Arnold Janssen – A Biblical Saint? / Arnold’s Top Ten Biblical Quotations

Author: Dariusz S. Pielak, SVD; Peter McHugh, SVD
Subject: Bible and St. Arnold Janssen
Language: English, Spanish
Year: 2023

This article will have two parts. The first is by Dariusz Pielak and the second by Peter McHugh. The two authors use the outlines of the spiritual conferences delivered by St. Arnold. The two articles complement each other and can serve as inspiration for The Sunday of the Word of God.

Arnold Janssen – A Biblical Saint?
By Fr. Dariusz S. Pielak SVD

There is a custom of representing the saints with some attribute that played an important role in their lives or expresses essential features of their spiritual path. In the case of the martyrs, for example, it is the instrument of their torment. Therefore, St. Andrew the Apostle is represented with an X-shaped cross on which, according to tradition, he suffered martyrdom.

In the case of St. Arnold a very significant evolution took place. In the 1975 beatification picture, the Founder of the SVD is represented with a world map that is a symbol of his missionary commitment. On the other hand, in the picture of his canonization of October 2003, our St. carries the Holy Bible in his hand.

Where did this change come from? It seems that in recent decades the Congregation of the Divine Word has been trying to realize the charism contained in his name, that is, to put the word of God at the center of its spiritual life.

Wasn’t it like that before? Not necessarily. Arnold Janssen, explaining the meaning that we must assign to the Word of God in the name of our Congregation, wrote: “The Word that is found in the name of our Congregation, we understand, first, as the Word of the Father, who is the Son ; secondly, the word of the Son, which is the Gospel of Christ; thirdly, the word of the Holy Spirit, which is all of Sacred Scripture.”

As we can see, the Founder did not put the Bible first, but the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. However, he does not forget the written word of God, that is, the Bible. He speaks of it in relation to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, thus confirming the famous words of St. Jerome: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.

Let us now move on to the fundamental question: what place did the Bible occupy in the spirituality of St. Arnold? We do not have any formal study on this topic. And by the way, doing a competent study is not an easy thing, since you have to analyze thousands of letters and articles written by St. Arnold, as well as his spiritual conferences and the first versions of our Constitutions. Not being able to do this, I’ll just use a sample of sorts.

Well, in the 70s of the last century two volumes were published in German, containing sketches of spiritual retreats and conferences, written by St. Arnold (Analecta SVD 30 and 31). At the end of these sketches we find an index with all the biblical quotes used.

What is striking in this material, is that, first of all, the quotes are very abundant and varied. There are around 2,000 different Bible references in the approximately 800 pages of text. Some texts are mentioned only once, others many times. Of the 46 books of the Old Testament, Father Arnold mentions all but 8, and of the 27 books of the New Testament, he mentions all but 2. To be honest, I have never participated in a retreat where the preacher illustrated his thoughts with quotes from the Gospel, Psalms, Numbers, Revelation and other books of the Bible at the same time.

Second, according to the testimony of those who knew him, St. Arnold knew many of the quotes used by heart. He greatly appreciated it when the preacher could quote the texts of the Holy Bible freely, without looking at the text. I am sure that this body of texts grew in him with the course of his life and with the development of his spiritual life.

Finally, I would like to share a short text that shows how St. Arnold was inspired by the Holy Scriptures when writing the Constitutions of the Congregation. The Constitutions of 1891 begin in a style that is a faithful copy of the style of the book of Deuteronomy. This fact testifies to the great familiarity of the Founder with Sacred Scripture. I wish you a pleasant reading of this text and a search for its own biblical inspirations:

“Behold here, beloved brethren, the commands and ordinances that the Lord Your God wishes you to obey. You should love the Lord your one and triune God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with the whole of your strength and feeling; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments encompass the whole of the Law and the Prophets, because every good thing has its foundation in love. Therefore, you should love the Holy Spirit because the Spirit himself is love, and each one who loves the Holy Spirit possesses the Spirit himself and thus possesses the totality of love”.


Arnold’s Top Ten Biblical Quotations
by Fr. Peter McHugh SVD

In the first of the bimonthly Reflections for the Centennial Year it was mentioned that Romans 5:5 is one of the five Scripture texts most quoted by the Founder. Some have wondered what the other texts are. Albert Rohner published two volumes of the Founder’s notes for his retreat conferences and sermons (Analecta SVD 30 + 31) with an index of all the Scripture references in these two volumes. So it would appear to be an easy task simply to count which texts in the index have the most references. But one also needs to check each reference because sometimes a text is referred to twice in the same talk or is one given in the notes by Rohner. In addition the Founder occasionally adds a simple list of text references relevant to the theme of his talk but without using any of the texts. With this in mind we can set out the following as the ten texts most often quoted by Arnold Janssen:

1) Heb 10:4-7 On coming into the world he said, ‘You wanted no sacrifice …but (Ps 40:6-8) you gave me a body… Here I am, I am coming to do your will, God.’

2) Lk 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring (cf. Is 61:1) the good news to the afflicted.

3) Rom 8:14-17 All who are guided by the Spirit are sons and daughters of God. What you received is the Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ … And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint -heirs with Christ.

4) 1 Cor 3,16 You are a temple of God with the Spirit living in you.

5) Rom 5:5 The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

6) Rev 21:3 Here God lives among human beings. He will make his home among them; they will be his people and he will be their God, God-with-them.

7) Jn 3:16 God loved the world so much that he gave his Son that those who believe in him may have eternal life.

8) Jn 15:16 You did not choose me, no, I chose you.

9) 2 Cor 11:2 I gave you all in marriage to a single husband, a virgin pure for presentation to Christ.

10) Eph 1:4 He chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy and faultless before him in love.

The OT text most quoted is Jer 31:3: I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Some of the above are actually multiple verses on a theme. So if you ask about the single verses most quoted, the order would be:

Lk 4:18;
1 Cor 3:16;
Rom 5:5;
Rev 21:3;
Jn 3:16.

Sometimes the content of a Scripture verse is quoted but without giving the reference. Jn 3:16, for example, is one used several times in this way in his talks and also in his prayers. The first line of the SVD Prologue, by the way, does the same.

Not surprisingly, the ten texts reflect those aspects of the Christian mystery that were central to Arnold’s spirituality.




Dariusz Pielak, SVD
Dariusz Pielak, SVD

Dariusz Pielak born on 30.03.1965 in Poland. In 1985 he joined the Society of the Divine Word. During the seminary he did the experience of OTP in Argentina in a community of life inserted in popular environments of Greater Buenos Aires. After finishing the seminary he worked in Spain and did a licentiate in biblical theology there. Since 2003 he has been working in Russia teaching at the seminary and attending the parish of St. Olga in Moscow. He also devotes himself to deepen the themes related to the spiritual history of Arnold Janssen.




Father Peter MCHUGH was born in Liverpool, England. He entered the Congregation of the Divine Word and had his first assignment in the Philippines. From 1971 to 1975 he served as formator in the Philippine Central Province (PHC), from 1975 to 1978 he returned to the Province (England/Ireland (IBP). From 1978 to 1994 he served as secretary general for SVD formation and education in Rome. From there he was called to collaborate in the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center (1996-2011) in Steyl. Since 2011 he collaborates with the spiritual direction in Nemi, Rome.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks father Peter. As much as I know our Father, Saint Arnold. I thank God for his life totally dedicated to Christ and His Kingdom. God blessed you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up to receive new content in your inbox.
The subscription is a multistep process, so please check your email after you submit the form and follow the instructions.

We promise we’ll never spam! Take a look at our Privacy Policy for more info.

Suscríbase para recibir nuevos contenidos en su bandeja de entrada.
La suscripción es un proceso de varios pasos, así que revise su correo electrónico después de enviar el formulario y siga las instrucciones.

¡Prometemos que nunca haremos spam! Echa un vistazo a nuestra Política de Privacidad para más información.