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Everyone Has Something to Give

A name that has come up several times since Pope Francis was elected is that of Father Pedro Arrupe.
That’s because the pope has said that Father Arrupe, who was also a Jesuit, is one of his role models.
Father Arrupe was ordained in 1936 after he and all Jesuits had been expelled from Spain by the fascist government.
He served in Japan, where he was accused of espionage, thrown into prison, and kept in solitary confinement.
He had studied medicine, and he helped care for hundreds of those injured when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
After that, he devoted his life to the most poor and helpless.
He wrote that the objective of Jesuit educators must be, as he put it, “to form men and women for others; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors.’’
Father Arrupe was elected superior general of the Jesuit order in 1965, and he travelled all over the world visiting Jesuit ministries.
On one trip, after he had celebrated Mass in a poor village in Latin America, Father Arrupe was approached by an enormous man whose disheveled appearance made the priest nervous.
The man said he had something at home that he wanted to give to Father Arrupe, and Father Arrupe reluctantly went with him to a house that was barely standing.
The man ushered him inside and asked him to sit on a particular rickety old chair.
From that spot, Father Arrupe could see the sun setting.
The man said, “Look how beautiful it is. I didn’t know how to thank you for what you have done for us.
“I have nothing to give you, but I thought you would like to see this sunset.’’
Father Arrupe was a heroic figure who set aside his ambitions so that he could give all his energy and attention to those who had the least.
He set an example that challenges even the pope.
But what of the penniless man in a poor village in Latin America—a man who had no learning, a man who was never called to leadership, a man who at first caused the saintly priest to shy away, a man whose name is not on the lips of popes.
He, too, set an example.
He said, I have nothing to give you.
And yet, he realized that there was something he valued: a view of the sunset that was unique, and therefore priceless, because it could be seen only from that chair.
And when he shared that with Father Arrupe, he shared everything he had.
We’re called by Jesus to imitate this man, to ask ourselves, and to answer honestly, what we have to give to those who are in financial or emotional or spiritual need.
Maybe I’m called to sell everything and join a missionary order and volunteer for service in some troubled land, and risk disease, starvation, or a violent death.
Or maybe I’m called to think about what I spend my money on before I decide that I can’t help the church or the first aid squad or the fire company or Habitat for Humanity.
Or maybe I’m called to make a point of speaking kindly to that neighbor who annoys me; to ring the doorbell at that group home and ask if there’s anything I can do to help; to step forward when I know the parish needs a substitute teacher; to donate blood when all it takes is an hour of my time.
The folk singer Arlo Guthrie often says that in a perfect world a person would have to make a great effort to make any kind of a difference, but in the real world, everyone has the capacity to do something to make it better.
It didn’t take much to make a difference for Father Arrupe.
After his experience in that village, he wrote this about a man he had once feared: “I have met very few hearts that are so kind.’’
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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