Monday, August 18, 2008

San Alberto Hurtado.

Today the Church remembers St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, a Chilean Jesuit canonized in October 2005. Raised in poverty, Alberto Hurtado attended Santiago's Colegio San Ignacio on scholarship and later earned a law degree before entering the Society of Jesus in 1923. Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1933, Father Hurtado earned a doctorate in education at Louvain and returned to Chile to teach and to give retreats to youth. In the 1940s, Father Hurtado turned his attention to social ministry, playing an important role in the development of the trade union movement in Chile and founding a social service organization known as Hogar de Cristo. At the same time, Father Hurtado continued his work in the intellectual apostolate by publishing numerous books on social and ecclesial questions and by founding Mensaje, a monthly magazine offering a Catholic perspective on current affairs. (As a proud Hoya, I also feel obliged to note that Hurtado's academic career took him to Georgetown for a brief spell in the 1940s.) Though Father Hurtado's apostolic life came to an early end - he died of cancer in 1952, at the age of fifty-one - the work that he began continues today through Hogar de Cristo and Mensaje. Hurtado's memory also lives on in the hearts of the people he served, many of whom journey to visit his tomb at the Santuario Padre Hurtado in Santiago. Another appropriate memorial to this great Jesuit is the Universidad Alberto Hurtado, a Jesuit university in Santiago founded in the 1990s.

In light of today's memorial, I thought I would share a few of the photos I took this summer at the Santuario Padre Hurtado. As I mentioned in an earlier post, during my stay in Santiago I lived in a Jesuit community a few blocks away from Father Hurtado's shrine. I made the fifteen-minute walk from my residence to the Santuario several times, stopping to pray at Hurtado's tomb and to observe the Chilean pilgrims who came to pay homage to the saint. The tomb (third and fourth photos) attracts a constant flow of devotees, and many who have sought the intercession of Father Hurtado leave behind plaques giving thanks for answered prayers (fifth and sixth photos). Known during his lifetime as an apostle to Chilean youth, Father Hurtado continues to inspire young people; the pupil in the seventh photo (the one looking at the poster of Father Hurtado with the slogan, "Tell me... I'm listening to you") is one of many student-pilgrims I saw during my visits to the shrine.

For me, the example of St. Alberto Hurtado provides great hope and consolation. As one of his contemporaries observed, Hurtado was a "fire that lights other fires," an energetic and zealous follower of Jesus Christ who inspired countless others to lead lives of faithful discipleship. During my time in Chile, I found myself greatly impressed by Hurtado's continued impact on Chilean society; it's no accident that Alberto Hurtado was one of ten historical figures nominated for the title of "the greatest Chilean" in a contest mounted by one of the country's leading television networks. On this Memorial of St. Alberto Hurtado, I pray in gratitude for the witness offered by this outstanding Jesuit. I pray also for the people of Chile, especially for the poor who seek the support of Hogar de Cristo and for all who have taken inspiration from Father Hurtado's example of Christian service. San Alberto Hurtado, ruega por nosotros. AMDG.


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