Today we remember the death of one of the most remarkable Jesuits of the 20th Century, Fr Alberto Hurtado. He was beatified by John Paul II and canonised by Pope Benedict. Born in Chile at the turn of the century (1901). He studied law and worked in a conservative Catholic newspaper, until he joined the Jesuits in 1923. After a long formation and working in schools, at the age of 40 he became Student Chaplain for University students throughout Chile. This apostolate had a big impact on him, under his guidance, the chaplaincies grew rapidly – from 1500 students in 50 centres in 1941 to 12,000 students in 500 centres in 1944. This work led him naturally to found an organization to which he invited a smaller group of committed young adults, the Service of Christ the King. Its members committed themselves to dedicate a year of their lives to living out the ideals of Catholic Action.
In 1944 he had a decisive encounter with a sick and starving beggar who asked him to help him. He wrote, “Each of these people is Christ. What have we done for these young people who walk through the streets in the rain, sleep the winter nights in doorways and live their lives frozen." Spurred into action he created a series of shelters, called Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ), which took in all children in need of food and shelter. His charisma attracted many collaborators and benefactors; the movement was a huge success. The shelters multiplied all over the country. It is estimated that between 1945 and 1951 more than 850,000 children received some help from the moveme. The "Hogar de Cristo" he founded still exists, and through its fight for social justice, it has become one of the biggest charity groups in Chile. He remains very popular in Chile, his Facebook fan page has more than 50,000 followers!
In a letter written to mark his canonisation - Fr Kolvenbach, then General of the Jesuits said ' Those who knew him, as well as those who made an in-depth study of his life, have not hesitated to say that he was truly “in love with Christ”. This undoubtedly constitutes the core of his life as a young student, as a Jesuit and as a priest. From this love of Christ springs the distinctive manner of his behaviour and way of dealing with people. What predominates therefore is his capacity to love: a gift lavished upon him by God which he knew how to develop thus establishing, in the light of the Gospel, an intensely growing personal friendship the Lord. His ever-increasing familiarity with the Lord which, in the mind of Saint Ignatius, Hurtado acquired by contemplating the mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ, is at the root of the attitudes characteristic of him. Precisely because he was truly in love with Christ, he fixed his gaze on the Lord Jesus and His way of life while He was still on earth. He passed long hours contemplating the manner in which Jesus acted in various situations in which He found Himself. With the eyes of his heart, Father Hurtado specially admired the way by which Jesus paid attention to persons, how He made His the sufferings of those who were in pain.
To read the whole letter - Click Here
Hogar de Christo - Click Here