Monday, March 24, 2014


Father William McNichols

Having been educated by Jesuits in college, I have a special devotion to them and their blessed brethren. As I mentioned in the New Year, we each drew a modern Jesuit saint as our patron for the year- in honor of our new Jesuit Pope.

Very much in keeping with Pope Francis' message of poverty and awareness of  the poor of our world our first saint is a man after his own heart, in spirit. I am sure that as protector of children, especially the poor and homeless, he would have a great problem with the issue in the previous blog and would have been very outspoken against this moral wrong.

ST. ALBERTO HURTADO CRUCHAGA, S.J., popularly known in Chile as Padre Hurtado  was canonized on October 23, 2005, by Pope Benedict XVI, becoming his country's second saint.

He  was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, on 22 January 1901of Basque parentage and at four was orphaned when his father died. His mother had to sell, at a loss, their modest property in order to pay the family’s debts forcing Alberto and his brother to go live with relatives, often being moved from one family to another. From an early age, he experienced what it meant to be poor, and without a home.

Thanks to a scholarship, he managed to study at the prestigious all-boys Jesuit school of St. Ignacio, Santiago. During this time, he volunteered at the Catholic parish and school in a poor neighborhood of Santiago. From 1918 to 1923, he attended the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, studying in its law school and writing his thesis on labor law. Obligatory military service interrupted his studies, but once he fulfilled this duty he went on to earn his degree early in August 1923.

He did not go into law but rather entered the Jesuit novitiate. In 1925 he went to Córdoba, Argentina, where he studied humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Barcelona, Spain to study philosophy and theology, but because of the suppression of the Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went on to Belgium and continued his studies in theology at Louvain. He was ordained a priest there on 24 August 1933, and in 1935 obtained a doctorate.

From the early days of his studies in labor law he had his mind and heart set on tackling social issues and problems, so before returning to Chile, he visited social and educational centers in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

There was much social inequality in Chile during this time, and conservative Catholics in the nation had difficulty accepting the Vatican's social teachings. 

In 1940, he was appointed diocesan director of the Catholic Action youth movement and the next year, its national director. That same year the saint's sociology-oriented mind led him to write  the book Is Chile a Catholic Country? which laid open a number of unpleasant realities. Many accused him of being a Communist.

His strong faith was transformed into action with his founding of an organization similar to Boys Town in the United States (after a visit to the USA to study this famous institution). His shelters, called Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ), took in all children in need of food and shelter, abandoned or not. He also purchased a 1946 green pickup truck and monitored the streets at night to help those in need that he could reach.

 His own charisma brought him 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 movement. (Where is such a saint today???)

Children & the Green Truck
He worked tirelessly for workers and labor unions. Deeply spiritual, St. Alberto was untiring in his work for the workers and the youth, combining intellectual reflection and practical actions. Ever optimistic and joyful he had also an attractive personality that brought many people to Christ and the Church, young and old, intellectuals and manual workers.

In  1952, he was found to have  pancreatic cancer. Day after day the media kept the country informed of the saint's state of health. Before his death he had become a national hero. True to the faith he had been professing all through his life, he accepted the end gracefully. During his suffering he was often heard to say, "I am content, O Lord, I am content."

I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves. If we were to start a campaign of love for the poor and homeless, we would, in a short time, do away with depressing scenes of begging, children sleeping in doorways and women with babies in their arms fainting in our streets.
                                                                      St. Alberto Hurtado

He is the patron saint of poor people, street children, social workers.

Our Lady of Andacollo, Santiago, Chile

1 comment:

  1. I share a birthday with padre Hurtado. Thank you for profiling him.