Friday, July 19, 2013

The Gift of Self and Cooperation

“The multiplication of the loaves: Meditation during a retreat on the gift of self and cooperation.

Father Alberto Hurtado, S.J. (1901-1952)*


Indecision, faintheartedness is the great obstacle in the plan of cooperation. We think: “I’m not worth all that much”, and from this comes discouragement: “It makes no difference whether I act or fail to act. Our powers of action are so limited. Is my unpretentious work worthwhile? Does my abstaining from this have any meaning? If I fail to sacrifice myself nothing changes. No one needs me… A mediocre vocation?” How many vocations are lost. It is the advice of the devil that is partly true. The difficulty must be faced.

The solution

5,000 men along with women and children have been hungry for three days… Food? They would need at least 200 denarii to feed them and this is the approximate yearly salary of a laborer. In the desert! “Tell them to go!” But Andrew, more observant says: “There are 5 loaves and 2 fish, but what are these among so many!” Here we have our same problem: the disproportion.

And the loaves. Made of barley, hard as rocks (the Jews used wheat). And the fish. They were from the lake, small, rather mushy in texture, carried by a young boy in a sack that had lain on the ground for 3 days in the heat… not much of a solution.

Did the Lord despise this offering? No, and with his blessing he fed all the hungry and had leftovers. Neither did he despise the leftovers: 12 baskets of the surplus were gathered, fish heads and bones, but even this he valued.

The young boy consented to give Christ his poor offering, not realizing that he would feed the multitude. He believed that he had lost his small possession but he found instead that there was even a surplus and that he had cooperated for the good of the others.

And me… like those fish (less than those loaves) bruised and perhaps decomposing but in the hands of Christ my action may have a divine scope a divine reach.

Remember Ignatius, Augustine, Camillus de Lellis, and Matt Talbot, base sinners whose lives were converted into spiritual nourishment for millions who will continue to feed on their witness.

My actions and my desires can have a divine scope and can change the face of the earth. I will not know it, the fish did not know it either. I can do a great deal if I remain in Christ; I can accomplish much if I cooperate with Christ…”

*Note:  Popularly known in Chile as Padre Hurtado,  Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga was beatified on October 16, 1994 by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 23, 2005. St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga was one of the first people to be elevated to sainthood during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI; he was also the second Chilean saint, after Saint Teresa of Los Andes.

Two brief biographies include and

To diffuse the writings (and biography) of Padre Hurtado among a wider public, A Fire that Lights other Fires: Selected pages from Father Alberto Hurtado, S.J. (2012) is available free online at

(With their canonization later this year, two additional saints who knew of Matt Talbot are Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.)

Update:  The Vatican has confirmed that John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized in the same ceremony on April 27, 2014