January 22, 2016
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Fr. Leo John Dehon, described as “a man with a pen in his hand,” appreciated the power of the printed word. “The influence of Catholic writers is great,” he wrote in his Social Catechism, “and they have a powerful effect on public opinion through books, journals, and newspapers.” In his Christian Social Manual, he wrote, “The good press is the supreme work of the present day.”
In a 1912 letter to the members of his religious community, Fr. Dehon sums up his ministry that relied heavily on the printed word. “Among the general works of the apostolate,” he wrote, “I attempted two great undertakings. The first was to lead both priests and laity to the Heart of Jesus that they might offer him a daily expression of adoration and love. I have continued this work through our Apostolate of Reparation, through our magazine [The Reign of the Sacred Heart in Souls and in Society] that was devoted for fifteen years to the reign of the Sacred Heart, and through my books, The Retreat with the Sacred Heart, Life of Love and Reparation towards the Sacred Heart, Crowns of Love for the Sacred Heart, and the Priestly Heart of Jesus. This apostolate needs to be continued, expanded, and intensified.
“I also wanted to better the conditions of the common people through the establishment of justice and Christian charity. I took quite a part in that work through my social study articles, in my conferences in Rome and elsewhere, and in my participation in numerous congresses. Pope Leo XIII was kind enough to consider me one of the faithful interpreters of his social encyclicals. But the work must continue in this area too. People are not yet convinced that the Church possesses real and practical solutions to all the social problems.”
This summary only hints at the numerous spiritual and social publications that Fr. Dehon authored in his attempts to lead people to the Heart of Jesus, and through this devotion, inspire people to engage in charity and to work for justice. No doubt, Fr. Dehon would embrace all the electronic means of communication available today in order to continue the two great works of the apostolate, to which he dedicated himself and for which there remains a pressing need.
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
For over 35 years I had been in parish ministry. Through my preaching the Gospel and writing in the Church bulletins, I tried to share the love and devotion of the Sacred Heart. In my reminiscing of those days, there were churches of 300 families, 700, and as many as 2000 families. Little did I realize that when I was asked to be the spiritual director of the Priests of the Sacred Heart that I would now be writing to over 500,000 thousand families practically every other week!
In the letters that I write, I strive to show them that our founder, Fr. Dehon, wanted them to feel the presence of Jesus in their life—that Jesus is with them when they wake up the in the morning and is there with them even when they may feel unloved, tired, or frustrated. Just as important, Fr. Dehon wanted us to respond to Jesus’ outpouring of love—to the gift of Himself.
The letters that I receive in return are so very much personal. Accompanying their intentions, which they ask to be remembered when I celebrate Mass, are sometimes pages of how the Sacred Heart has been with them throughout their lives—especially the times of difficulty.
Sometimes I am asked if their prayers or generosity has made a difference in the lives of others. That is why the Good Stewards newsletter is so important. Recent issues, for example, have shown a residence, which had been there to serve battered women and victims of sex trafficking, was rebuilt after having been destroyed by a typhoon. Another showed the dedication of a church in India that was built through the generosity of so many Sacred Heart benefactors. Still another showed the upgrades and renovations to the Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.
Even as I write this, I received a phone call from the Seminary that a person from out East was there and wanted to speak to me and share her story of how the Sacred Heart had been with her especially with the death of her son. In a real sense, the letters that are written to promote the spirituality of the Sacred Heart are seeds that are planted. In trusted faith, we let God do the rest!
Dominic Peluse, SCJ
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
When writing a letter, an email, a blog, or a post on Facebook, how can you reflect Jesus’ outpouring of love?
How can you practice and promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his reign of justice and charity?
What means are at your disposal to support Catholic publications on spirituality and social justice?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer Catholic writers and publishers as they partner with Christ in proclaiming the Gospel. The following prayer is a reminder that Jesus commissions all of us to preach the good news, however differently each of us may do it.
when you commissioned your apostles
to be partners in your ministry,
you instructed them, saying,
“Proclaim the good news
that the reign of God has come near.”
As your faithful followers,
we, too, pledge to partner with you
in proclaiming the Gospel.
May what we write or promote,
and how we listen and respond
dispose hearts to receive your love,
from which justice and charity flow.
May our differing gifts,
offered for your service,
help people experience the inclusivity of your reign.
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page of the U.S. Province website of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This is an email version of that update.
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The Dehonian Spirituality updates are edited by David Schimmel, U.S. Province director of Dehonian Associates. Questions or comments for David? Click here.
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