Servant of God Ignatius Aramburu, SJ

Born : Jan 31, 1852
Died : Jan 5, 1935

Ignatius Aramburu was born in northern Spain, in the town of Segura, in the Basque region of Guipuzcoa. He was named after St Ignatius of Antioch, the martyred bishop.

He attended the local schools before entering the novitiate of the exiled Spanish Jesuits at Poyanne, in southern France in 1871 at the age of nineteen. After his noviceship, Ignatius remained in France for the next five years pursuing humanities for two years and three years of philosophy. He returned to his homeland in 1878 when the Spanish Jesuits were able to return and taught at the La Guardia College for three years before doing his theology training at Ona. The theologate at Ona, a former Benedictine monastery was recently acquired by the Jesuits and was used as their house of studies and it was at the monastery’s chapel that the thirty-two-year-old Ignatius was ordained a priest on July 27, 1884.

Fr Aramburu’s first assignment as a priest was as the writer and editor of the Spanish edition of The Messenger of the Sacred Heart, a job which he enjoyed doing as he had a keen devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Five years later when his health began to suffer, his superiors moved him to his new assignment in Burgos, a city further south where they thought the climate would be better for him. There he remained for the next forty-three years and became a household name in Burgos where his priestly ministry was so valued by the people that they named him “Apostle of Burgos.”

Fr Aramburu treated the entire city of Burgos as his parish and knowing that the majority of the working people were uneducated and in need of instruction in the faith, he arranged classes for them. He chose exemplary Catholics as his catechists and together they offered weekly classes to the hundreds who attended regularly. He also promoted frequent Communion and devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by setting up societies. He also formed sodalities of Our Lady for the youth of the city, training them to live their faith responsibly and faithfully. He also founded homes and shelters for the poor and needy, preparing them for future employment. He also ministered to those in prison whom he often visited and also attended to the sick and dying in their homes. He walked the streets of Burgos so frequently to anoint the dying that it was said that there was not a single house in the city he had not visited. Fr Aramburu also spent many hours in the confessional giving instruction and spiritual direction. He loved Burgos and once said: “I am very happy, very happy among the people of Burgos. Among them I have no enemies and everyone is my friend and brother.”

The religious climate in Spain began to change in the 1930s when the Masonic Lodges curtailed the Society’s apostolic work and began their attack by publishing lies and false reports about the Society, resulting in the Jesuits being insulted as they walked through the city. In 1932, the atheistic republican government dissolved the Society and confiscated its property and sent the Jesuits into exile. Only Fr Aramburu who was in his 80s and another elderly Jesuit were allowed to stay on in Burgos as they were considered too old to do any harm. This blow on the Society deeply saddened Fr Aramburu and in one of his last letters he signed off as “Servant of Christ, an exile in his own country, without citizenship after having served Spain for eighty years, and now living on alms in a strange house.”

Fr Aramburu suffered a heart infection at the end of Oct 1934 and his health deteriorated. He died on Jan 5, 1935. When news of his death reached the city, his many friends, including the sodalists and workers, gathered at his room to express their love for him, touching his body with rosaries and medals. He was buried at St Joseph’s cemetery but his remains were later transferred to La Merced, the Jesuit church in Burgos. As the people loved him and recognised his holiness, they prayed to him after his death seeking his intercession with God. When a great number of prayers were answered, it was decided that Fr Aramburu’s cause should be sent to Rome for consideration.