1907 AD (Bilbao, Spain) – 1991 (Rome, Italy)
Pedro, from the Basque Country in Spain, was the youngest of five children. He was a very good student who loved music and the theatre. When he finished school, he went on to study medicine at university, which is a really hard thing to do, but which he did very well. What would you like to become when you grow up? That’s great! Pedro too was working hard to follow his dream, which was to help people by becoming a doctor.
When Pedro was half-way through his studies, he saw something very dramatic when he went to Lourdes. Do you know what Lourdes is? It is a small town in France where Jesus’ mum Mary appeared to a young girl around a 150 years ago and where people have been going ever since to pray for healing. Pedro was there as a medical student to help sick people and during the three months that he spent there he saw three miracles where people were healed. He described this experience by saying “I sensed God very close and tugging at me.”
Pedro therefore gave up his dream of becoming a doctor and instead joined the Jesuits. Do you know who the Jesuits are? They are the followers of St. Ignatius of Lloyola. When Pedro became a Jesuit he felt the call to go to Japan and to spread the good news of God’s love for everyone there. In Japan, Pedro first learned the language, which is very hard for a European person to do, and he developed a deep love for the Japanese people.
While Pedro was in Japan, the Second World War raged around the world, and towards its end a very terrible thing happened there. A huge, devastating bomb, called an atom bomb, was dropped on the city of Nagasaki where Pedro lived with his fellow Jesuits.
On 6th August 1945 at 8:15 in the morning, Pedro was in his room when suddenly he saw a blinding light, like a flash. He was surprised and jumped up to see what was happening. As he opened the door which faced the city, he heard a huge explosion similar to the blast of a hurricane. At the same time the doors, windows and walls of his house shattered to smithereens.
He and his fellow Jesuits ran to the top of a nearby hill and saw first a dense smoke and then enormous flames rise over the Nagasaki. They tried to find a way to enter the city, but it was impossible. Falling on their knees, they prayed to God and asked him to help them know what to do.
Pedro then remembered his studies of medicine and ran back to the house to look for things that he could use to help the sick and wounded. He found a medicine chest under some ruins, with only an handful of medicines, while 200,000 people needed help. What could Pedro do? Where should he begin? Again he prayed to God’s for help. When you are in a difficult situation, do you ask God to help you too? Next time try it and you will see that he will help you to know what to do.
As Pedro prayed, he felt that God gave him a simple but important idea. He quickly decided to clean the house where he and the other Jesuits lived as best as they could and they went out into the streets to collect the sick and wounded. They were only able to fit in 150 people. The younger Jesuits then rushed off on foot or on bicycles to ask for food in the outskirts of Hiroshima. Without thinking how or from where, they came dashing back with more fish, meat, eggs, and butter than they had seen for years. With these they were able to care for their patients.
With the exception of one, all of the other 150 whom they took in survived. To Pedro this was a true miracle! Later Pedro became the head of the Jesuits around the world and led them to do a lot of good for the poor and for more justice in the world. Will you too follow Pedro’s example?
“Nothing is more practical than finding God. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.” Pedro Arrupe