Fr. Pablo Pastells
Fr. Pablo Pastells was the Jesuit priest who attempted to convince Jose Rizal to return to orthodox Roman Catholicism through letters. He was the student in the Jesuit-run Seminario Conciliar in Barcelona, a refugee in France after the fourth suppression of Jesuits in Spain in 1868, a priest running from anticlerical rudiments after the defeat of Napoleon in the Franco-Prussian war, and a faithful Jesuit who organized circulos or worker groups in Europe to the anger of Anarchists.
Birth and Jesuit Life
Fr. Pastells was born in 1846 in Figueres, Northeastern Gerona, Spain. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1866 at the age of 20. Along with the Jesuits, Pastells fled to France to complete their course of study. They fled in the dead of the night with the defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War. This flight was continued and ended in his return to Spain, where he finally completed his study. He formed a small cell group movement of poor workers in other parts of Europe called circulos, which marked the beginning of his priestly work. Pastells returned to France and then transferred to the Philippines.
Pastells in the Philippines
Fr. Pastells arrived in Ateneo Municipal in Manila on September 5, 1875. He was 29 years old then. He spent 11 years as a missionary in Surigao Province, Mindanao between 1876 and 1887. His principal task was to study the Visayan Culture in preparation for his assignment to the areas in Mindanao. He was recalled to Manila to be the acting superior of the Philippine Mission that started in November 1887. On March 1, 1893, he became the acting superior of the Escuela Normal. He left the Philippines on October 5, 1893 because of failing health.
Rizal and Pastells
In Ateneo Municipal, Fr. Pastels was a subprefect of the boarders and director of the Congreagacion Mariana of the Sodality of Our Lady, which is now Christian Life Communities, where Pastells met Rizal. Rizal was 14 years old then. Rizal was a member of this association and became his prefect or president of the association. Pastells wrote to Wenceslao Retana, the critic of Rizal who later became his biographer, about Rizal being his prefect: He was worthy of the position, by reason of his most exemplary conduct, constant hard work, and extraordinary progress in virtue and learning.
The correspondence between Rizal and Pastells happened during the last part of this phase of the priest's work and when Rizal was exiled in Dapitan. Rizal was 31 years old and Pastells was 45.
- Bonoan, Raul J. The Hitherto Unpublished Letters of Jose Rizal and Portions of Fr. Pablo Pastell’s Fourth Letter and Translation of the Correspondence, together with a Historical Background and Theological Critique. Ateneo de Manila University Press, Bellarmine Hall, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, P.O. Box 154, 1099 Manila, Philippines. 1994
- “Miscellaneous Letters Exchanged Between José Rizal and Fr. Pablo Pastells in 1892 and 1893”. The Life and Writings of Jose Rizal.  (Accessed August 6, 2011)