeed any need, without seeking a way to solve it. He lived in an act of love of God, which translated constantly into one or another act of love for his neighbor, his zeal overflowed; it was nothing but the springboard of his love. His heart was like a boiling caldron that needed an escape valve.”
His social zeal brought him to participate in the Círculo de Estudios León XIII (Leo XIII Circle of Studies) where he read the social encyclicals with Fr. Fernández Pradel, S.J. and worked as a volunteer teacher in the Instituto Nocturno San Ignacio (St. Ignatius Night School) for the formation of laborers. Between August and November of 1920 he did his Military Service in the Yungay Regiment, which established headquarters in the old barracks of Buin in Santiago.
Letters to his friend Manuel Larraín, the future bishop of Talca, are a testament to his profound efforts to discover the will of God. Both young men faced the same adventure with great seriousness, asking themselves: What is God asking of me? Alberto understood well that God assigns a place to each man and that, in that place, God will give abundant graces; for this reason he wrote this before the Lord: Take O Lord and receive all that I am and possess, I wish to give you all, to serve you with no restriction whatever in my total gift. Nevertheless, to discover where to serve the Lord was no easy task. Alberto also felt a call to marriage and to carry out an apostolate as a layman, among his laboring brothers. In 1923 Alberto wrote to his friend Manuel: “Pray with all your heart that we can arrange our affairs and that this year both of us can fulfill the will of God.” For him to fulfill the will of God meant to enter the Jesuit novitiate; for Manuel, it lay in entering the Major Seminary in Santiago.
However, Alberto could not enter the Jesuits because of his family’s economic difficulties. Fr. Damián Symon tells us how this was solved: “In the year 1923, during the entire month of the Sacred Heart, at ten o’clock every night, I saw him stretched out on the chapel floor before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. He spent an entire hour of fervent prayer in this position imploring the Lord to solve his economic problems in order to make it possible for him to consecrate himself totally to God.” The solution came in a providential way, precisely on the feast of the Sacred Heart.
On August 7, 1923, after having presented his Licentiate thesis entitled: El trabajo a domicilio (Work in the home), he sat for his final exam in which he distinguished himself, receiving the highest evaluation by unanimous decision and with this, finally, his degree as a lawyer.
On the eve of his entering the Jesuit Novitiate, the University bade farewell to its former student. The sentiments of the academic community were well expressed in the Revista Universitaria which offers an invaluable contemporary documentation of those events. The article reads: “Having studied with splendid success for five years in the Faculty of Law and having obtained his law degree with the highest grade awarded by the Supreme Court and the unanimous distinction of the Catholic University, Alberto Hurtado, our friend, the friend of all Catholic youth and of the rich and the poor, left to enter the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. His immense love of God was rewarded by Divine Providence which gave him the merit of abandoning all when he could have possessed all. On the eve of his leaving, the Catholic University feels the need to bid a fond farewell to this exemplary former student with the celebration of Mass by our Rector and the participation of a numerous group of his friends” (Revista Universitaria, 1923). Alberto did not even wait to receive his diploma as a lawyer; he left for Chillan to begin his Novitiate on the 15th of August, the date he chose out of his love for Our Lady, a love he maintained for the duration of his life.
The Jesuit Student
Alberto’s joy on having finally entered the novitiate is well expressed in a letter to his inseparable friend: “Dear Manuel, Here you have me, finally a Jesuit, as happy and content as one can be on this earth: I overflow with joy and never tire of giving thanks to our Lord because he has led me to this real paradise, where one can dedicate oneself to Him twenty-four hours a day. You can understand the state of my soul these days when I tell you that I have almost wept for joy.”
The initial part of his formation was carried out in Chillan in the midst of spiritual retreats and humble service in domestic labors. Later he was sent to Argentina to complete his novitiate and take his religious vows on August 15, 1925. His availability and willingness to serve were reflected in his remembered habit of asking for humble kitchen jobs. Between the years 1927 and 1931, he studied philosophy and began his theological studies in Sarria, Barcelona. A Jesuit priest who knew him well in those days remembers him as: “very self sacrificing and charitable, a hard worker, zealous for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor and all of this grounded in his deep spirituality, his union with God and reverent devotion, principally to the Holy Virgin.” Because of social turbulence in Spain, he was forced to continue his theological studies in the Catholic University of Louvain, one of the most prestigious in the world.
His writings during this period reflect his sincere efforts to advance in holiness: he took very seriously his formation, prayer and studies and made earnest efforts to advance in virtue, for example avoiding criticism of others, developing affable, friendly relationships and emphasizing the virtues of others. In his personal notes he wrote: “Do not criticize my brothers, hide their defects, celebrate their qualities. Always speak well of superiors and their decisions. Speak well of my brothers, excuse their defects, and emphasize their qualities.”
One of his fellow students in formation wrote: “Being with him was enjoyable as he made you feel so comfortable. He gave his full attention to his companions. He breathed in a faith-filled atmosphere and despite constant self-denial and devotion to his studies. He was deeply charitable, always ready to help with a charming smile.” Another remembers: “He was very congenial and had a great gift for friendship which made it easy to get along with him, he was simple and modest. One testimony beautifully portrays his character: “His quick smile and inquiring gaze seemed, in an indefinable way, to urge one to higher things… His smile gave the impression that he was looking into my soul and was anxious to see me do bigger and better things for the Lord.”
The Belgian Jesuit Fr. Arts gives us a particularly eloquent testimony: “Fr. Hurtado had the temperament of a martyr; I am convinced that he offered himself as a victim for the salvation of his people and particularly for the working class of America. I came to know him during our theological studies at Louvain. I was impressed and edified above all by his ardent and attentive charity, resplendent with joy and enthusiasm. In those days he consumed himself with ardor and zeal. Always ready to enliven the group and make others happy. ¡How he loved his country and his people and this love was the source of profound suffering for him. I saw him again at the Versailles Congress in 1947. His was the same bright flame: consumed in the interior fire of his love for Christ and his people. My dear Friend was a unique soul of rare quality, in short: a saint; a martyr of the love of Christ and souls.”
A priest of Christ
On August 24, 1933, he was ordained a priest. At his first Mass, his inseparable friend and future provincial, Fr. Alvaro Lavín, accompanied him. After his ordination he wrote to a friend: “Here you have me, a priest of the Lord! I am sure that you will understand my great joy. With all sincerity I can tell you that I am completely happy. I desire nothing more than to live out my ministry with all the fullness of my inner life and my outer activities.”
These years saw his dedication to the founding of the Faculty of Theology at the Catholic University of Chile. The exhausting labor of literally creating the faculty by searching for books, journals, and even more importantly, professors, was clear proof of his appreciation for serious study and his desire to prepare men capable of carrying out an apostolate among intellectuals. In December of 1934 Bishop Casanueva expressed his gratitude in these terms: “The immense gratitude I owe you for your earnest and sacrificial labors, so intelligent, wise and loving, I can never repay, only God can truly reward you; after God and the person who has established this foundation, the Faculty of Theology owes most to you.” These expressions of gratitude were repeated once again in the Rector’s discourse at the official founding of the Faculty of Theology.
It was on May 24, 1934 that he completed his theological studies. The president of the commission that approved him was Fr. Janssens, the future Superior General of the Society of Jesus who later commented: “During my many years as superior I have never seen a soul radiate greater apostolic energy than that of Fr. Hurtado.” Between 1934 and 1935 he completed his formation and on October 10, sat for the final exam required for a degree in the Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Louvain. Having presented his thesis: The Dewey pedagogical system vis a vis the demands of Catholic doctrine, it was approved avec grande distinction.
Before returning to Chile, he traveled to several European countries for the purpose of studying their educational systems. Then, on January 22, 1936, his thirty-fifth birthday, he left Hamburg at ten in the morning, for the long voyage home.
Apostle among Youth
Upon his return to Santiago in February of that year, he initiated his apostolate with youth, particularly at St. Ignatius Academy and at the Catholic University. However, his pedagogical task was not limited to classes only for Fr. Hurtado’s charism was to attract the young beyond the boundaries of their academic commitments. One of the most important areas of his ministry was giving spiritual retreats. At various times during the year he would prompt diverse groups of adults and youth to participate in profound encounters with the Lord and to search seriously to discover the will of God for them. It was in one of these retreats that he stated: “Every Christian must always aspire to this: to do whatever they do as Christ would do it, were he in their place.”
His love for his priesthood and for the Eucharist is portrayed in a beautiful testimony from a Capuchin priest who, in 1937 observed him celebrate Mass in San José de la Mariquina and was so deeply impressed that he commented: “that he had never seen a more edifying celebration of the Eucharist and that if Chilean priests were like him, they must all be saints.”
Another apostolic field of involvement for Fr. Hurtado was among the youth of Catholic Action. Founded in 1923 by Pope Pius XI who defined it as “the participation and collaboration of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church”, Catholic Action became a symbol of the growing value placed on the active participation of the laity in the Church. Fr. Hurtado was named Diocesan Moderator of the youth of Catholic Action early in 1941, as well as of students of public high schools in Santiago.
This same year he published his first book, ¿Es Chile un país católico? (Is Chile a Catholic Country?) which left its mark on the era. With keen edged clarity, optimism and courage he opened the eyes of many Chilean Catholics to the true situation of their Church, giving emphasis to the gravest of its problems, the shortage of priestly vocations. It was a time when humanity was experiencing profound transformations, when opposing totalitarian ideologies tried to dominate the world while Europe was being bled to death on the battlefields of the Second World War. Though he shuddered in the face of the horrors of war, Fr. Hurtado began to reflect in terms of reconstructing that post war world in Christ.
After only a few months, the success of his pastoral ministry brought his designation as National Moderator of the branch of Catholic Action devoted to youth. His great dedication to this apostolate brought much success and he traveled the country organizing groups and preaching retreats both to priests and youth involved in Catholic Action. It was the time of the great torchlight processions of thousands of young people gathered at the foot of the image of the Virgin of Cerro San Cristobal. In this context he would appeal to the generosity of youth: “If Christ were to come down on this night so charged with emotion, he would look at the darkened city and say, ‘I have compassion on it’ and then turn to you and with infinite tenderness add: ‘You are the light of the world… You are the ones who must illuminate this darkness. Do you wish to collaborate with me? Do you wish to be my apostles?’.” His work was not entirely understood and in April of 1942 he presented his resignation as National Moderator but it was not accepted.
In February of the following year, he set out for Magallanes to establish Catholic Action in the southernmost city of the world, also visiting Puerto Natales, Porvenir y Punta Arenas. It was the fruit of this successful visit that later permitted the celebration of a Eucharistic Congress and a change in the context of his relation with the Church. Nonetheless, misunderstandings continued to arise regarding Fr. Hurtado’s orientation of Catholic Action and this finally led to his unavoidable resignation as National Moderator on November 10, 1944.
The Hogar de Cristo
Just a month previous to his resignation, on a particularly cold rainy night he had an experience which he himself relates: “A poor man, in shirt sleeves, suffering from acute tonsillitis and shivering with the cold, approached me saying he had nowhere to find shelter.” The man’s misery left Fr. Hurtado shaken. A few days later, October 16, while giving a retreat to a group of women in the Casa del Apostolado Popular, he began to speak, on the spur of the moment, about the misery that existed in Santiago and the need to respond to it. “Christ roams through our streets in the person of so many suffering poor, sick, dispossessed and people thrown out of their miserable slums; Christ huddled under bridges, in the person of so many children who lack someone to call father, who have been deprived for many a year of a mother’s kiss upon their foreheads… Christ is without a home! Shouldn’t we want to give him one, those of us who have the joy of a comfortable home, plenty of good food, the means to educate and assure the future of our children? ‘What you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me’, Jesus has said.” And in this simple way the idea of the Hogar de Cristo was born. Upon leaving the retreat he received the first donations from these women: a piece of land, various checks and personal jewels.
In May of 1945, the Archbishop of Santiago, the Most Rev. José María Caro blessed the first headquarters of the Hogar de Cristo. The following year saw the inauguration of the Hospice on Chorillos street. Little by little the Hogar de Cristo showed an admirable growth and gave invaluable service to the poorest, creating a wave of solidarity that, to date, has gone beyond Chilean frontiers. Its goal was “to take the children salvaged from beneath the bridges of the river Mapocho and return them to society, transformed into specialized workers.”
Meanwhile, Alberto Hurtado continued his ministry of formation among youth. In 1945 he published the text: Adolescent affective life, the crisis of puberty and education for chastity while continuing the preaching of retreats. In June of that year, in a talk in preparation for the feast of the Sacred Heart, he reminded students of their social responsibilities, responsibilities consequent on the words of Christ: “The social obligation of university students is nothing more than the concrete application of the teachings of Christ to their lives as students today and to their future as professionals”, and he invited each one to “study their career plans in light of the social problems proper to their professional contexts.” He ventured to require a great generosity from youth with the certainty that “the foundation of all education is to infuse the hearts of the young with love for Jesus Christ. One who has even once looked deeply into the eyes of Jesus, can never forget it.”
In September of 1945, Fr. Hurtado traveled to the United States and to countries of Central America. He arrived in Dallas, Texas in October and began a series of interviews and visits to charitable institutions. In Kansas he met with Bishop O’Hara, visited the Redemptorists, the Chancery and the office of Catholic Action and, later, Fr. Flanagan’s Boys’ Town. He traveled to Canada early in January and soon after returned to Washington. On January 29th he began his retreat in Baltimore and, once over, he set sail from New York for Valparaiso in the Illapel of the South American Steamship Line. He took advantage of the month long voyage for reflection and writing about the many interesting works visited and the contacts made. He likewise did some meditating on the direction of his own life: “Each time I went up to the command bridge and saw the helmsman at work I could not help reflecting on what was most fundamental in determining the direction of my life.”
The Social Apostolate
Having returned to his usual full work schedule, he preached a well-remembered retreat during Holy Week of 1946 (later published in the book, Un disparo a la eternidad, (An arrow shot toward eternity) pp.33-73), and began to give classes in the Hogar Catequístico (Catechetical Institute) and the Grange School. In 1947 he preached a retreat at the Major Seminary in Santiago and to various other groups. On the feast of the Sacred Heart, June 13, together with a group of university students who wished to help the workers, he founded the Acción Sindical y Económica Chilena (ASICH) (Chilean Sindicate and Economic Action) as a means of searching for “a way to make the Church present in the area of organized labor.”
Between July 1947 and January 1948 Fr. Hurtado traveled to France to participate in a series of important congresses and study weeks. On requesting permission to make the trip from his superior, Fr. Alvaro Lavín, he wrote the following: “Would it be too bold to request that you consider the possibility of my attending the Paris Congress? I admit that it would be of great benefit to be able to see the new social orientations, those of Catholic Action and the Marian Congregations… If it is presumptuous destroy these lines without further consideration.”
Armed with the consent of superiors, he left for France on July 24, 1947. During his participation in the 34th Social Week in Paris he spoke at length with Cardinal E. Suhard, the Archbishop of Paris. He spent a week at L’Acción Populaire (social action center organized by French Jesuits, at present CERAS), and then took part in the Semana Internacional (International Week) of the Jesuits of Versailles. On two occasions he spoke to the assembly of the situation in Chile in what has been described as “a cry of anguish but at the same time an irresistible lesson in pure, ardently supernatural apostolic zeal”, leading many to consider him one of the most remarkable personalities at the meeting. On August 24th he passed through Lourdes on his way to Spain, spending a few days, on his return trip with the priest workers in Marseilles and in September, participated in the Pastoral Liturgical Congress in Lyon and the Week for Moderators of Young Catholic Workers in Versailles. In October he traveled to Rome and had three audiences with the General of the Society of Jesus, a meeting with Bishop Montini (the future Pope Paul VI) and on October 18 was received in special audience with His Holiness Pius XII who promised him great support. Finally, together with Manuel Larraín, he visited the philosopher Jacques Maritain. Fr. Hurtado himself wrote: “The month in Rome was a grace from heaven because I saw and heard things of great interest that have encouraged me mightily to continue wholeheartedly in what has been initiated. In this sense the words of the Holy Father and our own Father General have been a great stimulus for me.”
In his return trip to France at the end of October he stopped in Turin to visit the Piccola Casa of Providence and from the end of October until November 16 he stayed at Économie et Humanisme (Economy and Humanism), another Catholic institution dedicated to the study of social and economic problems, with its founder Fr. J. Lebret. During these days he made a quick trip to Belgium in order to study the League of Catholic Rural Workers, Christian Syndicates and the Young Catholic Workers. Finally on November 17 he arrived in Paris and, rightly, he was able to write: “I have accumulated tons of very interesting experiences.”
After this busy itinerary crammed with congresses and interviews, he arrived in Paris with the intention of “shutting myself in my room for a time to digest, hone and write down the enormous accumulation of experiences.” In December he wrote: “Here I am in Paris, living as though I were in a retreat house, shut up in a room full of books… there is so much to do, so much to read and meditate on because God has given me this trip to renew me and prepare me for the enormous problems we have at home.” He remained in Paris for more than two months leaving for only a few days to go to Lyon for a congress of moral theologians; his exposition regarding the relation between Church and State was entitled: “With or without power?”
Though in many ways his trip was fruitful and his opinion of the Catholic social movement was in general positive, he also saw the possibility of the risks involved. For example, with regard to the congress of moral theologians, he perceived “an excessive eagerness for renewal” and a “tendency to forget the true values of the Church, its traditional vision”, a tendency that would, as a result, leave the Church “without authentic Christian leaders, leaving these with only a social mystique but not a socially Christian conscience.” At the same time he notes that “there is above all a great deal of spirit, a great desire to serve the Church and a very real self denial shown in the works they undertake.” There was a strengthening of his great admiration for the social commitment of the French Church.
On his return to Chile, these experiences allowed him to push forward his ASICH project, making its very starting point a solid foundation in Christ and his Church. The task was difficult and not without misunderstandings. The chief problem lay in the law of the single syndicate, which obliged all to participate in the same union with the obvious danger of politicization. As he himself wrote in 1951 on recalling the situation that prevailed at the founding of ASICH, “The workers, despite being Catholics in their great majority, were unable to exercise any influence as such and followed marxist slogans.” ASICH then was initiated as an alternative mode of participation for workers, centered in the social teaching of the Church, with the purpose of defending the dignity of human work above any and all ideological slogans. Although criticism continued, it was unable to discourage Fr. Hurtado who felt heartened by the social encyclicals: “to prepare workers and employees to be able to take into their own hands the movement for the ‘redemption of the proletariat’, an essential element of the new order.”
In a letter responding to criticisms, Fr. Hurtado reveals his own personality: “Of course there are many dangers and the terrain is difficult… Who is blind to this? But is this a good enough reason to abandon and postpone it yet again?… I may blunder and go too far, for sure! But wouldn’t it be a greater blunder to do nothing out of cowardice, in a mistaken desire for perfection?”
The last Years of his Apostolate
He continued with his habitual intense apostolic activity of classes, hearing confessions, groups, spiritual direction and retreats. During 1948 he preached some four or five series of retreats along with conferences in Valparaiso, Temuco, Sewell, Iquique, Putaendo and Chillan, nine homilies on sacramental life in the church of St. Francis during the Month of Mary and various in the Catholic University. The very well attended conferences in Temuco and those with the miners in Sewell counted audiences of 4,000 and 1,200 people; some of these were transmitted by radio. He considered his homilies in the church of St. Francis his “most fruitful ministry of the year.”
The extent of his activities was a consequence of his generous dedication and a fulfillment of those words: “If someone has begun to live for God in self denial and love for others, all the forms of misery will come knocking at his door” and certainly his own words gain special relevance: “I am often like a rock that is beaten on all sides by the towering waves. There is no way out but up. For an hour, for a day I let the waves thrash against the rock; I do not look toward the horizon, I only look up to God.” O blessed active life, all of it consecrated to my God, all of it dedicated to others, its very excess leading me to find myself resorting to God! He is the only possible escape from my concerns, my only refuge.”
In 1950, the Bolivian Episcopate invited him to participate in the First National Meeting of Directors of the Social-Economic Apostolate in Cochabamba from January 6 to 13. The youth of Bolivian Catholic Action also asked for his presence during a national assembly taking place at the same time. His presentation before the episcopate was entitled: The Mystical body: distribution and use of wealth. In it he urged his listeners to search for the complete Christ, with all its consequences for, “by faith we must see Christ in the poor” and search for adequate technical solutions, because “the hour has arrived in which our socio-economic action must cease to content itself with repeating general slogans taken from pontifical encyclicals and begin to propose well studied solutions of immediate application in the socio-economic field.”
Impelled by his interest for the intellectual apostolate, he founded the Revista Mensaje. The founding of a magazine was part of a social work project he proposed to Fr. Janssens, Superior General of the Society in 1947. Fr. Hurtado wanted to publish a “highly valued magazine” for the purpose of giving religious, social and philosophic formation. He wanted it to: “Give direction and be a testimony of the presence of the Church in today’s world.” In October of 1951, the first number of the magazine Mensaje appeared. In his editorial he explained that the name of the magazine alluded to “the Message that the Son of God brought to earth and whose resonance our magazine desires to prolong and apply to our beloved Chile and to our tormented times.”
Last Illness and Death
His most eloquent testimony was given during his last illness and death. The grandeur of God and the depth of the man himself were revealed in the way Fr. Hurtado faced the moment of departure. Upon learning of his immanent death, he replied: “How can I not be overjoyed! How can I not be grateful to God! Instead of a violent death he has sent me a long illness so that I can prepare myself; He has not sent me pain but rather the pleasure of seeing so many friends, to be able to see them all. Truly for me God has been a loving Father; the best of fathers.”
All during his short but arduous life, Alberto Hurtado had ardently longed for eternal life, for his definitive and final encounter with Christ. This radiates from one of the most beautiful pages of his personal notes: “And as for myself, before me, eternity. And I am like an arrow, shot into eternity. After me eternity. My existence, a sigh between two eternities. My life then, like an arrow, propelled into eternity. I mustn’t become attached to anything here but see through it all the life to come. May all creatures be transparent so that I may see God and eternity through them. When they become opaque I become earthly and lost. After me eternity. I am going there and very soon… When one considers how soon the present will end, one reaches the conclusion: be a citizen of heaven rather than of earth.” The image of an arrow shot or propelled clearly illustrates the brevity of life but demonstrates at the same time that life has but one direction, eternity. He was convinced that each Christian was called to collaborate with the work of God, to dedicate himself or herself with complete generosity. “Life has been given to man so that he may cooperate with God in order to carry out his plan, death is only a completion of that collaboration, a return of all our powers to the Creator’s hands. May every day be a preparation for my death, giving myself moment by moment to the work of cooperation that God asks of me, fulfilling my mission, what God expects of me, what only I can do.”
During his entire ministry he spoke about eternity. In a retreat for youth in 1946, he described it as “a journey infinitely new and eternally long” and he sought for attractive images to express its meaning. He commented: “This life has been given us to search for God, death to find Him and eternity that we might possess Him. After walking along a road, there comes the moment when we arrive at its end. The son finds his Father and throws himself into the Father’s arms, arms of love; and that they might never be closed, his arms were left nailed to the cross; enter his side, opened by a lance to signify his love, from which flows blood that redeems and water that purifies.” The value of these words is only heightened by the joy and serenity with which he faced his own death. This vision of eternity had brought him to a profound commitment with the world and with his fellow men “to the point of being unable to support their misfortunes”; this vision of faith impelled him to “Enclose and carry all men in my heart, all at once. Be fully conscious of my enormous treasure and with a robust and generous oblation, offer them all to God. Unify all my loves in Christ. All this in me as an oblation, a gift which bursts and overflows the breast; a movement of Christ within me which awakens and quickens my love; a movement of all humanity, through me, towards Christ. This is what it means to be a priest!”
It was on August 18, 1952, at five in the late afternoon, that Fr. Hurtado gave back his life to God, surrounded by his Jesuit brothers. Days before his death he wrote a last letter which we might consider an invitation: “As the needs and miseries of the poor show themselves, find ways to help them as you would the Master. As I greet all and bid each and every one of you farewell, I confide the poor little ones to your care, in the name of God.”
The testimony of his death had a strong impact on the Chilean society. The funeral Mass was held on August 20 at 8:30 in the morning and Cardinal Caro gave the Responsorial. The homily was given by his good friend Manuel Larraín, Bishop of Talca who affirmed: “If we were to silence the lesson Fr. Hurtado has given us we would be denying the moment of an extraordinary visit of God to our nation.” Large numbers of people from all sectors of society attended the funeral and it was after ten when the funeral cortege left for the parish of Jesus the Worker. As many of those assisting had requested, the distance of about 40 city blocks was made on foot; and as they left the church of St. Ignatius a large cross of clouds was seen in the sky.
The poetic words of Gabriela Mistral remain as a memory and a task: “He sleeps now after all his labors. But sleep is not for us, no, as enormous debtors, fugitives who turn our faces away from what surrounds us, what he has done hems us in and impels us like a shout.”
The same year of Fr. Hurtado’s death, Fr. Alvaro Lavín suggested to the General of the Society that the process for his beatification be initiated. In 1955, the Chilean Provincial Fr. Carlos Pomar, commenced the consults with the witnesses. Years later, in April of 1971, the Episcopal Conference of Chile agreed to request the Introduction of the Cause for Beatification. The cause made rapid advances and during his visit to Chile, the Holy Father John Paul II visited the Hogar de Cristo and prayed before the tomb of Fr. Hurtado. On that occasion the Holy Father pronounced these challenging words: “The figure of Fr. Hurtado, illustrious son of the Church and of Chile, illuminates us. He saw Christ himself in needy abandoned children and in the sick. Can the Spirit raise up apostles of the stature of Fr. Hurtado in these our days as well, men who show the vitality of the Church by their self-sacrificing witness? We are convinced that this can be and so we ask for this with faith.”
On October 16, 1994, Pope John Paul II beatified Fr. Hurtado in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican and the process has already begun for his canonization in 2005.
Personal reflection written in November 1947.
All my brothers, all mankind. Suffer with their failures, with their miseries, with the oppression that makes them victims. Rejoice with their joys. Begin by recalling in spirit once again all those who have crossed my path. My parents from whom I have received life, who have given me light and nourishment. Those with whom I have shared a roof and broken bread. Those I knew in my neighborhood, during my school days, at the university, during military service, during the years of study, in my apostolate… Those with whom I have fought, whom I have caused pain, bitterness or harm… All those I have assisted, supported, gotten out of trouble… All those who have opposed me, despised me or done me harm. All those I have seen in the slums, in the shacks, under the bridges. All those whose unhappiness I have been able to discern, whose unrest I have been able to glimpse. All those pale little children with sunken faces. Those tubercular patients at San José, the lepers of Fontilles… All the young students I have met in study groups… Those who have taught me through the books they have written, with the words they have said to me. All those of my city, my country, those I have met in Europe, in America… Every person in the world: all of them, my brothers.
Enfold and carry all men in my heart, all at once. Be fully conscious of my enormous treasure and with a robust and generous oblation, offer them all to God. Unify all my loves in Christ. All this in me as an oblation, a gift which bursts and overflows the breast; a movement of Christ within me, which awakens and quickens my love; a movement of all humanity, through me, towards Christ. This is what it means to be a priest!
My soul has never felt richer, never felt pulled along by a wind so strong that seems to spring from its own deepest depths. Never has it united within itself such great worth, all lifted up together to the Father.
Impelled by justice and animated by love
Attack, not so much the effects but rather the causes. What do we achieve by groaning and complaining? We must fight hand to hand, in single combat, against evil. Meditate again and again the Gospel on the road to Jericho (Lk 10,30-32). The dying man on the road is the unfortunate fellow I meet with every day, but he is also the oppressed proletariat, the rich materialist, the man without dignity, the powerful without a prospect, and all our contemporaries from all walks of life.
In the first place, take the miserable poverty of the people. It is the least deserved, the most tenacious, the most oppressive and the most fatal. And they have no one to safeguard them, to lift them out of this state. Some pity them, others regret their sufferings, but who is willing to dedicate themselves body and soul to attacking the profound causes of their sufferings? Here we have the reason for the inadequacy of philanthropy, of mere material aid that amounts to a band aid on the wound but no real remedy. The misery of the poor affects body and soul simultaneously.
First we must love them: love the good in them, their simplicity, their roughness, daring, strength, frankness, their tenacity, their human qualities, their joy, the mission they carry out in their families… Love them to the point that you will be unable to support their misfortune… that you will prevent the causes of their disasters, rid their homes of alcoholism, venereal disease, tuberculosis. My mission cannot be limited to beautiful words of consolation, leaving them in their misery while I dine in peace, lacking nothing. Their pain should make me ill: the lack of hygiene in their homes, their poor insufficient diet, their children who cannot attend school, the tragedy of their daughters: may all that demeans them, tear me apart as well.
Love them in order to make them live, that a more human life may develop in them, unlocking their intelligence, putting an end to their backwardness. May the errors anchored in their hearts prick me continuously. May I be tormented by the lies and illusions used to intoxicate and enrapture them; may the materialistic press that pretends to enlighten them, irritate me; may their prejudices stimulate me to show them the truth.
And this is nothing more than the translation of the verb “to love.” I have placed them in my heart so they may live as men in the light, and the light is none other than Christ himself, the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world (Jn 1,9). All the light of natural reason is really the light of Christ; all knowledge, all human science. Christ is the supreme science.
But Christ brings them another light, a light that orients their lives toward the essential that gives them an answer to their most agonizing questions. Why are they alive? What destiny are they called to? We know that there is a noble divine calling for each one of them, a calling to find complete happiness in the face-to-face vision of God (1Cor 13, 12). We know that they have been called to enlarge their vision, to satiate themselves in God Himself. And this calling is for each and every one of them, for the most miserable, the most ignorant, the most uncaring, the most depraved among them. The light of Christ shines in the darkness (Jn 1,5). They are in need of this light. Without it they will be profoundly miserable and forsaken.
Love them with all the heart’s passion, in Christ, so that the divine likeness may grow in them; that it might rectify them from within in such a way that they would become horrified by defilement or by demeaning themselves; that it might bring them to respect their own greatness and the greatness of all human creatures, to respect the right and the truth, so that their entire spiritual being might mature in God; that they might find in Christ the crown of their activity and their love, that the suffering of Christ might be salutary for them so that their suffering might fill up what is wanting in the suffering of Christ (Col 1,24).
If we love them we will know what we must do for them. Will they respond? In part, yes. But above all God wants my effort, and nothing done in love is ever lost.
Holy Week meditation for youth, written while returning to the United States in 1946, on board a cargo ship.
This 30-day voyage by ship from New York to Valparaiso has been a gift from my heavenly Father. Thanks to the generosity of the Captain, I was given a bench on the Captain’s bridge, next to the helmsman where I would be able to work with tranquillity, light, fresh air and a beautiful view… The only distraction has been the sound of voices giving orders with respect to the ship’s course. I have learned from the Captain that the helmsman holds our lives in his hands in guiding the ship’s course. In navigation, the course of the ship is the most vital element. A pilot is permanently verifying the course, following it step by step on the navigation chart, checking it by calculating the angle of the sun and the horizon; on cloudy days he is restless due to the difficulty of verification. The course is written on a slate in front of the helmsman and he is given orders, each of which he must repeat to assure that these have been understood. “Starboard, larboard, easy as she goes”, orders once learned, never forgotten.
Each time I climbed to the bridge and saw the work of the helmsman I could not help but reflect on this the most fundamental task of all, steering a course through life.
In New York I saw numerous ships of every kind. What fundamentally differentiates them? The course they will ultimately take. The same ship Illapel, while in Valparaiso was headed for New York or Rio de Janeiro; here in New York it is destined for Liverpool or Valparaiso.
It is necessary to appreciate the need to take the course seriously. If the pilot or helmsman of a ship becomes careless, he is fired without pardon for failing to take such a sacred function seriously. And as for our lives, are we fully aware of the course they are taking?
What course is your life taking? If it is necessary to give this more thought, I would beg each one of you to give it the highest consideration because being correct in this regard is tantamount to success; to err is quite simply to fail.
A magnificent ship, the Queen Elizabeth, 70,000 tons (while the Illapel fully loaded weighs only 8,000). If her beauty tempts me and I board her without taking into account the destination, I run the risk of landing in Manila rather than Valparaiso. And of seeing Filipino faces rather than yours.
How many set out in life without a course and forfeit their lives… wasting them miserably, squandering them senselessly, without benefiting anyone, without happiness for themselves and after a time, face the tragedy of a life without purpose. Some eventually get back on course; others capsize on the high seas or, having gone astray, die of starvation or end shipwrecked on a lonely shore.
The tragic problem of a lack of direction or course is the most tragic problem of a life. It is responsible for the loss of more lives and for the majority of failures. I think that if moral difficulties were physical reefs and if our conduct were like a ship of iron, no matter how solid the construction, there is little doubt we would have nothing but shipwrecked remains.
If faith helps us set our course and our experience points out the obstacles, let us take them seriously. Grasp the helm firmly and since the waves and currents deflect us from the true course, correct, correct constantly, day and night, get back on course… Not in the direction of the beckoning coastlines but our true course. Ask God for the great grace of being men always on course.
First point: The port of departure. This is the first basic element to be determined. And here I must fasten my soul firmly in the basic fact: God and myself. The first solid fact of all philosophy, of every life system: I come from God, yes. From Him and from Him alone. Nothing is more certain, and upon this fact I will build my life, upon this first fact I will set my course.
And here as always, arises the question: Is this true? Is this a fact? Because religion is founded on facts, not theories.
Take these truths seriously: They must serve as a foundation for my life, to set my course. One is a Christian in so far as he infers and assumes the consequences of the truths he accepts. As a result of this, our faith gives us a sense of courage, serenity and confidence. We do not base our decisions on quibbling or splitting hairs but on a solid truth.
Second point. The port of destination. This is the other point that sets the course. Valparaiso or Liverpool? The airplane carrier Liberty left the port of New York together with us… Where are they headed? From the University of Chile or from the factory, where to? The culmination of my life’s journey is God.
Third point. The journey. I have both navigation points, both ports. Where must I direct my ship? To the port of destination, along a course which is the will of God. The concrete fulfilment of what God desires. Here lies the greatest wisdom. All the work of a life of wisdom consists in this: in knowing the will of my Lord and Father. One must work to discover this, work seriously, during one’s whole life, every day of one’s life, Lord, what do you want from me? One must work to fulfil it, to serve Him at every moment. This is my great mission, better than working miracles. God wants us to be saints. This is His will: not mere mediocrities, but saints.
What is the course of my life? The will of God: that I sanctify myself, collaborate with God, and fulfill his plan. Is there anything greater, more worthy, more beautiful, more capable of inspiring? Dropping anchor finally at our destination!
And to arrive safely in port, this is the only suitable course… The others lead to other ports that are not mine. And here is the whole problem of life. To arrive at the port that is the fulfilment of my existence. The person who gets it right, gets it right and the one who doesn’t is grossly mistaken though he be a millionaire, a Hitler, a Napoleon or lucky in love; if he fails here, his life is worthless; if he succeeds it means happiness forever more. So be it!
Where do I come from? Where am I going? What an adventure! What path will I follow? Face the route head-on. The helm firmly in my hands and when the winds become stronger: head for God, and when siren voices call from the coastline: head for God; and when I tire, head for God!
Alone? No. Together with all the crew that God has entrusted me to lead, to nourish and to help cheer along the path. What a wonderful life mine is! How full of meaning. With many paths to heaven. To give to men the most precious of all gifts: God, and to give to God what he loves most, those for whose sake he gave His son: mankind.
Lord, help me to hold tightly to the helm till heaven, and if I am about to let it go, fasten me to my course through the intercession of your holy Mother, Star of the Sea, sweet Virgin Mary.
A personal reflection Fr. Hurtado asked to have published after his death.
Our time is a tragic time. This generation has known two horrible world wars and is now at the portal of a yet more tragic conflict, a conflict so cruel that even those most interested in provoking it hold back in terror at the thought of the ruin it will wreck. The literature representative of our century is apocalyptic, testimony to a world tormented even to madness.
How many in our century, if not driven mad, feel restless, confused, deeply sad and profoundly alone in a vast overpopulated world, where neither nature nor men speak to their spirit nor give them a message of comfort! Why? Because God is absent form our century. Many definitions can be offered for our times: age of the machine, of relativism, of material comfort. It would be better to call it a society where God is absent.
The great idols of our time are money, health, pleasure, and comfort: whatever gratifies man. And if we think of God at all we make of Him a means for the service of man: we ask that He render an accounting for what happens, we judge His actions and we complain when he doesn’t satisfy our whims. God, in Himself, doesn’t appear to interest us. Contemplation is forgotten; adoration and praise are poorly understood. The criterion of efficacy, production and usefulness form the foundation of our value judgments. Gratuitous, impartial actions promising no economic profit are neither appreciated nor understood.
Even we Christians, forced to breathe this atmosphere become saturated with materialism, a practical materialism. We acknowledge God with our lips but our everyday lives are far from Him. A thousand tasks absorb us. Our everyday lives are completely pagan. There is little prayer or reflection on the truths of our faith, little time for the practice of charity or the defense of justice. Aren’t the lives of many of us a complete vacuum? Aren’t we identical to atheists in regard to the books we read, the shows we watch, the movies we go to, the judgments we make regarding divorce, annulments, birth control and business ethics? Everything that is proper for a Christian: conscience, religious faith, the spirit of sacrifice, apostolate is ignored and even despised: it seems redundant and unnecessary to us. The majority live purely materialistic lives and death is seen as the end of it. How many baptized weep before a grave like those who have no hope!
The immense bitterness of the contemporary soul, its pessimism, its loneliness… the neurosis and even madness so frequent in our times, are they not the fruit of a world that has lost God? St. Augustine said it well: “Lord, you have created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Happily, the human soul cannot live without God. It spontaneously looks for Him even in what appears obviously twisted and evil. The desire for God lies dormant in the hunger and thirst for justice that devours many spirits as well as in their desire for greatness and in the growing spirit of universal brotherhood. Since its very origins, even in its forerunner the Chosen People, the Catholic Church has been a living clear, determined affirmation of its belief in God. Many in the Old Testament died for their confession of faith; for his faithfulness to the message of his Father, Jesus died and after him many millions have died for their confessed belief in the Unity of the Trinity whose Son came to live among us. Since the times of Stephen and those who as living torches lighted the gardens of Nero, to those in our own day in Russia, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Japan, Spain and Mexico, all have given their lives for Him. Others have not been asked to give this supreme witness but in their daily lives they affirm it with courage: religious who leave the world to dedicate themselves to prayer others who unite their lives to those of the workers in factories, to a profoundly contemplative life; university academics and students animated by a serious spirit of prayer; laborers like those of the JOC who number more than a million throughout the world for whom prayer is like breathing itself, with them the wise who appreciate their vocation as Christians. And there are select groups of chosen souls who search for God with all their hearts and for whom God’s will is the supreme desire of their lives.
And when they have found it, their lives rest as on an immoveable rock; their spirit rests in the divine paternity as a child in the arms of its mother (Psalm 130). When God has been found, the spirit understands that the only great thing existing is God Himself. Before Him everything fades: they are indifferent to anything outside of him. The really important and decisive decisions are those that lie with Him.
For one who has found God, we see what happens to someone who falls in love for the first time: they run, they fly, they are transported, all their doubts become superficial for peace reigns in the depths of their being. Whatever their situation, it does not seem to be of interest to them, nor are they troubled whether their prayers are answered or not. The only important fact is that God is present. God is God. In the face of this fact their hearts are silent and in peace.
In the soul of this repatriate there is suffering and joy at the same time. God is at one and the same time, their peace and their restlessness. They rest in Him but cannot remain immobile for long. They must rest while on the move; they must take refuge in their restlessness. Each day God rises before them in the guise of a call, a responsibility, as a joy promised but as yet unachieved. He who seeks for God feels that God seeks for him, that God pursues him and he rests in God as in a vast warm sea. The search for God is only possible in this life and life itself takes all its meaning from this search. God appears always and everywhere yet you cannot lay hold of Him anywhere. We can hear him in the crashing waves and yet He is silent. He comes to meet us everywhere but we can never capture Him; but one day the search will end and there will be a definitive meeting. When we have found God, all the good things of this world will be found and possessed in Him.
The call of God that is the leading thread of a holy and healthy existence is nothing more than the music coming from the eternal hills, descending sweetly, or roaring and bellowing, melodious or sharp and cutting. The day will come when we will see that God was the song that rocked the cradle of our lives. Lord make us worthy to listen to this call and follow it faithfully.
Jesus Receives Sinners
Retreat meditation on the mercy of Jesus.
“This man receives sinners!” This was the accusation leveled against Jesus by the hypocritically scandalized Pharisees (Lk 15,2). “This man receives sinners!” And this is the truth! These words represent the exclusive, distinctive feature of Jesus Christ. They can be written above that cross and on the doors of this tabernacle!
Exclusive distinction because outside of Jesus, who receives sinners mercifully? The world perhaps? For God’s sake! If all the moral leprosy of injustice that we hide in the dark corners of conscience were to appear on our brows, the world, scandalized would without doubt run from us screaming, “Leper, get out!” It would brutally reject us saying just as did the Pharisees, “Get away from us, contact with you is a disgrace for us!”
The world makes sinners of men, and then having made them sinners, it condemns and insults them adding to the morass of their sin the muck of its scorn. Mire upon mire this is the world: the world does not receive sinners. Only Jesus Christ receives sinners.
St. John Chrysostom writes: “My God have mercy on me! You ask for mercy? Then fear nothing. Where there is mercy there are no judicial investigations regarding guilt, nor courts, nor the need to offer reasonable excuses. Great is the torment of my sins, O my God but far greater is the treasure of your mercy!”
Upon his coming into the world, whom did Jesus call to him? The Magi and after the Magi? The publican. And after the publican? The prostitute. After the prostitute? The thief. And after the thief? The inflexible persecutor.
Do you live like a pagan? The Magi would be considered pagans. Do you make a profit on the needs of others? The publican was such. Are you impure? The prostitute was also. Are you a murderer? The thief was one also. Are you an inflexible persecutor? So was Paul because he was first a blasphemer and later an apostle and an evangelist… Don’t tell me: “I am a blasphemer; I am sacrilegious; I am impure.” Haven’t you seen the example of so many sinners pardoned by God?
Have you sinned? Do penance. Have you sinned a thousand times? Do penance a thousand times. Satan will stand at your side at times to make you despair. Don’t listen to him; remember these few words: Jesus receives sinners, words that are a heartfelt cry of love, a pouring out of inexhaustible mercy and an unbreakable promise of pardon.
How beautiful it is to return following your footsteps
Walking again in them
Running with security
After a long dark night
Is it not sweet to see the day star rise.
Discourse given during the torchlight procession at the “Congress of the Sacred Hearts” in 1944.
There are three words that seem to stir and arouse the contemporary world; words fundamental to all systems that offer themselves as solutions to the evils of our era: collectivity, solidarity and social justice. Our Holy Mother the Church has not neglected these words. Much to the contrary, it has imbued them with infinitely greater richness and an even more profound revolutionary content; rising above them, it speaks rather of unity, fraternity and love.
These three words have always been the foundation of all Church teaching but particularly in these our days which have witnessed an unprecedented development in the richness of its most revolutionary social doctrines ever before seen in history. Christians, you are neither machines nor beasts of burden, you are sons of God! Loved by Christ, heirs of heaven… Authentic sons of God; you are one in Christ; in Christ there are neither rich nor poor; neither bourgeois nor proletariat; neither Aryans nor Saxons; neither Mongols nor Latins but Christ is the life of those who wish to accept the divinization of their being. The great devotions that fill our century, those that shine like the sun and moon in our firmament, are deep faith in Christ, our path to the Father and childlike tenderness for Mary, our sweet Mother and our path to Christ. Love for Mary deepens our understanding that she is who she is, thanks to Christ, her son. Go to Jesus, are the uninterrupted words of Mary, advice that resounds each night during the Month of Mary. And the faithful do go to Jesus.
And this has been the wise design of our Venerable Pastor who convoked this Congress of the Sacred Hearts. In this moment when the world bleeds, on the eve not of celebration but rather of lamentation that during six consecutive Christmases the word Peace has not resounded among men, who can know how much longer canons may continue to roar and brothers may hate and tear each other apart. In these moments when we see our nation enter into one of the most difficult times in its history, when unemployment circles our great industrial centers and we begin to see factories close and workers sucked into the desperation of misery. In these moments in which words of hatred, the fruit of bitterness and hunger, understandably become razor-sharp, our Bishop desires that we raise our eyes to this symbol of a love that does not perish, that does not make fools of us, a love that, if it tests us, it does so for our good, a love that offers strength in despair, that incites us to love truly and urges us to make it real, first with works of justice, but justice exceeded and crowned by charity. In the midst of the shedding of so much blood by human hatred, by the greed to possess and the passion for honor, our Mother the Church desires that we look on that other blood, divine blood shed for love, out of desire to give itself, for the highest ambition of making us happy. The blood of hatred washed in the blood of love.
In these moments, my brothers, our first mission must be to be convinced from the bottom of our hearts that God loves us. All of us, creatures of earth, rich and poor, God loves us; his love has not perished for we are his sons. This simple cry, full of hope must never grow cold on our lips: God loves us, we are his sons… We are his sons! O you 50,000,000 men who wander far from your country, dragged from your homes by the hatred of war, God loves you! Have faith! God loves you! Jesus too wished to know your pain and was forced to flee from his country and eat the bread of exile! You workers buried in the depths of the earth or under the sea, digging out coal to earn a fragment of bread, God loves you! You are his sons! The Son of God was himself a laborer! You sick, on your bed of pain, devoured by disease, you are the sons of God! God loves you, Jesus, your brother understands your suffering, he who took upon himself the pain of the world. You beggars, you who lack everything, even a roof to cover you, you who live under the bridges or huddled in miserable shacks… God loves you! You are his sons! The birds of the air have nests and the foxes their dens but Jesus our brother had nowhere to lay his head. You who courageously defend the rights of the oppressed, those who ask that the workers receive a salary worthy of their dignity as men, those who cry out, at times like John in the desert, that there be greater equality in the work place, greater equality in the distribution of burdens and the joy of the benefits, may the word love cease to be an empty shell and be filled with profound divine and human meaning, do not stop, do not fear. You are not revolutionaries, but profoundly human, even more divine because God loves his sons and desires them to be treated like sons and not like pariahs. If you suffer persecution for justice, do not be dismayed, He suffered it first, he died to give testimony of the truth of love. Have confidence, He has conquered the world and you will conquer as well if you do not separate yourselves from his teaching and example.
If God loves us, how can we fail to love him? And if we love him, then fulfill his great commandment, his commandment par excellence: A new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you; in this they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another. Devotion to the Sacred Hearts cannot content itself with savoring the love of God but must repay it with concrete love in return. And the magnificent reason that elevates our love of neighbor to a height never suspected by any human system is that our neighbor is Christ. May respect for our neighbor take the place of distrust: may we see in each man, poor as he might be, the image of Christ and treat him with the spirit of justice and love; but above all, with that confidence in him that a man values most, a trust better than the cold coin of charity. May he be paid a just salary, sufficient for a truly human life, one I would wish for myself if I were working in his place; may it be given with a gesture of respect and gratitude on the part of one who realizes that human labor can never be sufficiently compensated with money and that in this sense we will always remain debtors of those laborers who water our fields with the sweat of their brow, tilling the earth to provide those goods that bring us comfort and well being.
During these days our gaze will be directed to the Sacred Heart, the heart of him who commanded us to love our brothers and that look will fill us with shame if we find ourselves with too much comforts and luxuries while so many of our brothers are lacking even the most essential necessities: what have you done for my little ones? we will hear from the lips of the Master. When we raise our eyes and find them gazing into those of Mary our Mother, she will show us a multitude of her children, most beloved of her heart who suffer from the most total and absolute ignorance; she will show us the conditions of their lives where the practice of virtue is impossible and she will tell us: my children, if you truly love me as a mother, do what you can for these my children who suffer most, and are, for that reason, the most beloved of my heart.
You Christians who enjoy comfortable circumstances, look at those who are overwhelmed by the conditions of their lives; those who have, let them give to those who have nothing: give them justice, give them the service of your time; put your education, your example and your means at their service. As a result of this Congress may our souls be set afire with the desire to love, to love in action and tonight, as we retire to our homes, each one of us must ask ourselves: What have I done for my brothers? What am I doing now? What is Christ asking me to do for him?
Christianity is entirely summed up in the word love: an ardent desire for the happiness of our brothers, not only the eternal happiness of heaven but also everything that will make them better and happier in this life, everything worthy of a son of God. Christianity claims as its own all that is just in the most progressive programs for the recovery of human rights, however audacious these may seem. At the same time it rejects other programs seeking to recover these rights because they ask far too little for our brothers, ignore the truth about human nature and sacrifice the spiritual goods that men need far more than material things, spiritual goods without which they cannot be happy, having been created for the infinite. Man needs bread but before all else he needs faith; he needs material things but even more he needs the ray of light that comes from above to refresh and direct his pilgrimage on earth. And this faith, this light only Christ and his Church can give him. When this light is understood, life acquires another meaning, work is loved, and one struggles with courage and above all with love. The love of Christ has caught fire in these hearts… They will speak of Jesus everywhere and will inflame other souls with the fire of love.
Meditation for youth during Holy Week of 1946.
“I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.” (Jn 10,10)
I have just returned from the greatest country in the world. At least this is what the second greatest, Churchill said concerning North America in the largest and most comfortable hotel on the globe, the Waldorf Astoria. There we have the highest buildings: the Empire State: 102 floors, the Chrysler… Radio City the largest theater is filled from 7 in the morning till the following day. The rivers are crossed through subterranean tunnels; in the cities there are three, four or more levels of transportation… All the records: velocity, four thousand kilometers in four hours. Production, factories that produce five hundred automobiles an hour and hope soon to produce a thousand… Here, today is 46% of the world’s gold; fantastic technical progress: death has been delayed, life prolonged. In Washington a plane takes off every three minutes: the great Constellations can cross all the oceans; millions of automobiles and refrigerators … And as someone has said: So what!
And what was my impression as a whole? That the material is not enough, that civilization does not satisfy, that comfort is a good thing but is not where happiness is found. That it gives too little and costs too much! That these toys cost man his true greatness because the price of all this life-style for the great majority is emptiness, losing touch with the spirit, blindness with respect to the supernatural. The concept of a man of progress who dominates the material can be described as: clean, hygienic, well built for sports, well fed, well clothed, with access to music and an automobile, nice automobiles! Perhaps for some, trips around the world, a comfortable home, a wife for as long as he gets along with her, no prejudices… Eliminate sickness and die at seventy. What more can you ask? And I have just returned from a splendid trip on a cargo ship, nice and slow, the only passenger, with time to pray, think and write… I reflected: Is this all there is?
I look up at these splendid heavens, magnificent, imposing protecting us: again, is this all there is to life? Seventy years to enjoy all these comforts and conveniences? Man is the king of creation, is it all for this? Does the progress of humanity mean only to achieve the possession of a bathroom, a radio, a washing machine, an automobile? Is this the greatness of man? Is there nothing more than this? Is this what life is all about? In the meantime are we not awaiting the next war that we can all sniff on the winds of our times, awaiting it with fear and trembling?
Empire State, Chrysler: how much longer will you stand tall? The Ford, Packard and Chrysler factories, how long will you last? Horrified by the threat of an atomic war, not long ago, Einstein wrote that with the meager means atomic energy now has at its disposal, man has only recently managed to achieve fission and, as a consequence, two thirds of humanity may perish! Is this life? Is this the crowning achievement of man?
And I look at the calm… serene night sky… The stars radiate their gentle light… And these words resound in my ears: “God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son” (Jn 3,16). He loved me, also me! Who? God! The Creator of all energy, of the stars, the earth, of man, of perhaps two thousand generations of men who have lived on the earth and millions more that will come… This immense God before whom insignificant man disappears. How much greater than man He is!
What does God think of man? Of human life? Of the meaning of our existence? Does He condemn these inventions, this progress, this eagerness to discover effective new medicines, fast automobiles, planes that conquer all risk? No. Even more, He is overjoyed with these efforts to better this life of ours. But for those who still have ears to hear despite the noise around them He tells us: “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
Listen, son: It’s me. Who? “I”, Jesus, Son of God and true God. “I”, the eternal God, “have come”: I have journeyed… a very long journey. From the infinite to the finite, a journey so long it scandalizes the wise, discomfits philosophers. From the infinite to the finite! The eternal to the temporal! God to the creature? Yes, that’s it! This journey is very real “I have come.” This is my journey!
For man. The only reason for this journey: man. This minuscule yet great creature? Because though small, he is great. The greatest creature in the universe? Greater than the stars? I have never made a journey for them, even less suffered for them! But for man, yes…
For man, but perhaps you do not understand me: for you man of colour, for you poor Japanese, for you my beloved Chilean, for you high school student in Curico. I do not love the masses, I love each person: a man, a woman… I have come for you!
“That you may have life” Life? What life are you talking about? Life, true life, the only life that can justify God’s journey is divine life: “That we might be called and be sons of God” (1Jn 3,1) We are called and we are truly sons! The eternal God does not make such a journey except to give us a gift of great price: Nothing less than His own divine life, the participation in his nature that He gifts us through Grace.
Do we believe in this life? There are Catholics, like the one I met on my journey who said to me: “Another life? No, Father, you’re joking.” There are Catholics who have never thought about this life… The majority are not concerned about it. They ignore it. And yet this is the only true life: Whoever has this life, truly lives; whoever does not possess it though he be healthy, rich, wise and blessed with friends: he is dead.
“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mt 16,26) “He who wishes to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mk 8,35), goes the old refrain of the Church! The only thing necessary, so great because so old, or better still, so old because it is so great. So necessary, so irreplaceable! The man with all that civilization can offer has not been able to extinguish the echo of these words, and if he should do so he will die, not only to this life but even to his own human life.
“And may they have it in abundance.” There is a poor sort of life, hardly to be called life; a life of infidelity to grace, spiritual deafness, lack of generosity; and there is a rich life, full, fruitful and generous. This is the life that Christ has called us to. This is sanctity. And Christ wants integral Christians, who do not close their souls to any invitation of Grace, that let themselves be possessed by this invading torrent, allow themselves to be taken over by Christ, penetrated by Him. Life is truly life in the measure that Christ is possessed, in the measure that it is Christ. Through knowledge, through love and through service. God wants to make me a saint! He wants twentieth century style saints: Chilean style, high school style, lawyer style but all fully reflecting His life. This is the greatest thing in the world! Greater by far than the Empire State Building, than a Ford factory with a daily production of eight thousand automobiles. Of greater value for humanity than the discovery of atomic energy, or a vaccine or penicillin.
Here it behoves us to say along with the Samaritan woman. “Lord, give me to drink of this water so that I may no longer thirst” (Jn 4,15). Or like Nicodemus: “How can I be born again when I am an old man?” (Jn 3,4). This is God’s gift but one that He desires to give me, because “God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son” (Jn 3,16). If He has given us His only Son, what would He now refuse us? (cf. Rom 8,32). Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Lord, give us life, life in abundance. “The life I await is so great that I die because I cannot die.”
A conference for women given in Viña del Mar in 1946.
The fashionable illness of our times is neurosis. One of the professions with plenty of work is psychiatry… Many of those who believe themselves to be suffering from neurosis are suffering rather from the emptiness of their lives. They have nothing to do, nothing to take them out of themselves. They live concentrated on their interior life, always looking at themselves in the mirror of their thoughts to see how they are: doing well or badly; to see if others esteem them or not; if they looked at them, why did they do so, if not why have they stopped… Castles in the air… built on what others think of them… Neurosis is at the door; life has been colored with sadness forever. Egoism is at the root of the evil! How can this neurosis be cured? Before you go off to a psychiatrist I would advise a person to consult a prudent spiritual director. It is possible that the root of this problem may be a hidden complex buried within since your early years but it is more probable that it is simply an emptiness of life, life without meaning; a soul waiting to be filled, to have its very existence given meaning.
To simply vegetate is so sad! To see the years pass with nothing done! No one to look at you with grateful eyes… nowhere to turn, to look for love.
In this area, Christianity, as in everything else, is not only a law of holiness but also one of spiritual and mental health. For some the Christian moral code is enormously complicated, long, detailed and rather narrow… one easy to violate without even noticing. It is a collection of ordinarily negative laws: don’t do this or that… How can I fill up my life with negations?
Happily, the truth is very different. Christianity is not a collection of prohibitions but a great affirmation… and not many either, one: Love. “God is love” (1Jn 4,8) and the moral of those who have been created in the image and likeness of God, is the moral of Love. Which is the greatest commandment of the Law? Love… and the second is like to the first: love your neighbor as yourself (cf. Mt 22, 37-39). For this reason, Bossuet with his great genius could say: “Let us be Christians, that is to say, let us love our brothers.”
The best way to fill our lives: fill them with love and in doing so we are simply fulfilling the precept of the Master. Shortly before leaving this world and wanting to sum up his teaching in a fundamental precept, he left us these words: “I give you a new commandment: that you love one another… In this all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love one for another”… (cf. Jn 13, 34-35). In this, and only in this the world will know you are my disciples!
The first Christians: How can a man be saved? Loving him, suffering with him, identifying with him, in pain, in his own suffering. Not with discourses that cost nothing to deliver, nor sermons that do not change our lives, but with a clear expression of love! The Church does not need activists but rather witnesses.
This is why I believe that in these difficult times in which we live, God in His immense mercy is going to raise up new spirits. I would not be surprised to see a new congregation dressed in overalls with a vow to work in factories and live in slum areas in order to save the world as we have seen the little Sisters of the Assumption and those of the Holy Cross giving themselves entirely for the redemption of the suffering. I have just finished reading a marvelous work of a priest worker who had himself deported in order to help save his expatriate brothers, a laborer like themselves…
Among all men there are those whom Christ recommends to us in a special way, his poor. Who is my neighbor? a doctor of the Law asked Jesus, who responded: A poor man went down on the road from Jericho… half dead… Go and do the same (cf. Lk 15, 29-37). And the doing or not doing of these works of charity for our neighbor is so important in the eyes of God that it will be the basis of our judgment: I was hungry… I was thirsty… I was in prison…you did not give… (cf. Mt 25, 31-46). Our neighbor, the poor in particular, is Christ in person. Whatever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me. The poor newspaper boys, the shoeshine boy, the tubercular woman, all are Christ. The drunk… don’t be scandalized, he is Christ! To insult him, to despise him, to make fun of him, is to despise Christ. What you do to the least of my brothers that you do to me! This is the reason for the name Hogar de Cristo, the Home of Christ.
There is a great deal of talk these days about the Christian social order and with good reason. This order takes for granted legislation based on the common good, in social justice but it is an order only possible if Christians are filled with a desire to love that is translated into giving. Fewer words and more works. The modern world is anti-intellectual: it believes in what it sees, in concrete deeds.
When the poor see, and feel their pain and look to us Christians; what have they the right to ask of us? Of us who believe that Christ lives in each poor man? Will they accept our faith if they see us keeping all the comforts, hating communism because of what it threatens to take from us rather than for its atheism? What should our attitude be? A social sense! Serve, give, love. Fill your life with these others.
Personal reflection written in November of 1947.
A great apostle is not an activist but, on the contrary, one who at every moment keeps his life under the divine impulse. Each one of our actions has a divine moment, a divine duration, a divine intensity, divine stages, and finally, a divine ending. God begins, God accompanies and God finishes. When our work is perfect it is at the same time all His and all ours. If it is imperfect it is due to our deficiencies, to our failure to keep in contact with God during the duration of the work or because we have moved ahead faster or slower than God. Our activity is not completely fruitful unless we are perfectly submissive to the divine rhythm, my will totally synchronized with the divine will.
Nonetheless, it would be dangerous to take refuge in a sleepy sort of laziness under the pretext of keeping ourselves in contact with God. Part of God’s plan for us is to be squeezed out…Charity impels us in such a way that we cannot refuse the task of consoling the downhearted, helping the poor, visiting the sick, showing gratitude for favors, giving a conference, giving advice, doing an errand, writing an article, organizing a task, all added on to a regular work schedule. If someone has begun to live for God in sacrifice and love for others, all human suffering will be found knocking at your door. If a person has had some success in the apostolate, occasions for the apostolate will multiply for him. If someone has done well in his ordinary responsibilities, he had better prepare himself for greater tasks. That is the way our life and the apostolate function, we find ourselves on a rapidly accelerating course that wears us down, particularly because we do not give ourselves time to repair our physical or spiritual strength… then one day the machine breaks down. And where we thought ourselves indispensable, someone else is put in our place.
If one wishes to zealously protect one’s hours of peace, tranquil prayer, spiritual reading… I fear we will become egoists and unfaithful servants. The charity of Christ impels us to surrender, action by action, all our activity, to make ourselves all things to all men (cf. 2Cor 5,14; 1Cor 9,22). Can we continue on our way with a tranquil conscience each time we find an agonizing victim in our path, one for whom we are “his only neighbor”?
But with it all, pray, pray. Christ retired frequently to the mount; before beginning his ministry he escaped for forty days to the desert. Christ saw clearly the divine plan but achieved only a part of it; he wished to save all men; nonetheless he lived among them for only three years. Christ had no need to reflect in order to fulfill the will of the Father; he knew the whole plan, its totality and each of its details. Nonetheless, he went apart to pray. He wished to give the Father the pure homage of all his time, to preoccupy himself entirely with Him, to praise Him alone and return all things to Him. He wished to reunite in his merciful heart all human misery, make it his own, feel oppressed by it, and weep over it before his Father, alone and in silence. Christ did not permit himself to be dragged down by activity. More than anyone else he ardently desired the salvation of his brothers; nonetheless, he withdrew from the world and prayed.
We are only disciples and sinners. How will we be able to achieve the divine plan if we do not pause frequently to rest our inner gaze on Christ, on God? Our plans, that should be part of God’s plan, must be revised and corrected every day.
After acting we must return continuously to prayer to find ourselves and to find God; to become conscious, without passion, of whether we are in fact walking in the divine path, to hear once again the call of the Father, to tune into the divine air waves, to unfurl our sails in accord with the winds of the Spirit. Our apostolic plans need control, all the more if we are generous. How many times we have wanted to embrace too much! more than our arms are capable of including!
In order to keep in contact with God, to maintain ourselves always under the impulse of the Spirit so that we may construct only according to the desire of Christ, it is necessary to impose periodic restrictions on one’s apostolic program. Action becomes harmful when it interrupts our union with God. We are not talking about a felt sense of union but true union, fidelity to the divine will, even in the details. Balance in the apostolic life can only be achieved in prayer. The saints keep perfect balance between prayer and action which are completely harmonized to the extent that they cannot be separated, but all of them have demanded of themselves hours, days even months of dedication to contemplation.
Having given to God the complete gift of itself, the soul must naturally live this life of prayer. Many lose years and years in cheating or holding back something from God. The majority of spiritual directors do not insist enough in the complete gift of oneself. They leave the soul in a mediocre type of behavior: they ask and offer pious practices, complicated prayers. This is not sufficient to empty a soul of itself; this does not fill the soul, nor perceive its true dimensions, nor flood it with God. Only a total love dilates the soul to its true measure. It is through the gift of itself that it must begin, continue and terminate.
To give oneself is the fulfillment of justice; it is to offer oneself and all one has; it is to direct all one’s capacities for action toward the Lord; it is to dilate one’s heart and firmly direct the will toward Him who awaits us; to give oneself is to love forever and as completely as one is capable of so doing. When one has given oneself, everything seems simple. One has found liberty and experiences the truth of St. Augustine’s words: Love and do what you will.
An autobiographical reflection, written in November of 1947.
On my path I have encountered one of those ardent apostles, always joyful despite their weariness and failure. I asked him for the secret of his life. A bit surprised, he opened his soul to me. Here is his secret:
You ask me how I balance my life; I ask myself the same thing. Day by day I am more and more devoured by work: correspondence, the telephone, articles, visits; the grinding gears of work, congresses, study weeks, conferences promised because of an inability to say “no” or the desire to do some good; budgets to meet; decisions that must be taken in the face of unexpected events. The race to see who will arrive first in this or that urgent apostolate. I am often like a rock that is beaten on all sides by the towering waves. There is no way out but up. For an hour, for a day I let the waves thrash against the rock; I do not look toward the horizon, I only look up to God.
O blessed active life, all of it consecrated to my God, all of it dedicated to others, its very excess leading me to find myself resorting to God! He is the only possible escape from my concerns, my only refuge.
There are black hours that come as well. The attention pulled continually in so many directions that there comes a moment when one can do no more: the body cannot follow the will. Many times it has obeyed but now it cannot… The head seems empty and aches, ideas do not connect, imagination doesn’t function, and memory seems incapable of remembrance. Who has not known hours like these?
Nothing is left but to resign oneself for days, months perhaps even years. Here obstinacy is useless: surrender is demanded; and so, as in all difficult moments, I escape to God, I give Him my whole being and my love for His fatherly providence, though I lack even words to speak with Him. O and how I have understood His goodness even in these moments! In my daily work it was Him I was seeking but it seems to me that although my life was already surrendered to Him, I did not live sufficiently for him… but now yes… in my days of suffering, I have only Him before my eyes, only Him in my exhaustion and my inadequacy.
New pain awaits me in these hours of inadequacy. The work entrusted to me, gravely threatened; my collaborators also worn out by their efforts; those who should assist us intensify their misunderstanding; our friends turn their backs on us or discourage us; the masses who had given us their confidence, now take it away; our enemies swell with victorious pride against us; the situation becomes desperate; materialism triumphs, all our projects for Christ fall apart.
Have we been deceived? Haven’t we been workers for the cause of Christ? Will the Church in our time, at least in our country, resist so many blows? But faith still directs my gaze toward God. Surrounded by darkness, I nonetheless escape toward the light.
I feel filled with almost infinite hope in God. My concerns are dispelled. I abandon them in Him. I entirely abandon everything in His hands. I belong to him and He cares for all and for me. My soul reappears at last, tranquil and serene. The worries of yesterday, the thousand concerns that “the kingdom come” and even the great torment of only moments before that one’s enemies might triumph… everything gives place to the tranquillity of God, ineffably possessed in the most spiritual part of my soul. God the immoveable rock against whom all waves break in vain. God the perfect splendour that no stain can tarnish; God the definitive victor, is within me. I reach Him with all plenitude at the end of my love. All my soul is now in Him, in a moment, as though carried off in Him. I am bathed in his light. He penetrates me with His strength. He loves me.
Without Him I am nothing. I simply would not exist. The optimism that had abandoned me during those days when evil seemed to triumph, has now returned. The Church is victorious in each of her children. The Church of God is established and triumphs through the heroic work of its saints; through the prayers of its contemplatives; through the humble acceptance of the work of nature by mothers and by the tenderness and faith realized in their homes; through the education of those who teach and the docility of those who listen. Through long hours in factories, on ships, in the sun and rain in the fields; through the work of the father who fulfills his daily duty. Through the resistance of landlords, politicians and heads of unions to the temptations of money, the dishonest act that would enrich them; through the sacrifice of the tubercular widow who must leave her small children to unite herself to the crucified Christ; through the energies of the Young Christian Workers who know how to remain joyful and pure in the midst of egoism ad corruption; through the offerings of the poor who give what is needed… The Church at every moment constructs and triumphs.
No, this is not the time for despair. God uses even His enemies to establish His Kingdom. For their will is not totally evil nor is their reason totally obscured. When they see and desire what is good, which they certainly do, they also join with us in the construction, they are instruments of God.
For the Christian the situation is never desperate. By the light we receive from on high, by the gift that each gives of himself, we construct the Church. Its triumph will not be achieved until after many harsh battles.
Thus far spoke my friend. Now he is silent as though discomfited at having opened up his soul so profoundly. I sense that he has nothing more to tell me, but I have understood his lesson: If I consistently find him happy, always courageous, it is not because there is an absence of difficulties, but because in the midst of them, he knows how to escape to God. His smile and his optimism come from heaven.
Discourse to youth gathered on the summit of San Cristobal Hill, on the eve of the feast of Christ the King, October, 1938.
My dear young men:
The impressive ceremony we are celebrating tonight is full of the deepest significance. High on this hill, under the gaze of God our Father and protected by the motherly mantle of Mary who raises her hands on high to intercede for us, we have come together, on fire with enthusiasm, ardent youth, carrying radiant torches, souls full of fire and love while at the foot of the hill, the great city lies in the terrible silence of the night.
This scene reminds me of another which occurred almost two thousand years ago, on a mountain top, at nightfall… On the heights, Jesus and his apostles, at the foot of the mountain a great crowd and far off, the regions already buried in the obscure darkness of the night of the spirit (cf. Ps 106, 10). Profoundly moved at the terrible sight of souls without the light, Jesus tells his apostles: “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5,14). You are responsible for illuminating this night for souls, for inflaming them, for transforming this heat into life, new life, pure life, eternal life…
And you, my very dear young men, Jesus now shows you this city that lies at your feet and how he pities it: “I have compassion of the crowd” (Mk 5,14). While you though many, - at the same time far too few- have kept your appointment here on the heights… Many, so many… at this moment are soiling their souls, crucifying Christ anew in their hearts, in places of pleasure overflowing with weak youth, youth without ideals, without enthusiasm, anxious only for pleasure even at the cost of the life of their souls…! If Jesus were to appear at this moment in the midst of us, gazing with pity and extending his hands with compassion over Santiago and over Chile, he would say to you: “I have compassion on the crowd…” (Mk 8, 2).
There at our feet lies an immense crowd of people who do not know Christ, who have been educated for years and years without ever hearing the name of God pronounced, nor the holy name of Jesus.
I have no doubt that if Christ were to descend this night on San Cristobal, churning with emotions, he would gaze upon the darkened city and repeat the same words: “I have compassion on it”, and turning to you all he would say with infinite tenderness: “You are the light of the world… You must bring light to this darkness. Do you wish to collaborate with me? Do you wish to be my apostles?”
This is the ardent calling that the Master gives to youth today. And if they should decide to answer! Even if they were only a few… A small number of intelligent, convinced workers could influence the salvation of our nation… But how difficult it is in some places to find even this reduced number! The majority of people remain with their pleasures, in their concerns… Changing their lives, dedicating themselves to work for the salvation of souls... it cannot be done, there is no will nor desire…
How many are called by Christ during these wonderful soaring years of youth! They listen, they seem to doubt for a few moments. But the torrent of life drags them along. But you, my dear young people have responded to Christ, you wish to be among those chosen, you desire to be apostles… But to be an apostle does not signify wearing some insignia on your jacket; it does not mean talking about the truth, but living it, becoming incarnated in it, transformed in Christ. To be an apostle does not mean to carry a torch, to possess the light, but to be light…
More than a lesson, the Gospel is an example. It is a message converted into a living being. “The Word was made flesh” (Jn 1,14) “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched, this we proclaim to you” Cf.1Jn1,1-3). The Word, the divine Message has been incarnated: Life has manifested itself. We must be like pure crystals in order that the light may shine through us. “You who see, what have you done with the light? (Claudel)
My dear young people, an integrally Christian life is the only way to radiate Christ. Therefore, it is necessary to have a Christian life in your home, a Christian life with the poor who surround us, a Christian life with your companions, a Christian life in your relations with young women… a Christian life in your profession, a Christian life in the theater, at the dance and in sports.
Christianity means an entire life of giving, a transformation in Christ, or it is a ridiculous parody worthy of laughter and scorn.
And this transformation in Christ presupposes identification with the Master, even in his hours on Calvary. For this reason, one who does not suffer crucifixion with Christ for at least a short time cannot be an apostle. Therefore those who reduce the apostolate, Catholic Action, mainly to a spectator sport of discourses and ostentatious manifestations will accomplish nothing. These functions are good and serve a purpose but they are not the coronation of the work, but only the beginning, a gathering of enthusiasm, a mutual lifting up of spirits, an accompanying of Christ even in the hours of his passion and with him, mounting the cross.
Before you descend the mount, I ask you, my dear young men, in the name of Christ: Can you drink the bitter chalice of the apostolate? Can you accompany Jesus in his pain, in the tedium of a work continued in perseverance? Can you? If you hesitate, if you do not feel courageous enough to stand out from the masses, these vague, formless and mediocre masses, if like the young man in the Gospel you feel sad in face of the sacrifices that Christ is asking… then renounce the beautiful title of coworker and friend of Christ.
O Lord! If in this multitude that has come together at your feet, the flame of generous desire should break forth and if they should say with all sincerity: “Lord, take and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, all my will, all I have and possess I consecrate it all entirely to your service, to radiate your life, content with no other reward than that of serving you and like these torches that consume themselves in our hands, to be consumed for Christ…” They will renew in Chile the marvels achieved by the apostles in the pagan society they conquered for Jesus.
Meditation on the Holy Eucharist
I. The Eucharist as sacrifice
The Eucharistic sacrifice is the renewal of the sacrifice of the cross. Just as in the cross, all are incorporated into Christ, in the same way all are immolated in Christ and with Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
This is actualized in two ways. The first is to offer to the heavenly Father as our own, the immolation of Jesus Christ, for it is ours as well. The second way is more practical, it consists in adding to the Eucharistic sacrifice our own personal immolations, sacrificing our works and difficulties, our evil inclinations, crucifying our old selves with Christ. In this way, in participating personally in the victimhood of Jesus Christ, we are transformed into the divine Victim. As the bread is truly transubstantiated into the body of Christ, in the same way all the faithful are transubstantiated spiritually with Jesus Christ, Victim. In this way, our personal immolations are elevated to become Eucharistic immolations of Jesus Christ, who as head, assumes and makes his own the immolations of his members.
What horizons are thus opened to the Christian life! The Mass would become the center of the day and of life itself. With our gaze on the Eucharistic sacrifice, we would always be hoarding sacrifices to be made and offered in the Mass .
My Mass is my life, and my life is a prolonged Mass!
II. The Eucharist as the center of the Christian life
We have the Church through the Eucharist and through the Church we come to God. Each man is saved not by himself, not by his own merits but through the society in which he lives, through the Church, source of all his benefits. Without the Eucharist, the Church on earth is without Christ. Reason and the senses see nothing in the Eucharist but bread and wine, but faith guarantees us the infallible certitude of the divine revelation. The words of Jesus are clear: “This is my Body, this is my Blood” and the Church understands them literally, not as symbols. Catholics believe with all their mind and with all their strength that “the body, the blood and the divinity of the incarnate Word” are truly and really present on the altar through the omnipotence of God.
The Eucharistic Christ is identified with the historical Christ and the eternal Christ. There are not two Christs, but only one. In the host we possess the Christ of the sermon on the mount, the Christ of Magdalene, the one who rested at the well of Jacob with the Samaritan woman, the Christ of Tabor and Gethsemane, the Christ who rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father. The Christ of the Church on earth and the Christ who contemplates the beatitudes in heaven is the same Christ: there is but one Church, but one Christ !
This marvelous presence of Christ in our midst should revolutionize our life. We have nothing to envy in the apostles and the disciples of Jesus who walked with him in Judea and Galilee. He is still here with us. In every city, in every village, in each of our churches; he visits our homes carried on the heart of the priest, and we receive him each time we draw near to the sacrament of the Altar.
A soul that has not suffered remains superficial. In the mystery of Christ there are divine depths where only crucified souls, identified with Christ, can penetrate. Authentic sanctity is always consummated on the cross. He who wishes to communicate profitably, let him offer each morning a drop of his own blood for the chalice of redemption.
III. The Eucharist and the aspirations of men
The great work of Christ which he came to earth to accomplish was the redemption of mankind. And this redemption, in concrete form, was accomplished through sacrifice. The entire life of the historical Christ is a sacrifice and a preparation for the culmination of this sacrifice in his cruel immolation on Calvary. The entire life of the mystical Christ is none other than that of the historical Christ and must likewise tend toward sacrifice, to the renewal of that great moment in the history of humanity that was the first Mass, celebrated during twenty hours, initiated in the Cenacle and completed on Calvary.
All sanctity flows from the sacrifice of Calvary, it is this that opens the doors for all supernatural benefits. All the most sublime aspirations of man, all of them are realized in the Eucharist.
1. Happiness: Man desires happiness and happiness is the possession of God. In the Eucharist, God gives Himself without reserve, without measure; and on the disappearance of the Eucharistic accidents we are left in the soul of the Blessed Trinity, reward promised to those who eat his Body and drink his Blood.
2. To be like unto God: Man has always aspired to be like to God, to be transformed into God, the sublime aspiration that has dogged his steps since the Garden of Eden. And in the Eucharist, this change is produced: man is transformed into God, is assimilated by divinity which possesses him; he can with all truth say with St. Paul: “I live now not I but Christ lives in me”(Gal 2,20).
3. To do great things: Man desires to do great things for humanity; but how could he do anything greater than to unite himself with Christ in the Eucharist? By offering Mass he saves the world and glorifies God the Father in the most sublime act that a man can perform. The priest and the faithful are one with Christ,”through Christ, with Christ and in Christ” we offer and are offered to the Father.
4. In the union of charity: Our union of charity is realized at the most intimate level in the Mass. The prayer of Christ, “Father, may they be one… may they be made perfect in unity” (Jn 17, 22-23) is realized in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
If only we went to Mass to renew the sacred drama, to offer ourselves at the offertory with the bread and the wine that are to be transformed into Christ and to ask for our transformation! The consecration would then be the central element of our Christian life. We would be conscious that we are no longer ourselves but that behind our human appearance lives Christ and that he desires to act in us…
And as for Communion, this gift of Christ to us which demands our profound gratitude, it would bring with it a total gift of ourselves to Christ as he gives himself; and to our brothers, as Christ gave himself to us.
We do not go to communion as a reward, nor is it a formal ceremony, we go to look for Christ so that “through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ” we may realize the great commands, achieve our fundamental aspirations, accomplish the great works of charity… After communion to remain faithful to the great transformation that has taken us over. To live our day as Christ would, to be Christ for ourselves and for the others. This is the meaning of Communion.
Retreat meditation on the Christian meaning of death.
The life of man fluctuates between two poles. The adoration of God or the adoration of “ego”; the service of God or the struggle against God. To appreciate the true values in play in this struggle, there is nothing more useful than to meditate on death, this is not suggesting a terror-filled contemplation, but very much the contrary, a vision of encouragement and hope. There are two ways of looking at death: one purely human and the other Christian.
1. The human concept considers death as a great destruction, the end of everything. It is a concept pervaded with sadness (the stoic philosophers took their own lives in order to be as totally in control of their passing away as they wished to be during their lives). From earliest times man has felt fear and dread in the face of death. No one knows death from personal experience and of those who have already passed on, none has returned to tell us what it is like. They have entered into an eternal silence.
Death is ordinarily preceded by a painful sickness, accompanied by a growing incapacity that finally becomes total. Those who surround the dying person contemplate in complete passivity how this beloved person is being drawn toward the inevitable void. When we wish to follow him with our gaze, we feel as though he were being consumed by nothingness.
In the midst of living we do not seem so alone before God. There are other beings, who though fragile, offer us refuge where we can hide, but at the moment of death there is no remaining place where we can hide: the soul is pulled out and thrown on the eternal plains where nothing remains except itself and its God.
2. The Christian concept of death is enormously richer and deeply consoling: death for the Christian is the moment of finding God, a God for whom he has searched all his life. Death for a Christian is the meeting between son and Father; it is intelligence finding the supreme truth, and taking possession of the highest good. Death is not death.
We will see Him face to face, see our God who today is hidden. We will see his Mother, our sweet Mother the Virgin Mary. We will see the saints, His friends who will now be our friends; we will find our parents and relatives, all those who have preceded us. During our earthly life we were unable to penetrate the intimate depths of their hearts but in Glory we will see without darkness or misunderstandings. Many ask if we will know our loved ones in the next life. Knowing how God acts, wouldn’t it be a strange mockery of his whole way of dealing with us if he were to put such ardent devotion in our hearts for loved ones who mean more to us than our very selves, only to find that love disappear with death? Everything that is ours will accompany us in the next life. God does not break the ties that he has created. But above all, the great gift of heaven is to be present before God. What more can I need!
What surprise and joy awaits the Christian at the end of his earthly life, on seeing that his trial is over? The sufferings have passed and what he has struggled and sacrificed for has arrived. What a cheap price for eternal Glory! A few difficult years, but how short they were! What a contemptible thing human life is seen in itself! How great when you consider the eternal effects! It is like a small, contemptible seed that germinates and matures for eternity! This life is precious to the extent that it reveals in its shadows and figures, the existence and the attributes of the all-powerful God. It is precious because it allows us to relate with immortal souls who, like us, are subject to their own trial, it is precious because it allows us to help them to know Christ and to remove those obstacles that the world places in the path of grace.
Sufferings? In this life we will have sufferings but they are not to be seen as punishment alone, any more than death should be. It is beautiful to suffer for Christ. He first suffered for us. He came down from heaven to earth to seek for what could not be found in heaven: suffering, and he took it upon himself without measure for love of mankind. He took it upon his soul, in his imagination, in his heart, in his body and in his spirit because “he loved me, and delivered himself to death for me” (cf. Gal 2,20). After him, Mary, his Mother and mine, is Queen of Heaven because she loved and suffered.
Life has been given to men to cooperate with God, to achieve His plan; death is the complement to this partnership because it is the surrender of all our powers into the hands of the Creator. May each day be a preparation for my death, surrendering myself, minute by minute to the work of collaboration that God asks of me, fulfilling my mission, what God expects of me, what He cannot do without me.
Death is the great counselor of man. It shows us what is essential in life, as a tree in winter once despoiled of its leaves shows its trunk. We die each day as the waters draw closer, moment-by-moment, to the waiting arms of the sea. May our daily dying be what illuminates our most important decisions: in its light the resolutions we have to take, the sacrifices we must make and the perfection we must embrace appear radiantly clear.
The great stimulus in life and in its struggle is death: a powerful motive to give myself to God for God. And while the pagan will begin nothing out of the fear of death, the Christian is in a hurry to work because his time is brief, because the time is running out before he must present himself before the One who has given him everything, to the One who loves him more than he loves himself. Hurry my soul! Do something great and beautiful! If we understand death in this way we will understand perfectly why, for a Christian, his meditation does not inspire fear, to the contrary, it brings joy, the only authentic joy.
My brothers, I believe that the meditation on death has not been for us a meditation filled with fear but one of consolation. Why fear it? Why be fearful of abandoning this deceitful world, we who have been baptized for the world to come? Why be anxious for a long life of riches, honors, and comforts, those of us who know that heaven will be all that we desire of the best, and not only in appearance but in reality and for always? Why put our confidence in this world when it is no more than an image, a symbol of that other real world? Why content ourselves with the surface instead of appropriating the treasure it hides beneath?
For those with faith everything they see speaks to them of another world, the beauty of nature, the sun, the moon, everything is but a figure that offers testimony of the invisible beauty of God. Everything we see is destined to flower one day, destined to be immortal Glory.
Today heaven is beyond our sight, but we will see it, and, like snow, that melts and shows us what it hides; in the same way, visible creation will vanish before the great majesties that dominate it. On that day the clouds will disappear; the sun will pale before the light for which it has been nothing more than an image, the Sun of Justice, who will come in visible form, “like a bridegroom coming forth from his tent” (Ps 19,6). These thoughts should make us pray ardently: “Come Lord Jesus” (Rev 22,20).
My dear young couple:
In the few words I want to speak to you at this moment, I would like to take as my theme the desire for Christian happiness. Christianity is nothing more than a message of happiness. And if you remember the sermon on the mount which you have read together, undoubtedly many times, you will find there these beautiful words of Christ our Lord with which he begins. Blessed - this is the word that is repeated. The Lord does not tire of repeating what he came on earth to bring: Beatitude, peace, happiness, joy. This is the entire Christian message!
And if we look at the life of the Church which is the realization of the message of Christ, it is nothing less than the introduction of man into the divine happiness. Baptism makes us children of God and introduces us to the divine life because it makes us participate in the life of God; the Eucharist, the feast we celebrate today, is nothing less than the participation of the soul in the Body and Blood of Christ in order to unite us more intimately with him; all the sacraments have this meaning: to prepare the soul for union with God, source of all happiness.
And in what does happiness consist, my dear young couple? The Lord Jesus gives us the norm of Christian happiness: Christian happiness consists in the gift of self. For this reason Jesus tells us “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (cf. Acts 20,35). And if we look at God, source of all happiness, God is He who gives. Let us look at the intimate life of the Holy Trinity: the Father, fount of all being and of all joy, gives His own being to his Son, begotten from all eternity, and the Father and the Son give themselves mutually in an eternal love which is the Holy Spirit. Here is the source of all happiness.
And this God supremely rich in His solitude, accompanied in his solitude - which is the Trinity- is not satisfied with this mutual giving of the Three Persons but resolves to create and they create the world out of love. And all that we see is nothing else but the self-giving of God, we ourselves are a gift of God, and the entire world is God’s self-giving to us.
And this law of happiness, my dear young couple, is the law of Christian joy in marriage, and for this reason I give you the subsequent norm: give yourselves mutually one to the other. Christian matrimony is a competition of self-giving.
Happiness has only one norm: Give yourself, surrender yourself, and for this reason if in our lives there happens what happens in every human life no matter how beautiful, noble or generous it might be, some little cloud covers the sun of love, then be quick to be the first to offer pardon to the other, to suffer for the other. In praying together at night, when the light of day begins to fade, quietly in prayer over the sufferings of the day, put yourselves at the feet of Christ and beg for the happiness of the beloved.
My dear young people, in a Christian home, a home blessed by Christian happiness, children are desired, they are prayed for, they are awaited and you suffer for these children from this very moment and thus begin to accumulate a treasure for them, more than material goods, it is a treasure of virtues, a treasure of gratitude, a treasure of prayer in order that when they arrive in this world they will find themselves rich with the spiritual riches of their parents. And I am certain, my dear young couple, that the children, no matter how many God wishes to send you, will never exhaust this desire to give yourselves.
And beyond your home, there are those whom you loved before coming together, the poor, those who suffer, those in pain, the common good, the nation. None of these endeavors should cease in your life as husband and wife. On the contrary, you must be stronger, more magnanimous in continuing your generosity with these works. You will not work alone now, you will be accompanied. And if the work is difficult, thankless and at moments discouraging, you now have a new strength in your mutual love. You will have renewed strength also in those children that will come to sustain you in these endeavors for the good of others because they will inherit this precious tradition of a life that is not consumed egotistically within the four walls of their home but which desires to give itself as God does. As I said at the start, God gives himself, God is permanent self-giving.
My dear young couple, before your marriage there was something that always kept you animated, Jesus, the example of self giving, may he continue to animate your life together. Read the Gospel together, never cease to do this. Hopefully you will read it together from the very first night of your life together. In these beautiful pages you will find the example of the life of God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (cf. Jn 3,16) and of this Son of God on earth who did nothing less than give to men his words, his example and his life. When he had nothing left to give, he gave his own mother. And before taking his leave of us he left as a supreme remembrance what the Church celebrates today: the gift of his own Body and his own Blood that it might be the spiritual food of our souls.
And together with Jesus you have the Virgin, the sweet Mother Mary, she who presides at this altar. The altar before which you have come together to receive the Eucharistic Body of Jesus. This, your Mother, gazes at you from this blessed altar, she looks at you from heaven and she assures you of all possible blessings for your new home. This is the reason, Teresita, for the rosary that you have in your hand, may you pray its beads each evening together with your husband and tomorrow with your children and hopefully with the poor who live near you. May you pray fifty times each night to the sweet Virgin Mary, the Mother of Love: “Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.”
I am certain, my dear young couple, that these desires have already begun to be realized because the Christian happiness that I wish for you, I am certain already inundates your hearts for it bursts forth in your souls.
We live in this world at a moment when men appear to have lost confidence in themselves, the confidence that they can be happy. May they see in your home that happiness is a reality, that it is a gift of God to earth enjoyed by those of good will, people like yourselves and all those who put their happiness in God.
Joseph, I am sure that you would like to say to Teresita those words of the Christian poet to his wife: “Come virgin soul, to the friendly lament of a man’s soul that awaits anxiously for you, because it has a premonition that with you will come the modesty of the pure virgin and the chaste love of the loyal wife.”
Conference for the youth of Catholic Action
The topic of priestly vocations could not be of greater importance for the Church, given the mission of the priest. Christ confided to the priest the administration of his sacraments which in the Church are the ordinary path and the means par excellence for the reception of Grace. The celebration of Holy Mass, which is the renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross on our altars, is the most excellent of all acts carried out under heaven, the act that gives the greatest glory to God, more than any apostolic works, sacrifices and prayers… and this act, the center of Christian life, can only be realized by priests. The purification of souls soiled by sin has been confided to the priest. In those countries in which the Catholic priest has disappeared, the Church has disappeared as well…
The problem of the priestly vocation is a Christian problem in every sense of the word, a problem that is of interest not only to a chosen few who can study this vocation but also for all Christians. A problem for parents who wish to give a Christian education to their children; a problem for youth who need a guide during those difficult years to direct them in the crisis of adolescence; a problem for the poor who need a father concerned for their necessities; a problem for those who aspire to form a home, who need a guide for their conscience, spiritual directors; a problem for those who have no faith - a problem which they themselves do not perceive and, for that reason, one that is all the more fearful - who need someone to selflessly lend them a hand; a problem for the sick who search in vain for someone to encourage them to enter into eternity with serenity, who will console their family and friends. The whole of Christian life is filled with the presence of the priest and all of us should interest ourselves in this problem because their number grows ever smaller but above all we should desire that they might grow in spirit.
May they be saints, but also may they be numerous, because the apostolic activity of every man has a limit and once this limit is passed, his strength can reach no further… then so many others will remain without the help they seek.
Pessimists and Optimists
Conference given to women in Viña del Mar in 1946.
A curious thing, a cruel paradox. Never before has the world shown such desire for pleasure yet never before has there been greater collective suffering than that seen today. To the natural hunger for pleasure proper to man, there has been added a series of discoveries that promise to make this life a paradise: the radio that gladdens the solitary hours; the cinema that harmonizes in a fantastic way human beauty, the charm of landscape, the sweetness of music, all woven together in dramatic arguments that enrapture the viewer entirely; the airplane that permits us to be in Buenos Aires, New York, London or Rome in the space of a few hours… the solitude of the Andes Mountains invaded by thousands of tourists enjoying yet a new form of pleasure: the vertigo of danger; the press that enters all doors, even the best guarded, stimulated by curiosity, tempted by the possibility of a story and photographs. Parties, excursions, casinos, regattas, all for pleasure… Nonetheless, a curious fact, the world is sadder now than ever before; it has been necessary to invent medical techniques to cure sadness. In the face of this contemporary anguish many solutions are sought on a daily basis.
Some solutions of the evasive sort. In its minimal form: escape in order to think, to stupefy oneself… The radio, automobile, the casino and games of chance all function well as solutions of this type, to the ruin of the interior life! One keeps, I dare not say occupied but perhaps busy doing something, that permits us to escape from ourselves, to evade our problems, to avoid difficulties. It is the eternal policy of the ostrich. Take the tourists who come to our beautiful beaches, what else are they doing here in summer except this. Beach, shower, sun bathing, a drink before lunch, lunch, games, terrace, a movie, casino, on and on until one’s eyes close in sleep only to awaken the next day to continue, not to enjoy but to stupefy oneself. This policy of evasion leads some even further, to morphine, to opium which is becoming acceptable, to alcohol, far too acceptable and even to suicide. I will never forget one that I myself witnessed in Valparaiso.
Others, deeper thinkers, do not follow the path of evasion but rather confront the problem philosophically and arrive at doctrines that consist in a classification of pessimism.
For both groups, the bottom line, acknowledged or not, is that life is sad, a great suffering that ends with a great failure: death. Nonetheless, life is not sad but joyful, the world is not a desert but a garden; we are born not to suffer but to enjoy; the goal of life is not to die but to live. What philosophy teaches us this doctrine? Christianity!
There are two ways of looking at yourself in this life: as the product of matter, the evolution of matter, son of the monkey, niece of the tree, grandson of the rock or, from another point of view as the Son of God. To put it another way, as a product of spontaneous generation, of the inorganic, or rather as the result of the Love of a God all powerful and the source of all good.
It is clear that for the person who considers himself the son of matter and only matter, the panorama cannot be very consoling. Matter has neither human depth, nor heart, nor ears to hear the pleas of others, nor eyes to see their tears.
But for him who knows that his life does not come from nothingness but from God, the change is total. I am the work of God’s hands. He is responsible for my life. And I know that God is Beauty. All the beauty of the universe is drawn from Him as from its source. The flowers, the fields, the heavens are beautiful because, as St. John of the Cross says: “He passed by these groves, pouring out his graces, leaving them clothed in his beauty.”
The Christian does not pass through the world with his eyes closed, but rather wide open, and he rejoices, he delights and his spirit is stretched and enlarged by nature, music and all the arts because he knows that all these are footprints of God, that all is beautiful and the flowers do not wither… because their most complete and ultimate beauty is to be found in God alone.
God is love, says St. John in an attempt to define Him, and we have placed our confidence in the love of God (1Jn 4,8.16). All that love has of beauty, of tenderness: between father and son, husband and wife, friend and friend, all this we will find in Him, for He is friend, lover and even more, Father. We are so accustomed to this revelation of the divine paternity that it doesn’t surprise us. God, Lord, yes, but Father? A real Father? And really, He is truly Father: “So that we may be called and be the sons of God” (1Jn 3,1). When you pray… My Father and our Father! Father who provides us with clothing and food, Father who receives us with open arms despite our sinful failures as His sons. If we take this idea with profound seriousness, how can we fail to be optimists in this life?
Suffering and pain: not even death itself can dim the profound joy of the Christian. How the ancients feared death! The great defeat! On the other hand, for the Christian it is not a defeat but a victory: the moment when we will see God. This life has been given us to search for God, death to find Him and eternity to possess Him. The moment arrives when after walking the path, one arrives at the end. The son finds his Father and throws himself into His arms, arms of love that were nailed to the cross that they might never be closed. He enters into the side pierced with a lance to show his love; from it flowed the blood which redeems and the water that purifies (cf. Jn 19,34).
If the journey seems heavy to us let us think that perhaps the end is near. In our journey from Santiago to Viña, we are perhaps arriving in Quilpué… And if we think that the time left is short, we will hurry our steps, we will do the good with greater enthusiasm, make our brothers participants in our joy because the end is near. The opportunity to suffer for Christ will come to an end, let us take advantage of the last drops of bitterness, drink them down with love.
And so, let us be contented, always contented. The Church and Christian homes should always be centers of joy and a Christian, always joyful, for a saint who is sad is a sad saint. Short prayers from the bottom of the heart, contented Lord, contented. And in order to be content, always tell God: “Yes, Father.” Christ is the source of our joy. To the extent that we live in him, we will live happily.
To Live forever
Meditation for youth during Holy Week, written in 1946.
1. Man wants to live.
The most profound longing of our spirit is to live. If one experiences beauty, one longs to continue possessing it. Those who commit suicide do not do so out of hatred for life, but because of its sadness. This is why nature resists death. It is difficult to die, man defends himself -”do not lose hope”-. And those who believe men die, weep because of death and dress in mourning to honor the dead. Because man does not wish to die, but to live.
Nonetheless, to our eyes everything seems to be death, separation and suffering! One must be very young or very holy not to experience pain and suffering. “With pain you shall give birth. You will earn your bread with the sweat of your brow. All the days of your life you will cultivate the ground with toil but thorns and thistles it will yield to you. You will have sickness and misery. You will die…” The child is born crying… man dies with a grimace of terrible pain. Sickness, can anyone escape it? In Chile alone there are 400,000 people who suffer from tuberculosis… Kings and presidents become ill… And death, is there anyone who has escaped it?
I visited the Ford Factory under the management of Henry Ford II, a Catholic. His father, still young, had just died. There were 300,000 men working for him and Henry Ford II will also die… His wife went to her marriage ceremony in a bus in order not to crumple her wedding dress, the dress is now crumpled, she will also die … Only her beautiful soul will survive!
Economic ruins. War has made this so common that no one is now impressed. Those magnificent cities, the glory of the world, now nothing but a mountain of ruins. Those men who yesterday were rich, today are dressed in paper… Goering, Hess and the Emperor of Japan on the side of the conquered. Mussolini and Hitler, Europe’s masters of yesterday. They spoke, they commanded, they ruled. Where are they today?
The faculties of the brain are depleted, they diminish: the keenness of sight is lost, hearing impaired: the harmonies of music are not perceived, the eyes no longer delight in colors, the feet can no longer carry one to the mountains… ideas become obscure, and a man must climb the last rungs of the ladder of life alone, sad and melancholic. After considering a life where there has been much pain, crisis and agonizing discord, it is easy at times to think it has been a total failure. We believe in love then see the police trying to separate our children; union is preached yet we observe disputes over a scrap of gold… Is this living? Can an existence like this satisfy us?
2. The greatness of our spirit.
Our soul is spiritual, created by God to His image and likeness. Like Him in its nature and like Him in its tendencies: with an irresistible hunger for what is good, for kindness, for beauty, for truth: always asking more and more.
Everything here below tires it, cannot fill it. No matter how great the love, there remains always the desire for something more. For this reason man is the king of creation. He is the only one capable of understanding and reaching out to the infinite. To live… to remember our destiny. The infinite. That which has no limits to its perfection.
God who is beautiful, more beautiful than the rising sun; tender, more than a mother; loving and intimate, more than the most heavenly moment in love; strong, robust, magnificent in His grandeur. Holy, holy, holy, without blemish. What more could I dream in the most outrageous of raptures? This dream will become real in all that it possesses of beauty, and much more… Understanding, tenderness, intimacy, company?… Yes, you will have them all and without limit!
And eternity… not in the shadow of seconds, or years of seconds, but for always. Without end! To live forever. To look at eternity in those moments of depression. This will pass… But not that! This is only for an hour but that is forever.
To look at my life in the light of eternity… My loves in the light of eternity… My profession… the use of my time… in the light of eternity. The sacrifices that God asks of me… My life of study, the time given to tangible realities that are only a shadow of reality in the face of the great reality, the eternal… What has this to do with eternity?
The sanctity to which God calls me, that seems so austere to me; the life of prayer, mortification, my apostolate where discouragement devours me… in the light of eternity. The apostolate which means “souls for eternity”, souls that will be happy for all eternity, freed from the fire. Catholic Action… the priesthood… the missions… China, the Congo… The Jesuit Fathers in the Congo, Father Jogues and Brébeuf in Canada! Father Damian in the leprosarium. All sanctity, all holiness, in the light of eternity: This is living!
Joy, and how happily one lives when one thinks on eternity! That’s my home… Sufferings? They will pass away but eternity remains. Death? No, rather “until we meet again”, yes, “until heaven!” “See you soon!”
Lord, how few think like this! How seldom I do! And yet this is the way a Christian thinks, and any other vision of life is pagan! But this vision is impossible without a life of intense prayer, recollection, meditation, but any sacrifice is worth the cost to obtain this treasure. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who discovered a treasure in a field and having discovered it, sold all to buy that field. (cf. Mt 13,44). Sell all. This is what the saints have done, the martyrs, it is what true Christians do.
3. In what eternal life consists
Eternal life is the possession of God… the filling up of my intelligence, hungry for truth with ever-new aspects. It is not gazing and being satisfied but rather the ever-deeper penetration of an inexhaustible book, because my intelligence is permanently finite. It is a journey infinitely new and eternally long.
“Today you will be with me”, said Jesus to the thief (cf. Lk 23,43). There was no need to add “in paradise”, because to be with Jesus Christ is Paradise. Jesus Christ! The noblest heart, friend par excellence, in heaven, with me, he will be my friend. Living is to live with him!
Our loved ones, loved in Christ, possessed in him, in heaven. In the moment of death, absence will end: To be able to live, converse, gaze and unite with them… with nothing to separate us because both love in the same way, see things in the same way, without fear of misunderstanding, and nothing, not even death - which no longer exists - nor weariness, nor sleep will disturb this love which will be eternal.
To live! This is life! Lord may I realize the truth so that I can come to your light!
Light without defect, joyful light, true light, light that is life!
Lord I want to believe, so that I may arrive at love
Lord I want to believe, so that I may be able to reach it
Lord I want to believe, because I wish to live your life with you.
With Jesus Christ, my friend, with my Mother Mary,
With my loved ones, with your Angels and Saints,
Forever more. Amen. Amen. Amen
He who gives himself grows
Personal reflection written in November of 1947.
You begin by giving yourself. He who gives himself grows. But one must not give oneself to just anything, nor for just any motive but only to what is truly worth the effort: to the poor in their misfortune, to this area in its misery, to the exploited classes, to the truth, to justice, to the emergence of humanity, to a great cause, to the common good of one’s nation, of one’s group, of all humanity; to Christ who sums up all these causes in himself, who holds them, purifies and elevates them; to the Church, messenger of the light, giver of life, liberator; to God, to God in all plenitude, without reserve because He is the highest good of the person and the Supreme common good of all. Each time I give myself in this way, sacrificing what is mine, forgetting myself, I acquire more value, I am a more fulfilled being.
Look at things on a grand scale, love on a grand scale, think on a grand scale, achieve on a grand scale. When you begin a work you must prepare it patiently. Improvising is generally disastrous. Love to see a work well done, and in order to achieve this, put all the time necessary into the task.
Think and think again. In each thing acquire the sense of what is really essential. There is no time for anything less. Foch used to say: “When a man of moderate gifts concentrates his energies on one goal, he will achieve it.” Life is too short to lose time in intrigues. Many do not look for the truth nor for the good, but rather for success.
Frequently men are taught not to do something, not to involve themselves, not to risk. This is precisely the reverse of life. Each one has only a certain potential for struggle and it must not be wasted in skirmishes.
One must embark on the journey without knowing what ships will be found on the way or what storms will come up… Once the normal precautions have been taken, set out! Learn to love the combat, consider it normal. Don’t find it strange, accept it, show courage, don’t lose control of yourself; never be unfaithful to the truth and to justice. The weapons of a Christian are not the same as those of the world. Love the struggle, not for itself but for the love of the good, for the love of your brothers who must be liberated.
You must persevere. Many are left wasted after the first battles. Know that ideas walk slowly. Many imagine that because they have found some truth, this will captivate other spirits. They become irritated with delays, with resistance. Resistance is normal, it arises from apathy or from differences of culture or environment. Each one starts out from what they are, from what they have received.
Don’t be daunted or irritated by the opposition, this is normal and frequently is correct. Better to be happy that they resist us and dispute with us because in this way our mission penetrates more profoundly, is rectified and enlivens the discussion.
They will tell me:”Your work is going through a crisis.” But my friend, a work in progress always has elements that are not up to par. A work that endures is always in crisis.
Remain pure, solid, seek only what is true, what is good, what is just. Be simple and take pains to remain simple. Go on believing in the ideal, in justice, in truth, in the good, in the goodness of human hearts. Believe in the resources of the poor. With good faith engage in combat against the powerful. Don’t try to deceive nor accept resources that bring corruption.
When the obstacle you face is the opposition of others, the best tactic is often to go on your way without protecting yourself against this opposition. Precious time is wasted in polemics when the only thing that counts is the goal. If the opposition comes from men of good will, from the saints, from superiors, I must verify my direction, be sure that I am in step with the Church.
Remember: “one goes further after one has been tired out.” The great asceticism is not to pause to pick flowers along the way. Suffering, the cross consists above all in persevering in the struggle once begun. This above all is what conforms us to Christ.
There are those who wish to develop themselves without pain. They have not as yet understood what it is to grow… They want to improve themselves through music and song, through study, through pleasure but not through hunger, anxiety, failure and the hard struggles of every day, nor through accepted weakness and incapacity that teaches us to unite ourselves to the power of God; nor through the abandonment of one’s own plans to discover the plans of God. Pain of any kind is a benefactor because it teaches me my limitations, it purifies me, instructs me to take my place on the cross of Christ, it obliges me to turn back to God.
In a realistic group of apostles phrases like these are often heard: “After one hard rock, comes another….” 90% failure, be glad anyway! Begin by convincing yourself: Failure builds. Joy, peace… That’s life… and life is beautiful! Don’t stir up a storm, raise your voice or become indignant and irritable. Go on laughing and boosting everyone’s spirits. Above all, persevere in what you are doing. Nothing is ever completed in a month: at the end of ten years the accomplishment is enormous. Every drop counts.
To give myself without cost, without cheating, in all fullness, both to God and to my brothers and God will take me under His protection. He will protect me and I will remain unharmed in the midst of countless difficulties. He will lead me to do His work, the work that really counts. He will take charge of polishing and perfecting me and put me in contact with those who seek Him and whom He animates. When He takes over, He does not let go easily.
To achieve this optimism there is nothing better than the vision of faith. Faith is a light that permeates. The longer the life the stronger the light. It penetrates everything and makes us see all things in light of the essential, the eternal. One who follows the light of faith will never walk in darkness. It has a solution for all problems and, thanks to it, in the midst of the struggle when one can do nothing more under the pressure, like the cork that explodes from the champagne bottle, one escapes upwards and unites with Christ and in him finds peace. Faith makes us see that each drop counts, that the good is contagious and that truth triumphs.
Personal reflection written in November of 1947.
When a man leaves the beaten paths, the hackneyed ways of his times, he attacks the established evils; he speaks of revolution, he is considered mad, a lunatic. As though the witness of the Gospel were not madness, as though the Christian were not capable of a great effort to construct, as if we were not strong in our weakness (cf. 2 Cor 12,9). We need many “lunatics” like these, strong, constant, animated by an invincible faith.
In the first place, an organized apostolate requires a man surrendered to God, an apostolic soul, completely won over by the desire to communicate with God, to make Christ known; souls capable of self sacrifice, of self forgetfulness, with a spirit of conquest. The rational organization of the apostolate requires precisely that the supra rational be in first place. Be a saint! In short, don’t seek support from the resources of human action, but lean on God alone. The rest will follow: do not work like a warrior but as a member of the Mystical Body, in union with others, taking advantage of all the means available so that Christ can grow in others, but taking care that the flame burn brightly in oneself.
It is impossible to be a saint if one is not first a man; I am not saying a genius, but rather an integral man within his proper dimensions. There are few integral men. We teachers do not concern ourselves much about forming them; and few take this goal seriously for themselves.
Man has within himself his light and his strength. He is not the echo of a book, the mirror image of another, the slave of a group. Judge things for yourself; he loves spontaneously, not forcibly, he submits to what is real without constraint and no one is freer than he. If he moves slower than the events around him; if he sees things less significant than they really are; if he chooses to do without the indispensable, he will fail. And we cannot be indifferent in the face of failure because my failure is the failure of the Church and of humanity. God did not create me to seek failure. Only when I have exhausted all available means and only then can I console myself and appeal to resignation. Many work to keep themselves occupied; few do so to build; they are satisfied because they have made an effort. This is not enough. It is necessary to love effectively.
Balance is an indispensable element for a rational task. A balanced man is worth more than a genius without balance, at least for day-to-day work. Equilibrium is not to be understood as a good mixture of mediocre qualities; but rather harmonious growth that may be proper to a brilliant man, or to a sickly one, or to one with very advanced specialization. This has nothing to do with destroying the union of the powers or gifts he has, but rather going beyond them through firm adherence to truth, to self-fulfillment in God alone, through love.
Christian morality permits the harmonizing and prioritizing of everything, no matter how intelligent, ardent or vigorous one might be. Humility comes to temper success; prudence bridles haste; mercy sweetens authority; equality tempers justice; faith supplements the deficiencies of reason; hope sustains our reasons to survive; sincere charity impedes folding back on itself; the dissatisfaction of human love leaves space for the fraternal love of Christ; sterile evasion is replaced by the aspiration for God that is filled with prayer and insatiable desire. Man cannot become balanced except through a dynamism, through aspiring to the highest values of which he is capable.
The daily rhythm must be harmonized by the balancing of rest, difficult work, and meals, sleep. It is good to remember that in many cases one can rest from one type of work by going on to another, not necessarily by seeking leisure or idleness.
At what pace should one move ahead? Once one has taken the necessary precautions to safeguard one’s equilibrium, one must give without measure in order to achieve maximum efficiency and, as much as possible, eliminate human suffering.
One works almost to the limit of one’s strength but finds in the totality of the giving and in the intensity of the effort, an inexhaustible energy. Those who give themselves by halves are soon worn out, any effort tires them. Those who have given their all, maintain their pace under the impulse of their profound vitality.
Nevertheless, there is no need to exaggerate and squander one’s strength in an excess of conquering tension. The generous man tends to move along too quickly: he would like to restore the good and destroy injustice, but he must contend with the inertia both of men and of things themselves. Spiritually it is about walking in step with God, about taking one’s exact place in the plan of God. All effort that goes beyond this is useless, even harmful. Activity is replaced by activism which goes to the head like champagne, aspires to unreachable goals and takes away any time for contemplation; a man ceases to be in charge of his life.
In fragmenting the life of the spirit, one acquires an attitude of extreme tension that denies oneself all rest. But since neither body nor soul is made for this, a lack of equilibrium soon becomes evident, there is a breakdown. It becomes necessary to humbly call a halt, to stop and rest under the trees and enjoy the view; we might say add a fantasy zone to our life.
The danger of excessive action is that of compensation. An exhausted man easily seeks compensation. This moment is all the more dangerous when one has, to some extent, lost self control, the body is tired, the nerves are agitated, the will is irresolute. The greatest stupidities are possible in these moments. One simply has to slow down: restore one’s calm among kind friends, recite the rosary mechanically and go to sleep sweetly in the Lord
Meditation during a retreat on the gift of self and cooperation.
Indecision, faintheartedness is the great obstacle in the plan of cooperation. We think: “I’m not worth all that much”, and from this comes discouragement: “It makes no difference whether I act or fail to act. Our powers of action are so limited. Is my unpretentious work worthwhile? Does my abstaining from this have any meaning? If I fail to sacrifice myself nothing changes. No one needs me… A mediocre vocation?” How many vocations are lost. It is the advice of the devil that is partly true. The difficulty must be faced.
5,000 men along with women and children have been hungry for three days… Food? They would need at least 200 denarii to feed them and this is the approximate yearly salary of a laborer.
In the desert! “Tell them to go!” But Andrew, more observant says: “There are 5 loaves and 2 fish, but what are these among so many!” Here we have our same problem: the disproportion.
And the loaves. Made of barley, hard as rocks (the Jews used wheat). And the fish. They were from the lake, small, rather mushy in texture, carried by a young boy in a sack that had lain on the ground for 3 days in the heat… not much of a solution.
Did the Lord despise this offering? No, and with his blessing he fed all the hungry and had leftovers. Neither did he despise the leftovers: 12 baskets of the surplus were gathered, fish heads and bones, but even this he valued.
The young boy consented to give Christ his poor offering, not realizing that he would feed the multitude. He believed that he had lost his small possession but he found instead that there was even a surplus and that he had cooperated for the good of the others.
And me… like those fish (less than those loaves) bruised and perhaps decomposing but in the hands of Christ my action may have a divine scope a divine reach.
Remember Ignatius, Augustine, Camillus de Lellis, and Matt Talbot, base sinners whose lives were converted into spiritual nourishment for millions who will continue to feed on their witness.
My actions and my desires can have a divine scope and can change the face of the earth. I will not know it, the fish did not know it either. I can do a great deal if I remain in Christ; I can accomplish much if I cooperate with Christ…
Letter to a friend, written on October 8, 1933, after his ordination as a priest
Here you have me, a priest of the Lord! You will understand my great happiness and with all sincerity I can tell you that I am completely happy. God has given me the great grace to be able to live contentedly in all the houses that I have passed through and with all the companions I have had. I consider this a great grace. But now, on receiving priestly ordination for always, my joy has reached its limit. Now I desire nothing more than to exercise my priestly ministry with the deepest possible interior life and all the exterior activity compatible with it.
The secret of this adaptation and of its success is in the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that is to say, to the overflowing love of our Lord, the love that Jesus as God and as man has for us a love that shone clearly throughout his life. If we could only realize this ideal in our lives: What does the Heart of Jesus think of this or that…? and endeavor to think and feel as he does, how this would enlarge our hearts and transform our lives! Trifles and faults that we commit and see committed around us would disappear and in our communities a natural and supernatural happiness would reign; there would be more understanding, greater respect for each of our brothers, for even the least deserves that we go out of our way for him and not overlook him. This is an idea that comes to me frequently and I’ve done some thinking about it because more and more I would like to make it happen.
I believe that we should live the devotion to the Sacred Heart based on a limitless charity that helps to make our brothers feel at ease with each other and, that lay people feel moved not by our words, which in great part leave them cold, but by our life of charity for them, both human and divine. But this charity must be human if it wishes to be divine. In this pervasive ambient of skepticism in which we live, I do not think there are any other means, humanly speaking, to preach Jesus Christ among those who will only believe the example of a charity like that of Christ.
Goodbye my dear Brother Sergio. Do not forget me before the Lord.
Alberto Hurtado C. S.J
Meditation preached by radio on April 4, 1944.
While we must look to the heavens to adore our Father, in order to receive His inspiration and to strengthen us for our work and our sacrifices, this gesture cannot be the only gesture of our lives. It is of maximum importance because without Him no action of ours has any value; however, this gesture must be supplemented by yet another, also profoundly evangelical. A look toward earth filled with love and interest, to this earth so full of value, of significance that captivated the love of the eternal God, drawing God down to her to redeem and sanctify her with divine teachings, example, sufferings and death.
All the splendor that enriches heaven is created on earth. Heaven is the granary of the Father, but the most beautiful granary of the world has never added one single grain to the wheat sheaf, nor a single sheaf to the planting. Wheat grows only in the mud of this earth.
The devotion to the Heart of Christ and to the heart of Mary has as its profound meaning: to remind the sorrowful of the modern world that regardless of their sufferings there is a God who loves them, a God who is Love (cf. I Jn 4,8). When Jesus desired a symbol to represent the most deeply felt message of his soul, chose the Heart because it symbolizes love, love for them, the children of this earth. This love is no vain sentimentalism but rather a strong, vigorous sacrifice that is not hindered by thorns, lashes and the cross. And together with this Heart we are reminded that there is another heart that loves us, the heart of his mother and ours. It is this heart that accepted us as sons when it was on the point of bursting apart with pain beneath the cross at the sight of the suffering of the Heart of Jesus, her son, for us, children of earth, redeemed by the suffering of a God made man. He wished to join to his redemption the suffering of his mother and that of his faithful ones. The message of the love of Jesus and Mary urge us to love as well.
With this intention I invite you, beloved in Christ, to withdraw within yourselves for a few moments, in an attitude of prayer. If you have a crucifix or an image of the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary before your eyes you will understand in these symbols the urgency of this call to charity, to love, to interest yourselves in your brothers on this earth, the fundamental precept of Christian life.
This lesson forms the nucleus of Christian preaching. “Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love”, says St. John. “If anyone says ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (cf.. 1Jn 4,8; 4,20; 3,17)
And in the teachings of the Pontiffs, if there is anything of which they remind us with extraordinary insistence it is this primacy of charity in the Christian life. Peter the first Pope, in the first encyclical directed to the nascent Christian Church, reminds them to:”Be persevering in prayer but above all love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1Pt 4, 7-8).
Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum tells us that: “It is from an abundant effusion of charity that we await salvation, we are speaking of Christian charity which sums up the Gospel”; he continues “May the sacred ministers apply themselves above all things to the growth and development of charity within themselves and bring it to birth in others” (N 41).
Brothers in Christ, remember that generosity is even more valuable than honesty and piety. Remember that you have not fulfilled your obligations if you can only say: I have done nothing evil to anyone, for you are obliged to always do good to others. It is well not to do evil, but it is very evil not to do good.
Hatred and killing are what one reads about in the daily press; hatred is what poisons the air we breathe. How can the terrible sorrow of the wars in Europe and Asia leave us indifferent? We are in solidarity with an infinite number of men, women and children who suffer, perhaps as few have suffered on this earth, given that the repercussions of the European drama are echoed on all the continents. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was the cynical comment of Cain (cf. Gn 4,9), and something very similar seems to motivate those who prefer to remain ignorant of this enormous modern suffering. These sufferings are ours; we cannot pretend ignorance with respect to them.
The numbers of children of all the races of the world who might become beloved disciples of Christ are innumerable, but they have not found the apostle who can show them the Master. I cannot be indifferent to them… They are my brothers on this earth, destined to be brothers of Christ. The fishermen, the farmers, the merchants in their tents in China, the pearl fishers who descend into the sea, the coal miners who bend their backs down in the veins of the earth, the nitrate workers and copper miners, the laborers of the high blast furnaces who have great aspirations and much pain to bear, their own and that of their homes. Christ tells me that I do not love enough, that I am not fraternal enough with all who suffer, that their pain does not reach far enough into my heart. I wish Lord to be tormented by hunger and thirst for justice; that they might torture me so that I may desire for them all the good I wish for myself.
Those who search for you in a tentative, groping way, far from the true light… they are so numerous, Lord. Many millions do not as yet know him who is the Way the Truth and the Life (Jn 14,6). How much suffering finds no consolation in their souls because they do not know him who taught us how to suffer with resignation, with a sense of solidarity and of social redemption.
Without looking any further than our own dear country, how many of our Chilean brothers claim our understanding, our justice and our charity? The doctrine of Christ is not preached in extensive areas of our own nation, the Pampa is almost totally without priests; parishes without pastors; how many young people if they were to think about this reality, might feel a new desire flame up in their souls and grasp that there is a great cause for which they can offer their lives. Lord, give us this love, the only love that can save us!
Personal reflection on the vision of eternity
We ask heroism of Christians and such heroism! On what do we base this demand? On this life’s vision of eternity. One is saintly or bourgeois, depending on whether one understands or misunderstands this vision of eternity. The bourgeois is installed in this world; for him, life consists of this world only. He sees everything in terms of pleasure. For him life is like a lemon that must be squeezed to the last drop; a cigarette to be smoked with enjoyment, without thinking that soon it will be reduced to a stub; a tree whose flowers must soon be cut… The bourgeois mentality is the complete opposite of all that is Christian: it resolves problems on the basis of the criteria of time only. Take advantage of today! Enjoy, enjoy.
The sensible world accentuates this thirst for enjoyment, presenting itself as enormously attractive in all that surrounds us: the cinema, great preacher of materialism and of the easy life; the propaganda for pleasure and luxury that covers the walls and enters in every flicker of light: all of it preaches materialism. And it is not strange that we ourselves also fall into this practical materialism. Here we find the reason why the modern world becomes moved and excited, but has lost the sense of the divine. Let us awaken in ourselves this sense of the divine that will be based on an exact knowledge of my relation with God.
God! How the soul dilates when it meditates on these truths, the highest of all! It is similar to when one gazes upon the starry heavens on a quiet, tranquil evening. Our reason brings us to God. Everything speaks to us of Him: order, metaphysics, the agreement of the wise, the saints and the mystics. He is the one who is: “I am He who is.”
The nature of God: Holy, Holy, Holy; harmony, order, beauty, love. God is Love, All Powerful, Eternal. Let us imagine when the world did not exist… Let us imagine the divine decision to create… The first budding forth of the material. The evolution of the worlds. The stars bursting forth. The millions of years. “And God in his eternity”, everything depends upon God and for this reason adoration is the logical consequence of my total dependence.
Prayer, which at time seems so useless, how great it seems when one thinks that he is speaking and being heard by the One who made everything! By God for whom the creation of the world cost nothing; what would it cost Him to fix it? What would it cost Him to solve any problem? All the more because He loves us: He gave us His son! (Jn 3,16) At times there is discouragement because I do not understand God, but how could I hope to understand Him since I do not even understand His works. In consequence: to pray more than I choose to act. Moreover, in making a move there is often the danger of human activism.
And as for me? Before me, eternity. I am like an arrow shot into that eternity. After me eternity. My existence, a sigh between two eternities. The infinite goodness of God toward me! He thought of me more than hundreds of millions of years ago. He began to think of me, if you will, and He has continued to think of me, as though unable to get me out of His mind, as though I alone existed. If a friend were to say to me: “I thought of you each day of the eleven years that you were absent”, how grateful one would be for such fidelity! Yet God has done this for all eternity!
My life then, like an arrow, propelled toward eternity. I must not become attached to anything here but see through it all the life to come. May all creatures be transparent so that I may see God and eternity through them. When they become opaque I become earthly and lost.
After me eternity. I am going there and very soon… When one considers how soon the present will end, one reaches the conclusion: be citizens of heaven rather than of earth.”
At the moment of death, “that which is hidden will appear”; all the evil and all the good, all the graces received. “What will I say then?” This will come to pass very soon. Reflecting on my end, on my eternal, destiny I cannot but think… What is my goal? To achieve wealth? No. How many are unable to reach their goal. To attain the understanding of those who surround me? To keep them with me?… All of this is worthy of respect but not my goal. The goal of my life is God and nothing less than God, and to be happy in God. For this He gave me intelligence and will, and above all, liberty.
The norm I set for myself was sanctity, a sanctity based on my knowing God. Am I concerned about knowing Him? Do I cultivate my spirit? How do I pray? With praise, psalms, giving glory to the Father? To serve Him 24 hours a day without ceasing, with joy and generosity, and then, to save my soul (Exercises 23).
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Mt 11, 12). “Small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life and only a few find it”(Mt 7,14) “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself” (K 8,34). Save your soul, the saints tell us: earth passes away but not heaven; the condemned: those fires that are never quenched!
To live then in the vision of eternity! How important it is to renew this concept of eternity that would so console us. War, sufferings, everything will pass away. And then? Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, God does not change! And after this brief life of a day, eternity. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. In my Father’s house there are many rooms” (Jn 14,2). The teaching of Christ is filled with the idea of eternity.
The consequence of my vision of eternity: Remind myself frequently: “We are citizens of heaven” (Phil 3,20). “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (cf. Mt 6,21). To be joyful because I must go there. I do not fear death because it is the moment when I will see God. I know that my weaknesses and ailments will come to an end and that my aspirations will achieve their object.
Hence generosity, detachment, heroism. Everything has a reward. What is it that encourages the Little Sisters of the Poor? Heaven. The monk who has a tiny window open to heaven. In his sadness he looks through it and is comforted.
Consequently, the intimate understanding that there is nothing greater to treat of than God, that God is the great reality in comparison with which other realities do not even deserve the name. He who treats with God, treats with Authenticity, the great reality. Thus the saint, the gentle and peaceful, the serene, the joyful; illuminate your life with the remembrance of heaven!
Letter to a friend, June 24, 1948.
I am embarrassed to death for the way I have treated you but you know all about my life and the thousand and one things I am mixed up in which leave me no time to write you a long newsy letter.
I am really happy with your reports about what you are doing. Your work, your activities; above all about the contemplation the Lord is calling you to.
I am daily more convinced that the path begun is the only solid one for any Christian influence. The forgetfulness of God, so characteristic of our age, is I believe the gravest of errors, much greater even than the forgetfulness of the whole social dimension.
Our century is, above all, “the century of man.” In searching for the active virtues, we have lost a sense of sacrifice and resignation. Nonetheless, this has an eternal value that nothing can replace.
Hopefully, my dear friend, you will become inundated with calm and with adoration. This last little word is the one I would most like to emphasize: adoration. Try to imbibe the immense grandeur of God, something of what is seen in the Old Testament and which an excessive sentimentality makes us forget at times. It is absolutely necessary to develop friendship with Christ in a fraternal sense but nothing should make us forget the infinite distance that separates us; if God calls us His sons, it is not due to any right on our part but as a gesture of His infinite goodness.
I recommend that you learn to relish the prayers of the Mass, the Pentecostal Sequence and others of the same type. Hopefully you will accustom yourself to live in union with the liturgical cycle in its widest sense, with the singing of the psalms, with Eucharistic adoration. What I most desire for you – and I will repeat it a thousand times – is that you come back with a greater spirit of adoration, with deep interior peace, and totally disposed to be an instrument of Christ. In this is sanctity. I have never found a more beautiful definition of prayer than that of P. Charles: “To pray is to conform our desires with the divine desire, in the same way that He manifests Himself in his works.”
My many comings and goings have increased with the project for emergency housing that is beginning to move ahead as an annex of the Hogar de Cristo. The fine spirit among my collaborators is truly superb and I believe that this great idea will become a concrete reality by the end of the year. We are thinking of constructing emergency villages for the poorest of the poor. First they will be rented to them and then they will begin the gradual decrease in quotas until they cover the value of the houses.
On the other hand, for those less poor, we are thinking of constructing housing that can be theirs from the very start. They will contribute with small quotas and the rest will be recovered in accord with their possibilities.
May God give us men of interior life who face things with serenity and true justice. I greet you with all warmth and affection, your friend,
Alberto Hurtado C. S.J
Personal reflection written in November of 1947.
I. Virtues of the man of action
It is necessary to arrive at total loyalty. To absolute transparency, to live in such a way that nothing in my conduct might rebuff the inquiry of men, that all might be open to inspection. A conscience that aspires to such rectitude feels within itself the least deviation and deplores it: it focuses within itself, humbles itself and finds peace.
I must always consider myself a servant of a great work. And because my role is that of a servant, I will not reject the humblest tasks, modest tasks in administration, even the cleaning… Many aspire to have quiet time to think, read, prepare great things, but there are tasks that all reject, may these be my preferences. Everything must be accomplished if the great work is to be realized. The important thing is to do it with great love. Our actions receive their value in proportion to the love we put into them.
Humility consists in inserting yourself in your true place. Before men: not by considering myself the least among them, because I do not believe this; before God: by recognizing continually my absolute dependence with respect to Him, and that any superiority I might have in the sight of others comes from Him.
To put myself in complete availability before God’s plan, before the work that must be realized. My attitude before God is not that of disappearing but of offering myself totally in full collaboration.
Humility then is to put yourself where you belong, to take your true place, to recognize yourself as intelligent, virtuous and as capable as you believe yourself to be; to be aware of the superior advantages that you believe yourself to have but, at the same time, knowing well your absolute dependence upon God and that all that you have received is for the common good. That is the great principle: All superior characteristics or advantages are given for the common good (St. Thomas).
It is not I who count but the work. Do not crush yourself. Walk at God’s pace. Don’t try to run ahead of Him. I must unite my will with the will of God. Lose myself in Him. Everything that I add that is purely mine is unnecessary; rather, it is nothing. Do not look for recognition but be happy and thankful for any that comes. Do not belittle yourself in the face of failure, look to what remains to be done and know that tomorrow will bring another blow, and do all of this with joy.
Munificence, magnificence, magnanimity, three words almost unknown in our times. Munificence and magnificence do not fear the cost of realizing something grand and beautiful. They do not think in terms of investing and filling the pockets of their supporters. The magnanimous person thinks and acts in a way worthy of humanity: he does not belittle himself. They are so needed today because in the modern world everything is linked. He who does not think big, in terms of all men, is already lost. Some will tell you: Careful with that pride!… why think in such a big way? But there is no danger: the greater the task, the smaller one feels. Better to have the humility to begin great tasks with the danger of failing, than to reduce one’s goal out of pride in order to guarantee success.
The glory and reward of the militant in the great combat that liberates: to exceed, to always go beyond oneself in love… Success? Leave it in God’s hands!
II. The Sins of a man of action
To believe oneself indispensable to God. To not pray enough. To lose contact with God. To move ahead too fast. To want to go faster than God wishes. To make a pact, even lightly, with evil in order to be successful.
To give oneself by halves. Prefer oneself to the Church. Esteem oneself more than the work that is to be done, or seek oneself in one’s actions. To work for oneself. To look for one’s own glory. To take pride in oneself. To let oneself be disheartened by failure. It may be nothing more than to become gloomy in the face of difficulties.
To undertake too much - bite off more than you can chew. To cede to one’s natural impulses to thoughtless and arrogant hastiness. To cease to control oneself. To distance oneself from one’s principles.
To work in defense of self or as an excuse and not for love. To make a business of the apostolate, though it is spiritual.
To fail to make the effort to have the widest possible vision. To fail to take distance to be able to see the whole. To fail to take into account the context of the problem.
To work without method. To improvise on principle. To fail to look ahead, to foresee. To fail to complete or finish a task.
To rationalize in excess. To hesitate or drown in details. To always want to be right. To be in charge of everything. To fail to be disciplined.
To avoid small tasks. To sacrifice another for my plans. To fail to respect others, not allowing for initiative, failing to give others responsibility. To be harsh with associates and their bosses. To despise the little ones, the humble and the less gifted. To be ungrateful.
To be sectarian. To fail to be hospitable. To fail to love one’s enemies.
To see all those who oppose me as though they were my enemies. To fail to accept opposition with enthusiasm. To be destructive because of an unjust or vain criticism.
To be habitually sad or in bad humor. To let oneself be overcome by concerns about money.
To fail to sleep or eat sufficiently. To fail to take care of one’s strength and physical well being because of imprudence and without good reason.
To let oneself take compensations in laziness, day dreaming, sentimentality. To fail to take time out for periods of tranquility, daily, weekly, Yearly…
The Risks of Faith
Retreat meditation: an invitation to follow Christ.
“Are you able to drink of the cup… We are able!” (Mt 20, 22). James and John with noble ambition ask the Lord to be allowed to sit at his side in glory; a sublime ambition, and Jesus responds with the great adventure upon which they will embark, if they truly desire this: You will have to run a tremendous risk to achieve this. Are you able to drink my chalice, and be baptized with the baptism with which I will be baptized? - Yes, we are able! Here we have our duty: to risk ourselves every day for the sake of eternal life… To risk oneself means to run a risk: a total lack of security! He who wishes to save himself has to risk all. There is no risk when there is no danger or doubt, anxiety or fear. The nobility and excellence of faith, which singles it out from the other virtues, is the greatness of heart it presupposes in the one who dares to risk.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb11,1). The essence of faith is to make present what we do not see; to work in hope for what we await with hope but do not yet possess; to risk all to finally attain it.
The Apostles James and John were not completely aware of all they were proposing but in the depths of their hearts a prophecy relating to their future conduct was being revealed in these words. They surrendered themselves without reserve and were taken hold of and made captive by Someone stronger than themselves. Although they knew little of the extent of their offering, they gave themselves from the heart and were accepted in this spirit: Are you able to drink… Yes, we are able! You shall indeed drink of my cup and be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized! (Mt 20,22)
Our Lord acted in the same way with St. Peter: He accepted the offering of his service though he advised Peter of how unaware he was of what he was proposing.
The rich young man who went away sad when Jesus asked him to leave all and follow him, offers us a case of one who does not dare to risk this world for the next, basing his trust on the word of the Lord.
Conclusion: If faith is the essence of the Christian life, it follows that our duty is to risk all that we have on the basis of Christ’s word, for the hope of what we do not yet possess; and we must do so in a noble, generous way without levity although we cannot see all that our offering involves, nor what we are to receive, but we are confident that He will be true to His promise, and that we will be given the strength to fulfill our promises and thus abandon all anxiety and concern for the future.
When we consider the consequences, the objections begin to arise.
Many concede to priests the right to preach abstract doctrine but when they discover that they themselves are involved, they begin to search for excuses: they do not see that “this” follows from “that” or else they think that “this is an exaggeration” or “foolishness”, that we have forgotten the times we live in, the customs of today’s world, etc… With reason it has been said: “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” There is not a truth, no matter how resplendent, which a man cannot escape if he closes his eyes; nor is there a duty so urgent, that 10,000 reasons cannot be found to avoid it. Such people are sure that it is an “exaggeration” when one is doing nothing more than applying the evident.
Think about it. What have you sacrificed for the promise of Christ? In each risk something must be sacrificed: we venture our lands for a profit when we have faith in a commercial project. What have we ventured for Christ? What have we given him, confident in his promise? This is the problem: what have we dared to risk?
For example, St. Barnabas had property in Cyprus: he gave it to the poor of Christ. Here we have a sacrifice, he did something he would not have done if the Gospel of Christ were false… And it is clear that if the Gospel of Christ were false (an impossibility) this would have been a bad business deal; it would be like a businessman who failed or one whose ships were sunk at sea.
A man has confidence in another man, he trusts his neighbour, he risks, but Christians do not risk much in virtue of the words of Christ and this is the very thing we should do. Christ warns us to “Make use of your base wealth to win yourselves friends, who when you leave it behind, will welcome you into eternal habitations” (Lk 16, 9). This is to say, sacrifice for the future world what those without faith use so badly: clothe the naked, feed the hungry…
In the same way, those with potentially successful prospects in this world who abandon them to be closer to Him, to make their lives a sacrifice and an apostolate, are thereby risking all for Christ. Or those others like Daniel or St. Paul who desire perfection, abandon their earthly projects and with dedication and enormous effort live lives illumined only by the life to come. Or another who finds himself surrounded by what the world calls evil and though he trembles he prays: “Your will be done.” All of them risk what they can in faith.
God hears these and their words are listened to, although they may not know the extent of what they are offering, but God knows that they give what they can and risk a great deal. They are generous hearts like John, James and Peter who often speak a great deal about what they want to do for Christ, they speak sincerely but in ignorance; nonetheless they are heard for their sincerity although with time they will learn the seriousness of their offering. They tell Christ: “We can”, and their words are heard in heaven.
This is what happens to us in many things in life. For example in Confirmation, when we renew what was promised in our name at Baptism, we do not know all that we are really proposing but we trust in God and we hope that He will give us the strength to fulfill it. We see this again when people enter religious life, they do not know what they have embarked upon, nor to what extent, nor do they realize how seductive are the worldly things they have left behind.
And in many similar situations a man finds himself choosing to follow a path in the name of religion that might perhaps lead him to martyrdom. The goal of his path remains hidden. He only knows that this is what he must do and he hears a whisper from within that tells him whatever difficulty may arise, God will give sufficient grace to make him equal to the demands of the mission.
His Apostles said: We can! and God gave them the capacity to suffer what they suffered: James, the first of the Apostles, pierced through in Jerusalem; John even more, the last to die, years of loneliness, exile and weakness. With reason, John will say at the end of his life: “Come Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22,20), like those who are weary of the night and hope for the morning.
We are not content with what we possess; beyond the joys, we aspire to carry the cross so that later we may wear the crown. What are our risks today, based on his Word? Jesus expressly tells us: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life…But many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.”
A discourse of thanksgiving for one’s native country on the 18 of September 1948, anniversary of Chilean independence.
We praise you O God! We have just intoned a hymn of thanksgiving to our Creator for the blessings received by our country, on this new anniversary of our independence.
When we contemplate our beautiful land (Cf. Sant 1,16) for us the loveliest in the universe, our austere mountains that invite us to seriousness of life our fertile fields, our azure skies that invite us to prayer, the souls of our Chilean brothers and sisters intelligent, hard working, valiant, forthright and loyal, how could we fail to raise a fervent act of thanksgiving to the One from whom all blessings come.
How could we fail to raise our voices as we remember our history laden with divine blessings that have made us a worthy, honorable nation? How can we fail to thank God for what some might even lament as unfortunate, the land’s resistance to yielding up its riches? In the north, the nitrate in the midst of the desert; in central Chile, farm lands between harsh mountains where it has been necessary to bore holes in order to find water for crops; the virgin forests of the south that have had to fall to make way for the means of communication and to open up new lands; in the stormy territories of the south swept by harsh winds our cattle and livestock graze; under the sea lies our coal and even there, at the ends of the earth, in the eternal snows, there are riches, that God has confided to Chile, and that can bring well-being to man, riches that are guarded by our flag and by our fellow citizens, who are preparing a new page in our history.
A nation, more than its lands, mountains or seas; more than its language or its traditions, Chile is a mission to be accomplished. And God has confided to Chile this mission of generous effort, a spirit of enterprise and adventure and a respect for man and his dignity that has become concretized in our laws and democratic institutions.
Courageous effort and adventure brought Chile to collaborate even in the liberation of our neighbor nations, to achieve military feats that seemed impossible, even to the forcible extraction of secrets from deserts and mountains. And all these conquests carried out in a spirit of juridical respect for men, translated into institutions, into civil and social laws that have been a model on the continent and in the world. How can we fail to give thanks to God for so many blessings!
But our cry of thanksgiving to God has yet another sense: it is mixed with repentant sorrow for a task only partly fulfilled, our nation raises its voice to ask the help of heaven in the fulfillment of the mission confided to it, to be faithful to that mission which God has willed to imprint upon the austerity of our mountains and fields.
Our primitive austerity is disappearing: money has brought a fever for luxury and pleasure. The spirit of adventure, of the great national adventures, is growing ever weaker in the bureaucratic tussle that replaces the great struggle against nature. Human fraternity that was so present in the minds of our liberators and palpable in one of their first decisions to free all slaves, now suffers appalling failures as we see many thousands of our brothers left in their illiteracy, without technical education, evicted from their lands, living in hovels unworthy of human habitation, without the slightest hope of giving their children some inheritance of culture, and well-being to assure a better life; the gifts that God has given to provide prosperity and joy in life are being used to provide for the extravagances of a few; social legislation has been inspired but almost ineffective while social insecurity continues to be a terrible threat faced by workers, employees and the elderly.
Chile has a mission on the continent and in the world: a mission of courageous effort, of austerity, of democratic fraternity, all inspired by the spirit of the Gospel. And this mission is threatened by all the compelling power of a comfortable and indolent life, its lethargy, apathy and egoism.
We wish to fulfill the mission of Chile; we will sacrifice ourselves for it. Our forefathers gave us a free nation; it is up to us to make it great, beautiful, more humane and fraternal. If they were great on the battlefield, it is up to us to excel in our efforts to build a nation.
But this mission has not been accomplished because our spiritual energies have been weakened, because Christian virtue has languished, because the religion of Jesus Christ in which our nation and each of us was baptized, has not been preserved, because our youth, sunk in pleasure, does not have sufficient generosity to embrace the hard life of the priesthood and the principles of social action. It is necessary, before anything else, to once again stir all the moral energies of the nation afloat and steady: in order to restore the nation’s sense of responsibility, fraternity, self sacrifice, all of which have been weakened to the extent that its faith in God, in Christ and in the spirit of the Gospel have suffered deterioration.
And with what joy I repeat these ideas in Chillan, the birthplace of O’Higgins, a man filled with moral values because of his faith, the same spirit that filled Prat, the most valiant Chilean and deeply fervent Christian, dying with the scapular of the Virgin about his neck; the spirit of each of our forefathers and that of our humble and valiant soldiers; the spirit of our mothers and our grandmothers who formed us in respect for God, in the love of Christ and his Mother, in austerity, courageous effort and fraternal charity.
We have sung the words: We praise you O God! And we must repeat those words continually, asking God to protect our dear nation; that He bless those who govern and strengthen its people in their efforts to be faithful to the mission He has confided to them.
Letter to a collaborator, written from Paris, December 9, 1957.
With all sincerity and humility you can say, thanks be to God for another fine, dedicated year of life. It is a divine grace to have been called to His service as He once called you to life. But it would not be sincere to fail to recognize this grace. Looking back over the path already traveled, I not only insist in the weaknesses and imperfections but also in what He has permitted you to accomplish and in the purpose to which you have consecrated your life: to search for Him in His brothers, to serve and love Him in the rest, beginning with your little daughter, the remembrance of your beloved husband, your family and then the poor, those in whom our faith shows Him always present.
The more I think about poor, post war Europe, embittered, poverty stricken, dispirited in the face of work, at least in some countries, the more clearly I see our mission as Catholics: to give testimony to Christ in this sad world, the testimony of our joy based on our faith in him in the goodness of our Father in heaven; the testimony of an unbreakable confidence and a deep charity. This and nothing more: but it is sufficient to save the world. I am reading a beautiful pastoral letter from the Cardinal of Paris entitled: The apogee or the downfall of the Church, and its lesson, repeated again and again, is that today’s Catholic has the mission of “incarnating himself, committing himself in the temporal dimension to give testimony to Christ.” One hears these words repeated countless times: they define the program for our times.
Happily, the work to which you are pledged and which responds so well to what the world needs, is dedicated to the same mission. I say this to you to invite you to look upon it not only from a humanitarian point of view, but also from the point of view of the most intimate judgment and feeling of the Church. For this reason, despite difficulties, weariness, repugnance, personal pettiness, let us move forward with the grace of God!
What you are doing to make the Hogar more pleasant is very good: the more attractive the better. Hopefully, all this effort will help the laborers to see the respect with which they are treated, and as a result, bring them to a deeper respect for themselves.
Greetings to your family.
Alberto Hurtado C S.J.
Personal reflection written during November of 1947.
I am alone. Really alone this time, though among all the rest. No one understands me. My best friends have shown their opposition. They have confronted me face to face. All my plans are in danger. Everything seems dark.
I am alone, entirely alone. The door has just closed after the last painful conversation. The last friend has left after having brutally set his ego in opposition to mine.
Nonetheless, in order to carry out this enterprise, it will be necessary to have all my friends together, united together in communion. We were hardly advancing; shipwreck seemed immanent at any moment.
I am alone. Very alone. And it is here that God enters and takes command of the soul, raises it up, confirms it, consoles and fills it. Now I am no longer alone. The others will also return, without much delay; they will not abandon the hard work, the ship will not sink. Let’s return now quietly and gently to writing letters, preparing the lecture, correcting and writing. Life is still beautiful and God is here.
In these moments, go to your room.
Your room is a desert. Between the floor, the ceiling and the four walls there is nothing but you and God. Nature which enters through your windowpane does not disturb your colloquy but rather facilitates it. The world does not count for you; close your door to it and turn the key, for an hour. Recollect yourself and listen. God is here. He awaits you and speaks to you.
He is your God, great, beautiful, the One who comforts you, who illuminates you, who makes you understand that He loves you. He is ready to give Himself to you if you desire to give yourself to Him. Receive Him, do not reject Him. Do not run from Him, He is here. He awaits you and speaks to you.
This is the hour that He has chosen to find you. Do not go away. Listen well. You need Him and He also needs you for His work, to be able to do good to your brothers through you. He will give Himself generously to you, heart to heart, in this solitude.
From time to time your desert is your room, but you need God always. How can I recollect myself in intimacy with Him as the apostles once did when invited into the desert that they might be given greater intimacy with Christ?
Your desert is your will to never betray; it is your withdrawal from the world, your recollection in God; it is your unflagging hope. It is not necessary to search for a desert remote from men; you will find it everywhere if you fly to God; as much in the bus and in the plaza, as in the enormous assembly that awaits your words. Your desert is your separation from sin; it is your fidelity to your destiny, to your faith, to your love.
Meditation in a retreat for priests during 1948.
We must not only give ourselves, but give ourselves with a smile. It is not enough to take part in a battle; one must go into combat singing.
We must make virtue loved. We must make example contagious, otherwise it will remain sterile. We must make the lives of those around us pleasant and agreeable.
This means to triumph over subtle egoism, which, once driven out of the very texture of our lives, tends to take refuge in the hidden folds and creases, which is to say, in our egoistic sensitivity. This leaves us feeling like martyrs or at least victims, putting ourselves on a kind of pedestal and expecting to be consoled.
Smile and move forward! Total sacrifice is perpetual joy. The squaring of the circle? No. Because there is a secret link between the gift of self, out of love, and peace of soul.
Our vocation is total integration in Christ, in the resurrected Christ. In what does this attitude consist? It is difficult to define it, just as it is to define the beauty of a piece by Beethoven, or one of Fra Angelico’s Virgins. It is different for each person. From a negative point of view it is the elimination of all that which clashes, annoys, saddens or troubles others, whatever makes life hard, tiresome and displeasing…
St. Paul writes: “Bear the burden of one another’s failings and you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6,2). He does not say: “impose your burdens on others.” This only makes the general atmosphere more insufferable.
A temperament that is sweet, joyful, somewhat original, simple, natural, happy and kind in its mode of welcoming others contributes to the joy of life… This is the way St. Teresa contributed merrily to the good spirits of her community… A few little jokes at the right moment… Taking a seat at table in unassuming humility.
Each one has the possibility of doing something, each one following his character: the joyful, the artists, the quiet and tranquil, the congenial… Each one cultivating his nature. Grace supposes nature.
If we do not bring others to love virtue, they will never seek it. They will esteem it, but they will not search for it. We all want to be on the mountaintop in order to enjoy the view, but what keeps us from the top is the difficulty of the climb. It is difficult, at times dangerous and seems long. But the joyful person eliminates this rough harshness. He is like the mountain climber: if he is joyful and animated he is able to find other adepts; if he becomes fatigued, chilled, full of complaints, others will simply say: this is not for me!
A saint who is sad is a sad saint indeed! “Take my yoke upon yourselves and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11, 29-30). How many vocations might come out of seeing a group of smiling novices!
A Conference given to professors and students at the Catholic University in 1940.
All sanctification consists in knowing Christ and in imitating him. The entire Gospel and all the saints are filled with this ideal which is the Christian ideal par excellence. To live in Christ; to be transformed into Christ… St. Paul tells us: “I had no thought of bringing you any other knowledge than that of Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1Cor 2,2)… “I live now not I but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2,20). The task of all the saints is to achieve the Pauline ideal to live the life of Christ, in the measure of their capabilities and in accord with the graces given to each. To imitate Christ, meditate on his life and follow his example… The most popular book in the Church after the Gospels is the Imitation of Christ, but in how many different ways this imitation has been understood!
Erroneous ways of imitating Christ
1. For some, the imitation of Christ is reduced to a study of the historical Jesus. They search for the historical Christ and stay with this. They study him. They read the Gospel, investigate the chronology, study the customs of the Jewish people… And their study, more scientific than spiritual, is cold and inert. The imitation of Christ for them is reduced to a literal copy of his life. But it is not this. No: “The spirit is life giving; the letter kills” (2Cor 3,6).
2. For others, the imitation of Christ is rather a speculative affair. They see in Jesus a great Legislator; one who solves all the human problems, the sociologist par excellence; the artist who delights in nature, who is pleased to be with the little ones… For some he is an artist, a philosopher, a reformer, a sociologist and they contemplate him, admire him but do not change their lives because of him. Christ remains only in their intelligence and in their sensitivity, but has not pervaded their lives.
3. Another group believing that they imitate him, concern themselves only with the observance of his commandments, being faithfully observant of divine and ecclesiastical law. They are scrupulous in the practice of fasting and abstinence. They contemplate the life of Christ as a prolonged duty and our lives as a duty that prolongs that of Christ. To the laws given by Christ, they add others to fill the voids, in such a way that all life becomes a continuous set of obligations and duties, a rule of perfection in total ignorance of liberty of spirit.
The focus of their attention is not Christ but sin. The essential sacrament of the Church is not the Eucharist, nor baptism but confession. Their only concern is to flee sin. For them the imitation of Christ means to escape bad thoughts, to escape all danger, limit the liberty of the world and be suspicious of evil intentions in all the events of life. No, this is not the imitation of Christ that we propose. This could well be the attitude of the pharisees but not that of Christ.
4. For yet others the imitation of Christ is apostolic activism, a multiplication of efforts to give direction to the apostolate, a continuous movement to create ever more works, to multiply meetings and associations. Some situate the triumph of Catholicism purely in political attitudes. For others the accent is on torchlight processions, monster meetings, the founding of a periodical… I say that these things are not necessarily the answer. All things are necessary but these are not what is essential to Catholicism.
B. The True Solution
In the first place, our religion does not consist in a reconstruction of the historical Christ; nor a purely metaphysical, sociological or political Christ; nor is it only a cold and sterile struggle against sin; nor is it primarily an attitude of conquest. Neither does it consist in doing what Christ did, our civilization and conditions of life are so different!
Our imitation of Christ consists in living the life of Christ, in having this inner and outer attitude that in all things we are conformed to Christ, doing what Christ would do if he were in my place.
The first thing essential if we are to imitate Christ is to be assimilated into him by grace, which is participation in the divine life. Consequently, one should esteem above all else baptism which initiates us into divine life, the Eucharist which sustains it and gives us Christ and penance for its recovery when lost.
Possessing this life, we must endeavor to put it into action in all the circumstances of life through the practice of all the virtues which Christ practiced, in particular charity, the virtue most loved by Christ.
The historical incarnation necessarily restricted Christ and his divine-human life to a limited space and time. The mystical incarnation which is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, does away with all restrictions and amplifies itself to include all times and places where there are baptized. The divine life appears throughout the world. The historical Christ was a Jew and lived in Palestine in the time of the Roman Empire. The mystical Christ is Chilean, French, German, African… and lives in the twentieth century… He is a teacher, a merchant, an engineer, lawyer, worker, prisoner or a king… He is all Christians who live in the grace of God, aspire to integrate their lives in the norms of the life of Christ, in their most secret aspirations. And to aspire always to do whatever one does as Christ would do it were he in one’s place. To teach engineering, the law… as Christ would do it… to perform surgery with the delicacy of Christ… to treat one’s students with the gentle, loving and respectful firmness of Christ, to interest oneself in them as Christ would were he in one’s place. To travel as Christ would travel, to pray as Christ used to pray, to behave in politics, economy, in your domestic life as Christ would.
This supposes a knowledge of the Gospels and of Church tradition and a struggle against sin, it includes metaphysics, esthetics, sociology, and an ardent spirit of conquest… But not a primal dependence on them. If one fails, humanly speaking, if success does not crown the apostolate, one must not grow impatient. The only defeat consists in failing to be Christ because of apostasy or sin.
This is the Catholicism of a Francis of Assisi, of Ignatius and Xavier and of so many young and not so young who live their daily lives as married couples, teachers, single men and women, students, religious, athletes, politicians, with the criterion of being Christ. These are the beacons that convert souls and save nations
A meditation for priests involved in Catholic Action, preached in 1941.
The apostolic task is one of greatness. The apostolate can be defined as the illumination of souls. God needs no one to do the task, yet He chooses to avail Himself of us as collaborators. The Good News of the Gospel that Jesus brought to the world is the reconciling of souls to his Father. The preaching and application of this Good News is in fact the apostolate.
The doctrine of St. Paul is very clear: Jesus died for all men, for Jews and for gentiles. He paid all their debts and redeemed all without exception. Moreover, from this principle we must derive yet another that supposes apostolic solidarity. Salvation has become possible through Christ, the superabundant, infinite ransom is paid but this is not enough to achieve salvation: salvation is not automatically realized. Christ gives us the possibility of salvation, he won for us the right to incorporate ourselves into his death and resurrection but in order for this incorporation to be realized in fact, the collaboration of other men is normally required: that is to say, the cooperation of apostles. This human collaboration, the cooperation of the apostle in the plan of God which St. Paul alluded to as “God’s fellow-workers” (1 Cor 3,9), is the foundation of the apostolic life.
The mission of the apostle can be compared to that of a man in a city under siege by an enemy, and whose citizens are at the point of dying of thirst. The man finds himself to be in control of the life and death of the inhabitants because he knows of a subterranean source of water that could save his brothers but which requires much effort to unearth. If he refuses to make the effort, his companions will perish; could he refuse to make the sacrifice?
We can compare his mission to that of one who sees a wide torrent, deep and muddy, flowing toward him. The avalanche resounds, the depths roar, the waves are agitated. On the waves thousands of unfortunates cry out for help, they swim in desperation but are tossed high then thrown under by the waves, soon disappearing. They are our brothers. Others cry out to us: Save me! Who among us could continue to walk indifferently along the shore? No, we would cry out for life boats and oarsmen to save these lives in mortal danger. And we would call to those in danger to hang on for we are on the way. What great joy a man must have who consecrates his life to such a humanitarian mission! The most humanitarian, the most beautiful, the most urgent.
What an immense responsibility that of Christians, how little it is considered and yet how formidable it is. Christianity can be summarized in the law of charity, to God and to one’s neighbor, the rest is accessory or already contained in these two precepts. Nonetheless, these fundamental precepts are the most easily forgotten. The life of innumerable souls depends upon the Christian, on his preaching but above all on his life. Whatever he is, so shall be all those confided to his care by God. The courageous comparison of the saintly Curé of Ars remains timely: “A saintly priest, a good parish; a good priest, a mediocre parish; a mediocre priest, what can be expected of the parish?” And in speaking to those who loudly lamented the corruption of the times, St Augustine said: “You say the times are evil, then improve yourselves and the times will be better: you are the times.” More than anyone else the apostles can say: We are the times. What we are will constitute the Christianity of our epoch.
A terrible responsibility! The apostle’s task is to reveal in his mortal flesh the life of his Master for the salvation of souls… How many destinies with projections for eternity are left hanging on this revelation!
Much depends upon the apostles: that the war against sin be carried out with intensity; that where today there is vice, tomorrow virtue may reign; that youth immersed in impurity today may be reborn to a new life of dignity; that broken homes be united once more and that the rich treat the poor with justice and charity.
In the company of the apostle good works seem to blossom forth. Tears are dried and many sufferings are consoled. Even humanly speaking, what life could be more beautiful than the life of an apostle! What deep and pure consolations, are those he experiences.
The projections of the apostolate are immensely greater if we consider the perspective of eternity. The souls that grow excited and cry out in the streets and plazas have an eternal destiny. They are like trains without brakes running headlong towards eternity. It may depend on me whether these trains find a clear track leading to heaven or whether, on the contrary, they swerve off on some side track that leads to hell. Can I remain inert when my action or lack of it has an eternal consequence for so many souls?
“The charity of Christ urges us”, says St. Paul (2 Cor 5,14). To the extent that we can infer, salvation depends, in its last concrete application, upon the action of the apostle. It depends upon us then whether the Blood of Christ will be beneficial for those for whom it was shed. The Redeemer can work directly in the depths of human consciousness through paths unknown to us but to the extent that we have been able to penetrate in the divine secrets, instructed by the words of Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the liturgy of the Church, God has imposed upon Himself the path of collaboration with us and of conditioning the generous distribution of His gifts on our human help. If we refuse Him the bread, Christ does not descend to the Eucharist; if we refuse to give Him our lips there will be no transubstantiation nor pardon for sin; if we refuse Him water, he does not descend into the breast of the child called to be a tabernacle; if we refuse Him our work, sinners do not become just; and the dying, will they die in their sin because there was no one to show them the path to heaven?
If we desire then that the love of Jesus should not remain sterile, let us not live for ourselves, but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5,15). In this way we will fulfill the fundamental desire of the Heart of Christ: we will obey his commandment of love.
Let us not live for ourselves but for him. This is the meaning of radical abnegation, so often preached by St. Ignatius. He who now lives, lives not for himself; that is precisely it, let us make our own in every way possible, by means of purity of heart, prayer and work, the sentiments of Jesus: his patience, his zeal, his love, his concern for souls. “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me”(Gal 2,20).
In this way we will fulfill the fundamental desire of the Heart of Christ: Thy Kingdom come… “This is eternal life, that they might know thee O Father, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn 17,3). “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10, 10).
The apostle is called to give this life, to make Christ known, to accelerate the coming of his Kingdom. Queen of Apostles, intercede for us that all the members of Catholic Action be true apostles!
Retreat meditation on the visitation of Mary to St. Elizabeth.
The angel announced to Mary the news of Elizabeth and Mary went to help her neighbor. No sooner is the Word of God conceived than she gets up, prepares for a trip and hurries off to help her cousin.
Mary has understood the Christian attitude. She is the first to be incorporated into Christ and immediately understands the lesson of the Incarnation: It is not worthy of the Mother of God to hold fast to the prerogatives of her maternity in order to enjoy the sweetness of contemplation, but rather to communicate Christ. Her role is to communicate Jesus to others. Not the sacrifice of spiritual benefits but their conscious enjoyment: something that happens so many times in our lives: for example, when we celebrate Mass in a shed with dogs, chickens and goats… Willingly, if it involves communicating Christ and the denial of that spiritual egoism that refuses to sacrifice consolations when the good of others demands it.
Real charity: gets up and goes off and takes the role of a servant for three months. Real, active charity that does not consist in pure sentiment… is ready to give real service and accept the bother and sacrifice it includes.
When service is difficult. Mary was about fifteen at the time and, carrying the blessed Christ in her womb, she set out for that steep and craggy mountain where Jesus would later lay the scene for the parable of the wounded Samaritan, left half dead by bandits. Excuses? The trip would take four days, four days of travel on unsafe roads. But the difficulties did not curb her charity. But no one had asked her for anything. It would have been enough to await the request. No one would find it strange. This is the way our egoism reasons when there is a question of service.
She left right away. She did not wait until the family advised her. As soon as she received the angel’s visit, she got up and left, before the news had even arrived. Mary, the Mother of God, takes the first step! How sincere she is in her resolution. She told the angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord”, and here she is acting upon it; she receives the angel’s news and leaves. This anticipation of the needs of others in granting favors, duplicates them. Asking for help can be so humiliating. Let us avoid this and above all let us avoid any brusqueness or lack of warmth in granting favors, for it does more harm than good.
Be like the Holy Virgin who does not seem to notice that she is sacrificing herself. No ostentation, no harping on the service given, no making sure that the community or the whole city knows about it five minutes later. On the contrary, look at it as though you were the one benefitted! That’s charity, that is what wins hearts! Service given with bad humor is a lost cause: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9,7). He who gives promptly gives twice! This is the great secret of fervor: promptness, swiftness and enthusiasm for doing good.
Do not take refuge behind our dignity, waiting and hoping that others will take the first step. True charity only thinks about the possibility of doing some service just as true humility does not consider what makes us superior but rather the root of our own inferiority. “Considering others greater than oneself” (Rom 12,10). Imperfect religious are stingy in their charity. They give the least amount possible, they think, discuss, haggle, and look at the clock… The Christian is magnanimous, beautiful, heroic, universal. He gives without measure and without hope of a return.
Retreat meditation on the resurrection of the Lord.
It is not all Good Friday. Christ has risen and is my hope! “I am the Resurrection” (Jn 11, 25). Today is Sunday and this idea must dominate my thoughts. In the midst of suffering and testing… optimism, confidence and joy. Always joyful: because Christ is risen, he has conquered death and is seated at the right hand of the Father. And it is Christ, my hope who has risen. My Father, my Friend, he can die no more. What glory! In the same way I shall rise “in Christ Jesus”… and after these days of enormous, threatening clouds, I shall see Christ.
Because each day that passes I am closer to Christ. Grey hairs… heaven is very near. When will this weak link finally break… “I desire to die and be with Christ” (Phil 1,23). Because Christ triumphed and the Church will triumph. The gravestone and the guards believed he was trampled under foot. This will happen as well with our labor as Christians. It will triumph! The greatest apostles are not the most attractive; nor are the greatest successes those with the finest outward display. In Christian action there is the success of failure. There are triumphs that are more like late bloomers! In the world of the invisible, what appears useless is the most effective of all. A complete failure accepted willingly means greater supernatural success than all the triumphs put together.
Sow the seed without concern for the results. Do not grow tired of the sowing. Give thanks to God for the apostolic fruits of my failures. When Christ spoke to the rich young man of the Gospel, he failed but how many since have heard that lesson. In the face of the Eucharist many walked away from him but, how many have come since then! You will labor! Your zeal will appear fruitless but how many will live thanks to you!
After his resurrection, our Lord was not content to enjoy his own happiness. Just as the joy of the teacher is the knowledge of his students… his hope is not complete until all have learned; just as the hope of the ship’s Captain is not complete until the last person is saved… It would be unthinkable that Christ would content himself with his own salvation.
All of heaven looks with great hope to the earth. St Ignatius has placed great hope in us and he will not know fulfillment until the last Jesuit has entered heaven. Hope is the link that unites heaven with earth. We cannot imagine a tranquil heaven with large comfortable couches. St. Peter has his eye on the Vatican all day. Earth is the daily paper of heaven. This is why we can call out: Look here. Save us we are perishing! Remember this is your work that is burning. Look here you saints! Look at your work! Pray for us! The Church does this in an urgent, impelling way!
Heaven is not completed: a large part of the Church is missing. And when a poor man covered with the dust of earth arrives, how much joy there is in heaven! The Lord tells us: there will be more joy in heaven… (Lk 15,7).
All of heaven is interested in what is happening on earth! And this is why our Lord appears to his Mother… He is interested in everything, even in the catch of his apostles; in what they eat: Is there anything left to eat? He ate and distributed the pieces (cf. Jn 21, 1-14). It was to show us that more than his own eternal happiness, he is interested in his work on earth.
Retreat meditation on the missionary obligation of the faithful.
We have a great responsibility: the evangelization of the world, a command given on the Mount of the Ascension. We have responsibility for the entire world. Our Lord will do nothing except through us, he will not speak except through us. We have responsibility for the growth of the Church. Geographically, it remains too small… like a child that has all his organs but must grow… The Church must grow like a child, in all parts of the body. The Church has not reached its normal size. Soon all, all its members, must contribute to its growth, so that it may grow integrally, in all its organs. If its growth is only in some members and not in others, the growth is abnormal, a sickness that ends in death.
Through our baptism we are members of the Church; through our prayers we are at the service of the Church. We have to interest ourselves in the missions whose object is to make the Church grow. Is the Church established in the whole world? People say they are interested but what do they give? Their thoughts, almost never; their desires, not often… old papers, the leftovers from their homes. Of the 300,000 priests, 20,000 are on the missions and of these 13,000 take care of Catholics… Only a handful of priests and sisters are dedicated to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ.
They say: Charity begins at home! Who said so? Christ, the Fathers of the Church? No. That is the theory of egoism. Do egoism and charity begin in the same way? No, from the very first moment, charity is for all: from the beginning, love all. It begins from the very first moment to serve those who are nearest. The Holy Spirit’s tactic is like that of the spider: begin from the farthest point and finish at the center. St Paul had much to do in Jerusalem but he went as far as Spain for he wanted to go around the then known world.
Those who have this immense responsibility are few in number. What have I done to make the church grow? Excuse me? We do not have the time to involve ourselves in this! With our desires, prayers, sufferings, influence, we can do a great deal. We must preserve this great desire in our souls and not fall prey to spiritual rickets.
The labor is endless - there are 400 million Chinese… 375 million Hindus… what totally disproportionate tasks! In the first place, it has nothing to do with converting all the Chinese: but rather of establishing the Church. With 25 million Chinese the Chinese Church is founded. Take the the case of the United States, there are 27 million Catholics among 120 million inhabitants. The missions in the United Sates no longer exist and the American Catholics have become missioners.
There are critical moments in the Divine Providence: to uproot a huge eucalyptus tree is almost impossible but there is a moment in which even a child with a string can determine the side on which it will fall. India, after the war; China now searching for its path. In this moment the influence of prayers, desires, influences can determine the direction that will be taken over many centuries.
But there are not enough personnel for the missions… Assume the responsibility and vocations will come! There will be no lack of them. Begin: send four missioners to Africa and personnel will arrive! The first thing needed is an act of faith. In many of our provinces we are doing well in schools but when we have nothing except schools, the province becomes a bit bourgeois… When there are missions, it changes.
What can we do? Get to know our own missions! When one becomes fond of the missions one learns a great deal. Our prayer should be: May the Kingdom of God come. Our sacrifices, our support and our influence are needed.
Meditation given on the feast of the Sacred Heart, Catholic University, June 3, 1943.
My dear students:
When treating this topic one experiences a certain apprehension, an instinctive distrust; one trembles, not for fear of criticism from one side or the other, because whatever one might say, criticism cannot be escaped. No, the fear arises from the fact that having the mission to teach, one may fail to have the courage to say all the truth, something very difficult to do at times. Or, on the other hand, to fail to know how to maintain a just balance, the mean where virtue is found. But despite these dangers, I have decided to accept this topic for three reasons:
1. First, because it seems to me to be very adequate for this retreat in preparation for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the feast of love. Moreover, the fact that the social obligation of the university student is nothing else but the concrete application of the teachings of Christ regarding the dignity of the human person and the new commandment, his characteristic commandment of love, to your life as a student today, and to your professional future tomorrow.
2. Secondly, because the Popes have ardently urged us as priests to present this topic clearly and without hesitation.
3. A third and final reason flows from the fact of your being university students: to be silent with regard to this before any audience would be serious but to do so before you would be very grave, even criminal since you are the builders of this new society, you will be the intellectual leaders of this nation. The professions that form the structure of national life will be no better than you will be; their future depends on you; in great part, you will work consistent with the perception you have regarding these problems and your social conduct will, in large part, be conditioned by your social formation.
And now without further preamble, I want to get to the heart of the topic. The first problem is without doubt that of the interior life, for from here and only from here must come the solution, the strength, the necessary dynamism to confront the great sacrifices, for the world cannot be returned to Christ by crusades that solely carry the cross emblazoned on their shields. The demands of our interior life far from escaping involvement, urge us rather to have a keen social conscience founded precisely on the same principles upon which we base that life. Were we to content ourselves simply with fidelity to practices, serenity of soul, a merely interior orderliness, rather than involve ourselves in the common good; or if we were to profess loudly our belief in a religion that places the virtues of justice and charity at the summit of its moral order yet did not continually question ourselves with regard to the demands these virtues make in the day to day rough and tumble of our own social lives, then there would be little possibility of reaching true integrity as Christians.
A Catholic more than anyone, must be a friend of order, but order is not immovability imposed from without but an interior balance that is realized by the fulfillment of justice and charity. An apparent tranquility attained through the pressure of insuperable forces is not enough; it is essential that each one take the place that belongs to him, in accord with human nature; that he participate in the work but also in the satisfaction as is proper among brothers, sons of the same Father. A Catholic rejects the immovability in disorder as well as the disorder in movement because both destroy the interior balance of justice and charity.
A person who desires to be faithful in the fullest sense of the word is a perpetual non-conformist who feeds his hunger and thirst for justice in the words of Christ and who searches for ways to satisfy these devouring passions in the teachings of the Church, which is nothing else but the prolongation of Christ living among us.
The Pontifical documentation concerning Social Action is immense. In the light of these teachings we can march forward with confidence. His Holiness Pius XI commented sadly that the Catholics of the entire world were generally well instructed in regard to their individual obligations but ignorant as regards their social obligations. Let us at least not remain deaf to the voice of our Pontiffs so clearly expressed with regard to the social issues.
With regard to the motives urging social action and prior to anything else, there is urgent necessity for the mobilization of all our assets in search of a social solution to a whole set of the gravest of human needs that are at stake. It has to do with nothing less than the survival of our brothers. Let us remind ourselves about infant mortality, about the vagrants without a roof to call home who wander through the parks, curl up in the doorways of homes in winter… these are our brothers! about the malnutrition that affects our whole race; about the alcoholism that ruins so many homes, materially and morally; about the social diseases; about the lack of education; about broken homes; about the need for a place to stay; about the cold! This is only a rapid survey of a world of problems whose magnitud disturbs and confuses us and whose importance is transcendental for innumerable brothers of ours.
The present social order does not correspond to the plan of Providence. The religious dimension of life in each one of the social sectors is made difficult at present because of the problem of excess or in most cases, the insufficiency or dearth of the necessary means for life. When He created us, God desired that we sanctify ourselves. This is the motive that explains the creation: God desired to have saints in the world; to have children who would manifest the splendors of His grace. Now then, what hope is there if sanctifying oneself in the present milieu if a profound social reform does not take place?
It might be convenient here to suggest the first practical conclusion for a Catholic university student. Each must come to know the general social problem, the social doctrines that the world debates but above all the social doctrine of the Church. One should get to know the Chilean reality and be especially concerned about studying one’s career in terms of the social problems proper to your profession. There should be specialized social study circles for each career in order to achieve the ideal of Pope Pius XII, the significant element of the new order: to elevate and promote the dignity of the proletariat. The study of our social doctrine should awaken in us, a deep social sense and a non-conformist attitude toward evil, what Jules Simon has admirably called a sense of outrage.
Meditation on the Kingdom, Holy Week retreat for youth, 1946.
Christ came to this world not to do his great work alone but with us, with all of us, to be the head of a great body whose living, active cells we are. We are all called to incorporation in him, this is the fundamental level of Christian life… But for some there are higher calls; a call to surrender oneself to him, to live only for him, to make him the norm of one’s intelligence; to consider him in each of one’s actions, to follow him in his endeavors, even more, to make one’s life Christ’s project, Christ’s venture. For the seaman, his life is the sea; for the soldier, the army; for the nurse, the hospital; for the farmer, his land; for the generous soul, his life is Christ’s venture!
This is the essential part of the call of Christ: Do you wish to consecrate your life to me? The problem is not sin; it is a problem of consecration! Consecration to what? To personal holiness and to the apostolate. Personal holiness or sanctity that is a faithful imitation of the sanctity of Christ.
If he calls you what will you do?… I would like you to think deeply about this because this is what is essential in spiritual retreats. Retreats are a call to our deepest generosity. They do not move us through fear, nor do they try to frighten us. They remind us of the commandments because they can do no less than remind us. The commandments are the foundation, the cement for the whole construction, because we are obliged to obey them by the will of God. But they are little more than the cement and one does not live in the cement, there is little beauty in the cement… Retreats are for souls that wish to go higher, and the higher the better; they are for those who have understood the meaning of Love and that Christianity is love, that the great commandment, par excellence, is that of love.
The proof of faith is love, heroic love and heroism is not of obligation. The priesthood, the missions, works of charity are not of obligation under the pain of sin; nonetheless they are absolutely necessary for the Church and are works of generosity. The day there are no priests there will be no sacraments, yet the priesthood is not obligatory; the day there are no missioners, the faith will not advance, yet the missions are not obligatory; the day there is no one to care for the lepers and the poor the distinctive testimony of Christ will disappear, yet these works are not of obligation… The day there are no saints there will be no Church, yet sanctity is not of obligation. What a splendid idea this is! The Church does not live and thrive because of the fulfillment of obligations but because of the generosity of its faithful!
If he calls you what will you tell him? What are you likely to do? Ask, pray to be in the best of dispositions! St. Ignatius asks that the person who enters upon the Exercises have great courage and generosity with God, our Lord. That he desire to be stirred and motivated and to surrender himself completely.
Lord, if in this tormented twentieth century that has emerged from such horrendous butchery: concentration camps, deportations, bombings, the search for more terrible weapons to kill even more, the destruction to obtain riches, more industry, more comfort, more honors, less pain; if in this twentieth century world a new generation were to understand its mission and desire to give testimony to Christ, a new generation that believes and is not limited only to shouts of Christ, conquers, Christ rules, Christ reigns, phrases that mean little without testimony… Where would we find them? Nowhere else but in the humble, silent offering of their lives to make it possible for Christ to rule in the ways in which he desires to rule: in poverty, meekness, humiliation, in his sufferings, in prayer, in humble and self-sacrificing charity.
If Christ finds this generation. If Christ finds even one… Would you want it to be you? The humblest. The most useless in the eyes of the world could be the most useful in the eyes of God… Lord, I am not worth much… but confused as I am, in fear and trembling I offer you my heart. Our Lord entered Jerusalem on the day of his triumph seated upon an ass and he continues faithful to this practice, he enters the souls of the “donkeys” of good will, poor, meek, and humble. Do you want to be Christ’s donkey? Christ does not wish to deceive me, the great venture compels me… It is difficult, very difficult. It is necessary to fight against one’s own passions that desire the very opposite of Christ’s project. They will not die all at once, forever, but must continue to die a little each day.
It is necessary to struggle against the milieu in which we live: our friends, family, the world, attractions… they will all seem to rise up scandalized before the example, though humble and modest, of those who aspire to point out their errors. If you love me you would want to give me what is really good and take away these ridiculous, old fashioned exaggerations “that do more harm than good.” What are these exaggerations for? Why don’t you do what the rest do? Struggle against the scandal of others… struggle against the discouragement of the enterprise, the weariness of age, dryness of spirit, tedium, fatigue, monotony… Yes, you have to struggle but I am here. Have confidence in me, I have overcome the world. My yoke is sweet and my burden light… Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest… He who thirsts let him come to me and drink. Streams of living water will flow from within him unto eternal life. (Jn 16,33; Mt 11, 30. 29; Jn 7, 37-38.)
I need you… I do not oblige you, but I need you to carry out my plans of love. If you do not come, a work will remain undone because you and only you can do it. No one can take over this work because each has his part in the good that must be realized. Look at the world; how the fields grow yellow, how much hunger and thirst in the world. Look how they search for me even when they persecute me… There is an ardent tormenting hunger for justice, for honor and respect for the human person; a resolved will to make the world jump if necessary to put an end to the shameful exploitation; there are people among those who call themselves my enemies who practice out of hatred what I teach for love… There is a hunger in many for religion, for the spirit, for confidence for a sense of life.
Difficult? Yes! The world will not understand you… It will ridicule you… It will say these are exaggerations, that you have gone crazy. Many said that Jesus was crazy, they dressed him as a fool, accused him of having a devil… and finally crucified him. And if Jesus were to come today to our earth, I am horrified to think about it, he would not be crucified but shot. If he were to come to Chile… they would incite a rebellion against him. What would they say about him in the press, in the universities? Who would do the talking? God willing we would not form part of the chorus of his accusers, nor of those who would shoot him. Difficult? Yes! But only here will we find life. In the great work of Christ each one of us has his place; different for each, but a place in a plan for sanctity, holiness. In the chain of grace that God destines to goodness. I am called to be a link. I can be this link, I can also refuse; what will I do? The answer: I must raise this problem for my consideration in all its depths and respond in all seriousness.
The response of youth
Many will not have the courage to even raise the problem. It will be beyond their capacities but if they would think rather in the strength of Christ…..? If only they would think that they could also be saints with Christ, depending on his strength rather than taking refuge in the cowardice of mere obligation.
Others will give an alms of “something.” Something is better than nothing. But it is not what Christ asks. One mustn’t offer “something” else, insisting that it is as good when Christ asks for something better: nothing but the will of God alone.
The real treasures are the generous ones, those who surrender themselves, and to be sure of doing the will of God, “acting against one’s sensibilities”, they embrace the most difficult in spirit, they ask for it and beg that it will be given them…and they will only abandon that gift of themselves if the Lord shows them their path in other, gentler terrains. But as far as they are concerned, they head right for it!
Let us Be Christians, that Is to Say, Let us Love our Brothers
Conference on the fundamental orientation of Catholicism.
“Let us be Christians, that is to say, let us love our brothers.” In this elegant and precise thought Bossuet summarizes his conception of Christian morality. Shortly before he wrote: “He who renounces fraternal charity, renounces his faith, abjures Christianity, separates himself from the school of Jesus Christ, that is to say from his Church.”
This is the message of Christ: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10,27). The message of Jesus was understood in all its power by his closest collaborators, the apostles: “He who does not love his brother is not born of God” (1 Jn 2,1). “If you say you love God and do not love your brother, you lie” (1 Jn 4,20). “How can the love of God be in him, who being rich in the goods of this world and seeing his brother in need closes his heart to him” (1 Jn 3,17).With great emphasis John insists that pretending to please God while turning one’s back on one’s neighbor, is purely egoism.
After running rapidly through a few texts chosen at random we cannot do less than conclude that no one can pretend to be a Christian and close his heart to his neighbor. One only dupes oneself if one goes frequently to Church but not to the slums to alleviate the misery of the poor. The person who thinks frequently of heaven but forgets the miseries of the earth where he lives is simply hoodwinking himself. Youth and adults who consider themselves to be good because they refuse impure thoughts but are incapable of sacrificing themselves for their neighbors are simply duping themselves. A Christian heart must close itself off from bad thoughts but it must also open itself to thoughts of charity.
The first encyclical written by St. Peter and directed to the world contains such praise for charity that it places it above all the virtues, including prayer: “Be persevering in prayer, but above all things continually practice charity among yourselves” (1 Pt 4,8-9).
Charity must be observed with greater care than the pupil of the eye. The least coldness or voluntary deviation regarding a brother, deliberately allowed, will be a more or less serious obstacle in our union with Christ. When we communicate we receive the physical Body of Christ, our Lord, and for this reason we cannot reject his Mystical Body in our thanksgiving. It is impossible that Christ would come down to us with his grace and be the principle of union if we retain resentment for one of his members.
This love of neighbor is the source of the greatest merit attainable by us, because it offers the greatest obstacles. To love God in Himself is more perfect but also easier; on the other hand loving a neighbor who is harsh of character, disagreeable, stubborn, egocentric, demands great generosity of soul in order to avoid discouragement.
Since we all form one Body, this love must be universal, not excluding anyone, because Christ died for all and all are called to form part of the his Kingdom. For this reason even sinners must be an object of our love because they can once again be members of the Mystical Body of Christ: for this reason our love and tenderness and our desire to do good must be extended to them as well. We hate the sin but not the sinner.
Love for our neighbor must be above all supernatural, that is to say, love them with our eyes fixed on God, to obtain and conserve for them the grace that will lead them to true happiness. To love is to love well, as St. Thomas tells us, and all good is subordinated to the supreme good. For this reason the consecration of a life to gaining for others supernatural good, the supreme values of life, is so noble. But there are also other needs to be helped: a poor man who needs bread, a sick person in need of medicine, the sad who need consolation, an injustice that demands reparation… and above all the positive goods that must be shared, because although there is no suffering that afflicts others, there is always a capacity to receive what is good.
The law of charity is not a dead law for us; there is a live model that has given us examples from the first act of his existence until his death and he continues to give us proofs of that love in his life of glory: Jesus Christ. St. Peter who lived with Jesus for three years summarizes his life for us in a very few words: “He passed through this world doing good.”
Together with these great signs of love he shows us his charity with the lepers he healed, with the suffering whose pain he alleviated. He consoles Martha and Mary after the death of their brother, even to weeping openly; he takes pity on the embarrassment of the young couple and to dispel it he changes water into wine. We can conclude that whatever pain and suffering he met with, it was never left unalleviated. For us the precept of love means to remember the words of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13,34). And how Jesus has loved us!
True Christians, from the very beginning, have well understood the precept of the Lord. We can find the strength to reinforce our commitment to love in the hope of these wonderful Christians, despite the massive hatred that surrounds us on all sides like high mountains.
Looking at this land that is ours, which has been allotted to us by the Redeemer and considering the evils of the moment, the precept of Christ takes on an imperious necessity. Let us mutually love one another. The sign of the Christian is not the sword, the symbol of force; nor is it the balance, nor the symbol of justice; but the cross, symbol of love. To be a Christian means to love our brothers as Christ has loved them.
Retreat meditation on apostolic generosity.
1. The apostle does not belong to himself
“You are not your own” (cf. 1 Cor 6,19-20). The apostle no longer belongs to himself. He has sold himself, he has surrendered himself to his Master. He lives for him, works for him suffers for him. The Master’s viewpoint becomes what is important. My own concerns, my interests give place to those of the Master.
What work should be chosen? Not what personal taste, caprice, utility or comfort indicate, but rather that which serves best. The most urgent, the most useful, most worthy of consideration, the most universal service. That of the Master.
With what attitude? One works just as much if it pleases or displeases either oneself or others. This is done in the service of His Majesty. It must continue, extend itself, abandon itself but not for human ambition, the need for action or for the conquest of influence, but rather because the work belongs to the Master. Do what He would do.
Everything is subordinated to this work, including health, spiritual joy, repose and triumph. According to St. Paul: “I am hemmed in on both sides. I long to have done with it and be with Christ, a better thing by far; and yet for your sakes that I should wait in the body is more urgent still. I am certain of that and I do not doubt that I shall wait upon you all” (Phil 1,23).
It is a work of love not that of a slave. One does not complain but rather is overjoyed to give oneself, as the mother does for her sick child. It is a total gift to the work of the Master which is embraced with love in such a way that not sacrificing oneself becomes a greater sacrifice: Love one’s pain.
II. Apostolic peace
The world manages to give us peace through the absence of all perceptible evils and the merging of all pleasure. The peace that Jesus promised to his disciples is different. It is founded not in the absence of all suffering, all concern, but in the absence of all internal division; it is based on the unity of our attitude toward God, toward ourselves and toward others.
This is peace in work - without rest. My Father works until now and I work (cf. Jn 5,17). The true work of God which consists in giving life and in conserving it, drawing each being toward its own greatest good does not cease nor can it cease. In that way those who truly are associated with the divine work can never rest because nothing in this work is slavish nor base. An apostle works when he sleeps, when he rests, when he distracts himself… All of this is holy, is apostolic, is collaboration with the divine plan.
Christian peace is founded on this unification of all our potential for work and struggle, of all our desires and ambitions… If a person at the beginning is unified in this way and, little by little practices this unification, such a person has peace.
III. The zeal of Paul
The apostle is a martyr or he remains sterile. When preaching on zeal, self sacrifice and heroism, endeavor to make them understood as Christian virtues, born from the example and doctrine of Christ. The zeal for souls is an ardent passion. It is based on love; it is its aggressive conquering aspect and when it touches the loved one, it touches him as well. In just this way Paul says: I am crucified with Christ (Gal 2, 19). He becomes furious in what concerns the faith of his Galatians… because he is identified with Christ: therefore to touch this faith is to touch him. “I no longer live not I but Christ lives in me. Or if I still live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Gal 2,20). You do not touch Christ without passing through Paul.
He tells the Philippians that he does not care if others preach Christ though they do so out of envy for him. What is of importance to him is that Christ be glorified (Phil 1, 15-18). The only thing he will not tolerate is that Christ be affected in any way: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 1,21). Nothing else matters to him, total lack of self interest: “What is my reward? Just this, that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. I make myself a slave of everyone to win as many as possible” (cf. 1 Cor 9,18-19)
In acting we ourselves do not have to be the final intention: neither esteem ourselves nor make ourselves servile; neither should we inflate ourselves, nor put ourselves between God, our Lord Jesus Christ and souls, or want to force them to go through us, to keep them with us, even though we have been for a time useful, indispensable, even providential for them… Nor work to please men (cf. Gal 10); but in this we must not be over scrupulous… but rather purify our intention: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you I desire nothing on earth” (Ps 72, 25). Do with pleasure what gives me little or no pleasure ..
Well then, am I a slave? Yes, but a slave of Christ. And this is the greatest good and the greatest sweetness of our life. But you must have a vocation for this: “A stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Cor 1,23-24).
Conference given in Bolivia, January 1950, before the directors of the Socio-economic Apostolate.
Christian spirituality in our century is characterized by an ardent desire to return to the sources, to be ever more genuinely evangelical, simpler and more unified around the rigorous message of Jesus. Contemporary spirituality is also characterized by the ramification of supernatural principles to all aspects of life in such a way that faith has its repercussion not only those activities called religious but also in elevating those termed profane. Having rediscovered or at least having accentuated with extraordinary firmness our incorporation into Christ and the consequent divinization of our lives and of all our actions, nothing in the life of a Christian is profane but rather profoundly religious.
For this reason in our search for Christ we must seek for the whole Christ. It is enough to be a human person in order to be a member of Christ’s Mystical body, that is to be Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12,12-27). He who accepts the Incarnation must accept all its consequences and extend his gifts not only to Jesus Christ but also to his Mystical Body. And this is one of the most important points of the spiritual life: to forsake the least of our brothers is to forsake Christ himself; to alleviate any one of them is to alleviate Christ in person. To touch any man is to touch Christ. For this reason Christ tells us that all the good or evil one does to the least of his brothers, is done to him (cf. Mt 25). The fundamental nucleus of the revelation of Jesus, “the good news”, is, then, our union, that of all men with Christ. Then it follows that failing to love those who belong to Christ, one fails to love Christ himself.
What other meaning has the question Jesus made to Paul on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” The voice does not ask: “Why are you persecuting my disciples?” but rather “Why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9,4-5).
Christ has made himself our neighbor or better still, our neighbor is Christ who presents himself to us under one or another form: a prisoner in the jail; the wounded in a hospital; the beggar in the street; a poor man sleeping under a bridge. We must see Christ in the poor with the eyes of faith, and if we do not see him it is because our faith is weak and our love imperfect. For this reason St. John tells us: “If you do not love your neighbor whom you see, how can you love God whom we cannot see?” (cf. 1 Jn 4,20). If we do not love God in his visible form, how can we come to love Him in Himself?
The communion of saints, a basic dogma of our faith, is one of the first realities to issue from the doctrine of the Mystical Body: All mankind is in solidarity. All receive the Redemption of Christ, its marvelous fruits, a participation in the merits of Mary our Mother and of all the saints, and we can apply this truth to all Christians in the grace of God. The communion of saints makes us understand that there is among those who form the family of God, ties much more intimate than those of comradeship, friendship or even family ties. The faith teaches us that all men are one in Christ, participants in all the riches and suffering the negative consequences of all our evils.
With regard to solutions for the problem of the unjust distribution of wealth, the first principle of solution lies in our faith: We must believe in the dignity of man and in his elevation to the supernatural order. It is a sad fact, but we must affirm it, painful as it is: the faith in the dignity of our brothers held by the majority of Catholics, does not go further than a cold intellectual acceptance of this principle, and is not carried over into our practical conduct with those who suffer; much less does the injustice of which they are the victims, cause pain to the soul. We suffer for the pain of members of our families but how much do we suffer for the miners treated like beasts of burden, for the sufferings of thousands and thousands of persons who, thrown out on the streets, must sleep like animals, exposed to the inclemencies of the weather. Do we by chance, suffer for the thousands of unemployed who are forced to go from place to place seeking work, whose pitiful fortune is wrapped in a sack, thrown over their shoulder? Does our heart break for the sick, for the millions of undernourished, for those with tuberculosis, a permanent focus of contagion because there is no hospital that will receive them?
Is it not the truth that the first words that come to our lips are more than likely: exaggeration, prudence, patience, resignation. While Catholics have not taken with profound seriousness the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ which makes us see the Savior in each of our brothers, even the most sorrowful, even in the dullest miner chewing coca, in the worker lying drunk, stretched out physically and morally by his ignorance, while we cannot see Christ in them, our problem has no solution.
The intelligent cooperation of technicians who study the socio-economic milieu of the country and propose efficacious measures is urgently necessary. The hour has arrived in which our socio-economic action must cease to content itself with repeating general watchwords taken from the Papal encyclicals but rather propose well studied solutions for immediate application in the socio-economic field. I am deeply convinced that if Catholics propose a well-prepared plan that looks to the common good, they will find the help of many men of good will in all fields and the plan will become a reality.
In conclusion, let us make ours the thought of Pius XII in his Christmas message of 1939: “The rules, even the best that were ever established will never be perfect and they will be condemned to failure if those who govern the destinies of nations and nations themselves are not permeated with the spirit of good will, of hunger and thirst for justice and universal love which is the final objective of Christian idealism.” This hunger and thirst for justice cannot be stimulated more than in the consideration of the basic fact of our faith: by the Redemption we are all in Christ; he lives in our brothers. Let us make the love that we owe him concrete in those who represent him. “What you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me.” (Mt 25,40).
Personal reflection written in November 1947.
The soul purified in love is often tormented by anguish. Not anguish over its own destiny: it has far too much love and its hope is too profound to spend time considering its own situation. The person knows himself to be small and weak, but nonetheless, sought by God and loved by Him…
His anguish is the product of the misery of the world. The foolishness of men, their ignorance, ambitions, cowardice, the egoism of nations, of classes, the obstinacy of the bourgeois that refuses to understand, their moral mediocrity, the ardent call of the masses, the shortsightedness and at times the hatred of those in charge. The unconcern for justice. The endless number of huts and filthy shacks. Insufficient or badly managed salaries. Alcoholism, tuberculosis, syphilis, promiscuity, contaminated air. The banal, carnal spectacle, so many bars, suspicious cafés, such need to forget, so much evasion, such a waste of life. Enormous mediocrity among the rich as well as the poor. Foolish humanity that dazes itself with cheap music and then fights.
The soul feels seized by great anguish. The misery of the world that has taken up residence in the soul, tortures it. The heart seems at the point of exploding. It cannot take any more. The stomach cramps, the anguish rises from the heart and tightens the throat.
What can I do Lord? Must I declare myself impotent, accept the defeat, cry out: Save yourself if you can? Must I get away from this evil smelling stream? Is it necessary to escape from this delirium?
No. All these persons are my dear brothers and sisters, without a single exception. They await illumination. They need the Good News. They are disposed to receive the message of the Spirit, provided He communicates with them; provided someone has thought of them, cried for them, loved them; provided someone is close enough to them to understand them and help them to walk; provided there is someone who, above all else passionately loves justice and truth and lives them intensely.
Provided there is someone capable of liberating them, of helping them discover their own riches, hidden within themselves, in the true light, in fraternal joy, in a profound desire for God.
Provided that the one who desires to help them has reflected sufficiently to be able to capture the entire universe in his gaze, the universe that searches for God, the universe that leads man that he might arrive at God through the mutual support of brothers, made to love, to cooperate in the equal sharing of burdens and in the fruits. By means of an analysis of the reality which needs work, through successes and defeats, through diligent intervention, through political wisdom finally re-conquered, through adherence to all truth; through holding fast to Christ in faith. Through hope. Through the complete gift of myself to God and to humanity and all those to whom I will bring the message and in whom I will light the flame of truth and love.
Homily delivered during the month of Mary, 1950.
Something truly encouraging is happening in the world, especially in Chile: like a second springtime, a spiritual springtime, during the Month of Mary. Everything seems to change the way it looks, this month the churches are filled with people who come from, no one knows where, working men, soldiers, busy housewives, not only those with little else to do. And this happens four or five times a day in all the churches.
Why does the Holy Virgin have such an influence on our souls? What attraction does she wield over us? First, it is an intuitive influence, sentimental, emotional because, as has been said, if she had not been created by God, man would have had to invent her; she is a psychological necessity of the human heart. At bottom, Mary represents the greatest aspirations of the soul. The mother is the primary and most absolute necessity of the soul, and when we have lost her or know that we will lose her, we need something from heaven to wrap us round with tenderness.
She is not divine, she is entirely of our earth, like us, fully human: she does the work of any mother but feeling that she is so totally ours, we recognize her as the throne of divinity.
How difficult it is to pass in rapid review the dogmatic privileges of Mary! But the soul intuits that just as the heart of the young boy of 20 needs a girl to complete his life, humanity needs Mary, this tender Mother, pure Virgin, human being full of divinity received from God. Even those who know no theology are amazed when they see what she is.
In our times filled with tremendous problems, we must once again Christianize the world: there are millions of men under the dominion of atheism, at the point of entering an atomic war, and in this difficult moment it seems to me that Mary comes once again to multiply her appeals. She appears to Bernadette in Lourdes: I am the Immaculate Conception, causing a spring to gush forth where hundreds of sick have recuperated their health and the grotto has been duplicated in every city, even in marginal areas. In Mexico it has been said: she did something unlike anything in any part of the world. Here Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to an Indian Juan Diego and when he told her “My little girl, they will not believe me” she let fall from the Indian’s poncho a rain of red roses in the middle of winter that he might take them to the archbishop. She appeared with the features of an Indian girl, because she came in defense of the Indians.
When I see so many people gathered so often for the Month of Mary and for the procession of our Lady of Mount Carmel, I have often thought that these people are hungry for the truth, and I ask myself, What is our obligation towards them? First to give an example of the integrity of Christian life, never to reconcile or adapt ourselves to the world but rather to reconcile the world to Mary. In our conversations, charity: may our words be kind, tender and loving. The world likes a gala meal, nothing but diversion and we will not be an obstacle but we will add a note of austerity and work. We cannot have devotion to her and fail in charity, nor can we avoid doing something to help solve human misery.
These days I have had the occasion to live drenched in misery, besieged by the miserably poor who have absolutely nothing. Where can a man go who is hungry and has nothing to eat? Yesterday a young woman, decently dressed said to me: Father, I haven’t eaten this morning, they are taking away my room and I have five children. ¿Where can I go?… A poor man, jailed for vagrancy, society that has given him neither work nor a roof, then jails him for wandering. We are soaked in misery that has reached the extreme. I know people who haven’t eaten for three or four days.
Shouldn’t devotion to Our Lady bring us to question ourselves about what we can do to solve this problem? Is our devotion empty and our piety sterile? Our mother appears to the poor in vain if we do not give in charity. May our first manifestation of love be charity in word, in our judgments, in detaching ourselves, in works of justice. The eyes of the world are on us. Let us remind ourselves that we are Christians and that the world is watching us. I fear that our piety is in great part only sentimental, worthless and not the mercy of Christ. Charity in honor of the most holy Virgin. You office workers, have you reached the pinnacle of your charity? We Catholics are such dumb oxen, still half asleep and untroubled by the need for social solidarity. All the difficulties, stumbling, scandals… Hopefully, our devotion to the Virgin may give us the tenderness to look to heaven and work on earth so there will be charity and love. God wishes to bring us to heaven through her, the Messenger of the Father, the Mother of all, especially of those who suffer.
A personal reflection, November 1947
Those who are concerned about the spiritual life are not numerous and unfortunately, among them not all are on a sure path. How many have made their meditation and their spiritual reading for dozens of years without much benefit. How many are more concerned about following a method rather than the Holy Spirit. How many wish to literally imitate the practices of one saint or another. How many aspire to extraordinary states, to the wonderful, to sensible graces. How many forget that they are part of suffering humanity and create an egotistic religion that does not remember these brothers. How many read and reread the manuals, or search for recipes without ever really understanding the Gospel, without ever remembering Paul.
For others, the spiritual life is confused with pious practices: spiritual reading, prayer, examen. The active life comes to be like a band-aid that is applied but is not a prolongation or a preparation for the interior life. The concerns of ordinary life, the difficulties to be overcome, the duties of our state in life are kept out of prayer: it seems unworthy to mix God with these banalities.
In this fashion a complicated and artificial spiritual life is forged. Instead of searching for God in the circumstances where He has placed us, in the profound needs of our own personality, in the circumstances of our temporal and local milieu, we prefer to act as though we were men in the abstract. God and real life never appear together in the same area of thought and of love. We struggle to maintain an affective sentimentalism toward the divine and with enormous effort we maintain our gaze fixed on God to sublimate ourselves intensely; or, on the contrary, we content ourselves with sugary formulas taken from so called pious books. All this brings to mind the comment of Pascal: Man is neither angel nor beast but he who wishes to be like an angel, acts like a beast.
Even more serious: Priests, men of study, who work with the supernatural, preachers who spend their days dedicated to the miseries of their brothers, in aiding them, will try to disassociate themselves from the memory of the poor while they assist at Mass. Apostles overwhelmed with responsibilities for the Kingdom of God will consider it almost a fault to find themselves distracted by their concerns and anxieties.
As though all our life should not be oriented toward God, as though thinking about everything for God weren’t the same as thinking in God; or as if we could liberate ourselves by our own free will from the concerns that God Himself has put before us. On the other hand, it is so easy, so necessary, to raise ourselves to God, to lose ourselves in Him starting from our own misery, our failures, our great desires. Why then would we try to cast them from us instead of using them as a springboard? Then let us throw down the bridge of faith, hope and love between our soul and God.
A healthy spirituality gives all spiritual methods their relative importance but not the exaggerated importance given by some. A healthy spirituality is one that accommodates itself to individuals and personalities. It adapts itself to temperaments, to education, culture, experiences, means, states, circumstances, generosity… It takes each one as he is, in his full human life, in the midst of temptation, in his work, in all his obligations. The Spirit blows wherever it pleases.. you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going (cf. Jn 3,8), it uses each one for its divine ends respecting the personal development of each, for the construction of the great collective work that is the Church. Every person serves a purpose in this march of humanity towards God; all find their tasks in the construction of the Church; the work of each one, which is dear to God, will be revealed in the circumstances in which God has placed them and by the light given to them at each moment. The only spirituality that suits us is the one which introduces us into the divine plan, in accord with our own dimensions, in order to realize this plan in total obedience.
Any method that is too rigid, any direction that is too absolute, any substitution of the letter for the spirit, any failure to take into account one’s individual reality, will achieve nothing more than to decrease one’s progress toward God.
Any method imposed with uniformity will prove to be false. Likewise will prove false all those methods that pretend to lead us to God by making us forget our brothers, all that causes us to shut our eyes to anything beyond the universe instead of teaching us to open them in order to elevate all to the Creator of all being, all those that make us egoists, folded back upon ourselves, all those that pretend to frame our lives from the outside without penetrating us interiorly in order to transform us all those that give man the advantage over God.
When we compare the Gospel to the lives of the majority of us, we as Christians feel uncomfortable… The majority of us have forgotten that we are the salt of the earth, the light on the candlestick, the yeast in the mass…(cf. Mt 5, 13-15). The breath of the Spirit does not animate many Christians; rather a spirit of mediocrity consumes us. There are among us active people, too active, perhaps agitated is a better word; however the causes that consume us are not the cause of Christianity.
After looking at oneself over and over and at what one finds around oneself, I take the Gospel, turn to St. Paul and here I find a Christianity that is all fire, all life, all conquering; a true Christianity that takes all of a man, that rectifies all of life, that exhausts all activity. It is like an incandescent river of burning lava that gushes from the very depths of religion.
Surrender to the Creator! In every devout spiritual path there is always the beginnings of the gift of oneself. If we multiply the readings, the prayers, the examens without arriving finally at the gift of oneself, this is a sign that we have failed… Before any practice, method or exercise a generous and universal offering of one’s entire being, all that one has and possesses is demanded… The secret of all progress is in this complete offering of oneself, an act of the spirit and of the will, whereby we are brought into contact with God in faith and love.
Discourse to 10,000 youth of Catholic Action in 1943.
My dear young men, I would like to take advantage of these brief moments to point out the innermost foundation of the responsibility that is ours as Catholics. Young men you must concern yourselves with your brothers, with our nation, the group of brothers united by bonds of blood, language and land, because to be Catholic is to be social. Not out of fear for what might be lost, or the threat of persecution, not because we are against anything but rather because you are Catholic you must be social, which is to say, to feel within yourselves the pain of humanity and search for ways to find solutions.
A Christian without an intense concern to love, is like a farmer unconcerned about the earth, a sailor uninterested in the sea , a musician who is careless about harmony. Yes, Christianity is the religion of love, as one poet put it, and as Christ had already told us: The first commandment of the Law is to love the Lord thy God with your whole heart, with your whole mind, with all your strength; and then added immediately and the second is like to this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself for the love of God. (cf. Mt 22, 37-39). Moments before leaving us the last lesson he explained to us was the repetition of the first, without words: A new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you (Jn 13,34). St. John gives us a resume of the two commandments in one: The commandment of God is that we believe in the name of His son Jesus Christ and that we have love one for another (1 Jn 3,23). St Paul does not hesitate to make the same summary: Owe no one anything except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery , You shall not kill, you shall not steal, You shall not covet” and any other commandment are summed up in this sentence, “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself’“ (Rm 13, 8-9).
In this love for our brothers that the Master commands of us, he himself went before us. We were created out of love and when we had fallen into sin, the Son of God became man to make us sons of God (what some even now consider supreme foolishness). In the Incarnation the Word united himself mystically with all human nature.
It is necessary then to accept the Incarnation with all its consequences, by extending the gift of our love not only to Jesus Christ but also to his Mystical Body. And this is a basic point in Christianity: to forsake the least of our brothers is to forsake Christ himself; to alleviate any one of them is to alleviate Christ, in person. When you wound one of my members you wound me; in the same way, to touch a man is to touch Christ himself. For this reason Christ told us that all the good and all the evil we might do to the least of men, we do to him.
Christ has made himself our neighbor or rather, our neighbor is Christ who presents himself under one or another form: a patient among the sick, a needy man among beggars, a prisoner among the incarcerated, the heartbroken among those who weep. If we do not see him it is because our faith is lukewarm. To separate our neighbor from Christ is to separate light from light. He who loves Christ is obliged to love his neighbor with all his heart, with all is mind, with all his strength. In Christ we are all one. In him there should be neither rich nor poor, neither Jews nor Gentiles, a categoric affirmation immensely superior to: Workers of the world unite! Or the cry of the French Revolution: Liberty, Equality Fraternity. Our cry is: Neither proletariat nor bourgeois, all men of the earth, English men and Germans; Italians, Americans, Jews, Japanese, Chileans and Peruvians, let us recognize that we are one in Christ and that we owe ourselves not hatred but the love the body has for itself. May hatred, prejudice and struggle cease in the Christian family and may there be instead an immense love founded in the virtue of justice, justice first, last and always; then the roughness and harshness of “rights” having been overcome, let there be an enormous eruption of charity.
But has this sort of understanding been erased from the Christian soul? Why do they tell us to our faces that we do not practice our Master’s doctrine, that we have magnificent encyclicals but never succeed in making them tangible? Without doing more than skimming this topic I would presume to answer the following: because the Christianity of many of us is superficial. We are living in the era of records, not of wisdom, nor of goodness but of levity and superficiality. This superficiality attacks serious and profound Christian formation without which there is no self- sacrifice. How is anyone going to sacrifice himself if he does not see the reason for his sacrifice? Then if we desire a Christianity of charity, the only authentic Christianity, more serious formation is imperative.
The Christians of today are not any less good than those of other centuries, and in some aspects they are superior all the more because worldly persecutions separate the wheat from the darnel even before the Judgment. But the endemic evil not only of Christians but less expected of them, is that of superficiality, a horrible superficiality. Without any supernatural formation, why would I deprive myself of what is good or of its complete enjoyment when life is so short? On the other hand, when there is faith, the Christian gesture should be wide and encompassing and it begins with a consideration of justice, all justice, and even this is superceded by an enormous charity.
And now, young Catholic men, I cannot keep silence about this: at this moment there is a lack of formation because of a lack of priests. The most profound crisis, the most tragic in its consequences is the insufficiency of priests to break the bread of truth for the little ones, to console the sorrowful, to give a sense of hope, of strength, of joy to this life. You 10,000 young men here today, whom I have seen prepare this meeting with enormous effort, you young people, Catholic families who listen to me, feel in your hearts responsibility for souls, the responsibility for the future of our nation. If there are no priests, there are no sacraments, if there are no sacraments there is no grace, if there is no grace, there is no heaven and even in this life, hatred will consist in the bitterness of a love unable to orient itself, because it lacked the minister of love who is the priest. Conscious of their faith which is generosity, conscious of their love for Christ and their brothers, may our youth not hesitate to say Yes to the Lord.
And since each moment has its ideological characteristic, it is extremely consoling to remember what is specific to our times: the awakening of our social conscience, the application of our faith to the problems of the moment, problems more tormenting than ever before. God and Country; Cross and Flag, have never been so present as they are now in the spirit of our youth. The charity of Christ urges us to work with all our soul so that Chile grow, daily, more profoundly Christ’s, for Christ wishes it and Chile needs it. As for us, Christians, other Christs, let us give our self-sacrificing labor. May Catholic youth from Arica to Magallanes, stimulated by the responsibility for the light received, be living witnesses for Christ. And Chile, seeing the ardor of this charity, will recognize the Catholic faith, that Mother who brought them forth and made them grow in great pain and they will say to the Master: O Christ, you are the Son of the living God, you are the resurrection and the Life!
Letter dictated while a patient at the Clinic of the Catholic University, four days before his death in August of 1952.
In this my last Christmas greeting, I would like to say thank you to our known and unknown friends, some at a great distance, who have helped this work of simple evangelical charity which is the Hogar de Cristo.
As I leave to return to God, my Father, permit me to confide to you one last desire: that you strive to create a climate of true love and respect for the poor because the poor man is Christ. “What you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me” (Mt 25,40).
Faithful to its ideal of searching out the poorest and most abandoned to fill them with fraternal love, the Hogar de Cristo has continued with its hospices for men and women, so that those who have nowhere to go may find a friendly hand to receive them.
The young vagrant boys gathered, one by one, during the cold nights of winter, have filled the Hogar to capacity. There are 5,000 that roam through Santiago… If we could only gather them all… and give them an education…! They are constructing a new pavilion with a capacity for 150 children for this purpose; it will offer the necessary conveniences to give them a serious education.
The carpentry, plumbing and tinsmith shops give a trade to these sons of the Hogar. God willing, new mechanical, printing and book binding shops will assist in their labor.
Unknown previously, vagrant girls are now a sad reality. There are 400 already recorded by the police. How many more of them exist, wrapped in misery and pain, sinking ever deeper physically and morally. A new home will open for them very soon.
The House of Family Education of the Hogar de Cristo, already finished, will train these girls for the responsibilities of wife and mother with courses in cooking, washing, sewing, child care, etc. and will loan the House as a service to the entire neighborhood.
The elderly will also have their Hogar, that is to say the affection and love that an asylum cannot give them. We want the evening of their lives to be less harsh and sad for them. Will we find generous hearts to help us realize this desire?
In the measure that the needs and sufferings of the poor come to light, may the Hogar de Cristo, the anonimous union of Chileans with generous hearts, search for ways to help them as they would the Master.
I wish each and every one in particular a happy Christmas, and in God’s name, I confide the poor little ones to you.
Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S.J., Chaplain.