Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spanish Jesuit In China

Fr Andres Diaz de Rabago , Taipei 02.23.2009
“Thanks be to God, we are forming people who are able to rebel!”

- A Spaniard in Taiwan Today: Fr Andres Diaz de Rabago -

The most well-known Spaniard in Taiwan today is probably Fr Rabago. At 92, this Jesuit priest is famous all around Taipei for his infectious laugh and the warm care he seems eager to bestow on anyone who crosses his path.
Fr Rabago is also “Doctor Rabago”: he got a doctorate on medicine at a young age, specializing in the application of tomography to radiology of dorsal vertebrae. “when there were only six tomographs in the whole of Spain” he recalls. Today, he still goes running from one hospital to another, caring for his Jesuit brothers but also for many other friends.
As he once taught medical ethics at Taiwan National University from 1970 to 2000 and has also been chaplain of the association of Catholic nurses, he is almost always affectionately greeted by old acquaintances during these countless hospital visits.

---Family inheritance
Fr Rabago does not correspond to the bellicose model of the Spaniards who had been conquering Americas and the Philippines (and back then, Taiwan as well) in former centuries. But this does not mean that his life has been peaceful and uneventful. As a matter of fact, his story reflects many of the events and tragedies experienced by Spain and other parts of the world during the 20th century.
He was born in 1917 in Galicia, an economically backward province that borders Portugal. His paternal grandfather was teaching Hebrew and sociology at a university, but was above all interested in the problem of rural poverty, trying to devise ways for the development of his beloved Galicia.
Among other books, he wrote an influential essay on “rural credit.” After his death, and in inheriting the land, his youngest son (Fr Rabago's father) did not hesitate to sell the whole lot to start a fishery, hoping that this would provide work for a population suffering from chronic unemployment. He married a young woman who came from a family whose background was less intellectual but who shared similar social concerns; Fr Rabago’s maternal grandfather had started a bank by inadvertence, he had such a reputation for probity that the peasants of the neighbourhood would confide their wealths to him, and he in turn, would pay them interests. Soon enough, a family bank was created.
Similarly, Fr Rabago’s mother was active in a number of charitable causes, starting, among other projects, the construction of cheap habitation units, so as to enable poor people to become owners of their own house. She still found time to give birth to ten children, four of whom died at a young age. Andres Rabago was number seven, and his youngest sister (who also gave birth to ten children) is still alive.
“My mother was restless, always taking care of one business or another, preferably of the poorer people in the area or the employees of my father’s fishery. At the same time, she loved us so much. Her love was a selfless one. When I decided to enter the Jesuits and later on to go to China, she told me not to worry for my father and for her, but just to do what I felt I had to do…”

The family was deeply rooted in the Christian faith, coupled with vanguard social concerns. So, it was little wonder that, apart from Andres Rabago, one of his elder brothers became a doctor and later on the director of a hospital. As he had publicly lamented the state of hygiene in Spanish hospitals, he was urged by the Health Minister of that time to retract himself or be dismissed, to which he accepted without hesitation.
The youngest boy of the family became a Jesuit, like his brother (he would later on become a pioneer of distant learning in Spain.) But Spain during the first half of the 20th century was knowing a ceaseless political agitation, and the opposition between Right and Left was becoming more and more radical, with Catholics most often associating with the Right and Anticlericalism with the Left (though this was not the case in the Basque country, which was at the same time Republican and Catholic.)
The civil war started in 1936… One of the brothers of Fr Rabago died in battle, while he himself was also wounded in the army. This experience might have contributed to his choice in becoming a Jesuit after having gotten his medical diploma at the end of the Civil War. He admits that such a choice was not an easy one. Andres enters the Jesuit noviciate in 1940, in Salamanca. With this, a new chapter began…

Link (here) to Fathers full story with short video interview at E-Renlai Magazine

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