Spanish Jesuit to be beatified

Fr Tiburcio Arnaiz Muñoz SJ. Photo Credit: Diócesis de Málaga
Fr Tiburcio Arnaiz Muñoz SJ. Photo Credit: Diócesis de Málaga

This coming 20th October, the Catholic Church will beatify "apostle of the city", Father Tiburcio Arnaiz Muñoz SJ in Málaga, Spain.

In a letter to the Society of Jesus on the 11th October, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ lauded Fr Arnaiz as “a worthy proponent of popular missions and promotor of the participation of the laity in spreading the faith.” He also wrote that Fr Arnaiz is a person to be emulated:

"In our own time, we can learn much from what Fr Arnaiz did in his day … In ways adapted to our present contexts, many of the rich qualities of Fr Arnaiz can be put into practice: his promptness to detect and respond to structural problems; his energetic determination to undertake new works and persevere in them; his ability to attract and bring together people of diverse social origins for the sake of helping the poor; his admirable strength in confronting setbacks; his courageous evangelizing efforts even in difficult times and circumstances; his utter confidence in Providence; his firm personal love for Jesus Christ; and his generous and affable friendship with all types of people."

The new Blessed was born on the 11th August 1865 in Valladolid, Spain. At the age of 13, he entered the Minor Seminary of that diocese and was ordained a priest at age of 25. After working in various towns in the provinces of Valladolid and Ávila, he obtained a doctorate in theology in Toledo in 1896.

In 1902, after the death of his mother, Fr Arnaiz knocked at the doors of the Jesuit novitiate of Granada in order to fulfill his desire of becoming a Jesuit. After pronouncing his vows, he remained in Granada studying humanities, philosophy, and theology, while at the same time he began to guide people in the Spiritual Exercises and train for the popular missions.

In 1909, he traveled to Murcia, where he collaborated for two years in various pastoral activities. He made his tertianship in Loyola in 1911-12, and he pronounced his final vows in 1912 in Málaga, the city where he would remain for virtually the rest of his life. He died there on the 18th July 1926.

Like his contemporaries, Saint José María Rubio and Venerable Francisco de Paula Tarín, Father Arnaiz was an indefatigable evangelizer throughout Spain, using various apostolic instruments, especially the popular missions. His ministry was focused on Andalusia, especially in the province of Málaga, in rural and urban areas, where he always left a strong impression.

In the outlying districts of Málaga, in the corralones (yards), in which neighbors lived around a common patio, he effectively organized a system of cultural advancement and catechesis for struggling residents. From the start, he was generously helped in this initiative by teachers and other women from the capital of Málaga.

In 1921, he met María Isabel González del Valle Sarandeses (1889-1937), who had set her mind on working as a missionary in some far-off land. Arnaiz suggested that she remain in the south of Spain, and a year later, together they founded an association of consecrated laywomen dedicated to evangelizing poor rural regions: the Obra de las Misioneras de las Doctrinas Rurales. This group of consecrated women continues to be a living witness today, through the practice of what they call doctrinas, during which they reside in needy villages, where they offer cultural training and knowledge of the Christian faith, always assisted by collaborators and volunteers. 

Working from the Jesuit residence in Málaga, Fr Arnaiz constantly gave the Exercises, offered spiritual direction, assisted in the diocesan seminary, and promoted the Marian Congregations, the Apostleship of Prayer, the Adoración Nocturna and the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Following the impulses of his heart, he frequently visited the incarcerated in prison and the sick in their homes and in the hospitals. The people of Málaga frequently saw him helping the street children, hearing confessions in the Jesuit church, or setting out to give popular missions.

Convinced of the urgent need for good education, he promoted the opening of schools, the founding of a Catholic library, a system for distributing medicines, and the construction of houses of hospitality for people in need. His incessant activity led him to say at the end of his life: “I have rushed all my life; I have worked as much as I could; now the Lord will raise me up.”

Father Tiburcio Arnaiz was a Jesuit with a strong and deep spirituality, rooted in the Heart of Jesus. Trusting only in God, he declared after the death of his mother, with unshakable conviction: “I will no longer die to anyone because I am going to die to all that is not God.”

Completely forgetting himself, he sought only the interests of Jesus Christ—as the motto of his beatification attests—and tirelessly looked after the needs of the poor. The Virgin Mary was for him an abiding source of companionship and consolation. 

At his death, all Málaga turned out for the funeral of the man whom they later recognized as “apostle of the city”. Father Arnaiz had already acquired a reputation for holiness during his life, but he continues today to attract the faithful of every social condition, who constantly visit his tomb in the Church of the Sacred Heart in the center of the city.

It was with good reason that the then-bishop of Málaga and now saint, Manuel González, complained while praying at Fr Arnaiz's funeral: “What are you doing, my Jesus? … How do you expect me to carry the burden you have placed on my weak shoulders if you have taken from me the best workers in this vineyard?” He then encouraged the Jesuits, religious, priests and lay people to imitate Father Arnaiz.

The above information about Fr Arnaiz's beatification was sent from Fr Arturo Sosa SJ to the whole Society of Jesus.

Find out more on the official website