A brief Biography of Father Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S. J.

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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.

Vocational Discernment

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.


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