(The Sacred Art Series will feature and explain the artwork which will be included in the Our Lady of Belen Chapel. The chapel is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2021.)
Allberto Hurtado was born in Viña del Mar, Chile on January 22, 1901 to an aristocratic family. They later became impoverished after the death of his father. He attended both the Colegio San Ignacio in Santiago and the Pontiificia Universidad Católica de Chile on scholarship. He graduated from the latter with a law degree. He later entered the Society of Jesus in 1923.
After his studies in Argentina, Spain, and Belgium, he returned to Chile where he taught high school and was entrusted with the Marian Sodality for students involving them in teaching catechism to the poor.
Hurtado became fascinated with Catholic social teaching, as he became more and more aware of the poverty that surrounded him. He was appointed diocesan director of the Catholic Action youth. In 1941 he authored his controversial book, ¿Es Chile un País Católico? (“Is Chile a Catholic Country?”), where he decried the conflict between poverty in Chile and its Catholic identity.
In addition to his writings, Hurtado founded Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) for homeless children, founded the Chilean Trade Union Association, the periodical Mensaje, wrote several books, published many newspaper articles, and served as confessor to the Falange Nacional, the precursor to the modern Christian Democratic Party.
On August 18, 1952, Hurtado died In Santiago of pancreatic cancer at the age of 51. He was beatified on October 16, 1994, by St. Pope John Paul II and canonized on October 23, 2005, by Pope Benedict XVI.
Young Boy and Book: Next to the image of Hurtado stands a boy who gazes with admiration at the saint. Hurtado had spent his life teaching and working for the youth of Chile. In the saint’s hands is his controversial book, ¿Es Chile un País Católico? (“Is Chile a Catholic Country?”). The book is also a symbol of the numerous magazines, newspaper articles, and letters he wrote in defense of the poor and the promotion of Catholic social teaching.
Building: In the background is the image of the first Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) building founded by Hurtado in Santiago. Over the years, the shelters multiplied and it is estimated that between 1945 and 1951 more than 850,000 children received help from the movement.
Green Pickup Truck: In 1946, Hurtado purchased a green pickup truck that he used every night to scour the streets of Santiago looking for children who were sleeping in the streets. He would pick them up and take them to the shelters where they would be fed, given medical attention, and a place to sleep. The green pickup truck became the symbol of the Hogar de Cristo movement that continues to this day.
Angel(s): The angel on the left holds a rosary, a symbol of the devotion the saint had to the Blessed Mother. It is said that no matter how tired he was, no matter how late he arrived from driving through the streets of Santiago looking for the homeless, he always prayed his rosary before retiring for the night. The other two angels hold a phylactery with the phrase, Contento Señor, Contento (“Happy Lord, Happy”). This was one of the famous phrases Hurtado was known for. The three angels are wrapped in loincloths of red, blue, and white, the colors of the Chilean flag.
Sacred Heart of Jesus: The greatest motivation for Hurtado was the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A particular devotion for Jesuits, it represents the unconditional love Jesus has for mankind, especially the poor. The light that shines forth from the image of the Sacred Heart is a testament to the power of Christ’s love and its rays can be seen descending upon the saint.