Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

“See You on the Other Side!”: A Farewell from Rev. Robert John Araujo, S.J.

Pope Francis blesses Fr. Araujo

As Rick and Richard earlier noted, last week witnessed the passing of fellow MOJ contributor Rev. Robert John Araujo, S.J.  I was fortunate to know Bob as a friend and colleague during the time that he served on the faculty here at Loyola University Chicago School of Law as the inaugural John Courtney Murray, S.J. University Chair.

Bob (as he preferred to be called by those who knew him) was an incredibly learned man, holding degrees from Georgetown, Columbia, the Weston School of Theology, and Oxford.  He put this immense learning to good use as a prolific scholar, writing especially well about the natural law and its meaning for positive law, and the juridical standing of the Holy See and the history of papal diplomacy (here and here).

For Bob this latter subject was not merely theoretical.  He was a frequent contributor to the work of the Church in the United States, both through the nuncio’s office in Washington, D.C., and the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.

During Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. a few weeks ago, Bob was able to make one last trip to the nunciature.  His friend, Archbishop Vigano, the current papal nuncio to the U.S., arranged for Bob to have a private audience with the Pope.  Bob had hoped to talk with Francis (his fellow Jesuit) about the state of Jesuit higher education in the United States, a subject that was dear to his heart.  But when the Pope was told of Bob’s illness, the conversation took a different course.  The Holy Father blessed him and kissed him.

Bob courageously battled the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that racked his body and ultimately took his life.  He was in an enormous amount of pain from the cancer, literally for years, but especially as the disease progressed in the last several months.   Having said that, I think the most painful thing in his life was the lack of faith and courage that he witnessed among some of the members of his beloved Society of Jesus.  Some of this affected Bob directly.  He was, for example, prohibited by a fellow Jesuit from celebrating Mass at Loyola’s Madonna della Strada Chapel because he once preached on the meaning of human sexuality according to the mind of the Church. 

Bob had many good friends within the Society, but the treatment he received from some was a source of bitterness in his life.  Although through prayer he tried to put this bitterness aside, it continued to gnaw at him.  And on a certain level, this reaction was entirely understandable.  How bizarre that one should be punished by an institution within the Church for being faithful to the Church!

Bob was a good friend.  I very much miss our morning conversations over coffee in his office before class, discussing news in the School, in the Church, and in the world.  He loved to serve as a host.  Even in the midst of his illness, he loved having people visit him at Ignatius House, the main Jesuit residence at Loyola, and share a meal together (although the cancer greatly restricted the foods he was able to enjoy).  My family and I were fortunate to take advantage of his hospitality in this regard, and I joined him for working lunches there on a number of occasions.

Unfortunately these working lunches too often centered around new challenges to Loyola’s identity as an authentically Jesuit and Catholic institution, often in the form of potential faculty hires.  Bob was a stalwart champion of the robust sense of Catholic identity that Catholic universities should have – engaged in the contemporary world but grounded in the Christian intellectual tradition and confident in the capacity of that tradition to say something fresh, unsettling, and true.

He was not a fan of the insipid brand of Jesuit identity pandered in the slogans popularized today knowing that without a definite content of how one can be a “man or woman for others” one might actually work against the genuine good of those one had thought to serve.

Bob was a faithful priest.  Although he didn’t insist on the formality of being called “Father” by anyone, he had a great respect for the priesthood to which he was called.  Many MOJ contributors can attest to his devotion to his priestly ministry, celebrating Mass at various conferences we would attend.  He welcomed students at Loyola with the same hospitality that he shared with peers.  Much has been made of the “theology of encounter” and of the need for “accompaniment” that Pope Francis has emphasized.  Bob Araujo had been a practitioner of this method of connecting with students intellectually and caring for them pastorally long before the current moment.

Before Bob left Loyola to move to the Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts, he began to give away some of his possessions – books, a complete set of Theological Studies, clothes, art work, etc.  My family and I received a framed copy of the study of Thomas More that Holbein did in preparation for his famous portrait – something he acquired during his student days at Oxford.

Thomas More -- Holbein Study

Bob was a great admirer of Thomas More – as a lawyer and public servant, as a devoted family man and loyal son of the Church.  He saw in More’s life the struggle of our times – the temptation to give in, to get along, to pursue popularity and material prosperity over fidelity, to sacrifice the truth for a more comfortable life – a struggle witnessed not only in, for example, the controversy over the HHS contraception mandate and religious opposition to same-sex marriage, but in the temptation of Jesuit universities to lose their charism in the process whereby following Jesus and living the Gospel is neutered and transformed into pursuing a secular kind of “social justice.”

In his last e-mail to me a few days before he died, aware of his impending death, he said “I’m sure I’ll see you on the other side one day.”  May everyone involved in MOJ join me in praying that Father Bob Araujo, now free from the pain and bitterness of this life, experiences the joy of “the other side” in the company of St. Thomas More and all the saints, praying for the members of St. Ignatius’ “little company” and all the world Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.


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