Dear members of the Marist family
Last Thursday, 6 August marked a rather unusual combination of things to commemorate – Catholics celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, and the whole world reflected on the 75th anniversary of the first ever dropping of an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Could you possibly get two more disparate events?
I had the opportunity to visit the city of Hiroshima in July 2014 and spent some quiet time walking around the area just below what is referred to as ground zero in the middle of the city. I also had a couple of hours in the Peace Museum where I viewed some grainy footage of the scene in the hours and days that followed the bombing. It was an experience that I am not likely to forget so I can only imagine the impact on those who actually lived through it. I make no judgement whatsoever on the morality of the action – I have also visited the Western Front in France and Belgium and have been similarly affected and struggled to comprehend what had happened.
But I think the fact that as Christians we hang our hats on Christ’s message of mercy and salvation, and the redemptive power of our own humanity, we find great hope and solace in a Feast like the Transfiguration – a kind of meeting of the divine and the human. We also find hope in individual stories which exemplify the fundamental goodness at the core of our humanity, particularly in challenging times. One such story occurred on that day in Hiroshima in 1945.
Pedro Arrupe was a young Spaniard who studied to become a doctor in his home country. On completing his studies, he felt the call to become a priest and joined the Jesuits. After being ordained he was sent to Hiroshima where he trained Jesuit novices (those who were studying to become Jesuits). He was living there with the novices when the bomb was dropped. He survived and went on to later become the Father General (International leader) of the Jesuits through the 70s and 80s but it is the story below that I would like to highlight in terms of the theme of hope in troubled times.
(As we mark the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima)
On the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1945, while homilies around the world carried a message of hope for the future of humanity and spoke of divine fire descending from heaven, the A-bomb was dropped on the unsuspecting city of Hiroshima. It fell to earth with a blinding flash, a crashing thunder, a devastating blast and a deceptively beautiful mushroom cloud. And it changed the history of humankind.
Pedro and his men felt helpless: they knelt and prayed, then decided to make their house into a field hospital…They squeezed 150 wounded into their small house, and using his medical skills Pedro sorted out the patients into various groups. Many had been burnt by flames, others developed huge blisters. No one at that moment knew what caused these; only later they realised they were the after-effect of infrared radiation.
Excerpted from Pedro Arrupe: Mystic with Open Eyes by Brian Grogan SJ
In more recent times, Pope Francis has used the metaphor of the Church as a ‘field hospital’, reaching out to those in need. Our call as Christians is to look after and nurture the most vulnerable of our human family. Pedro Aruppe did this in a very real and practical way in the midst of terrible suffering. Maybe for all of us, last week’s remembrance is a timely reminder of our call to ‘love our neighbour’, particularly those ‘neighbours’ who are most vulnerable at this time.