June 5, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
“We cannot forget,” Fr. Dehon writes in his meditation book, The Love of the Sacred Heart, “that devotion to the Sacred Heart originated during adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. By means of this exercise it will continue to spread, to strengthen itself, and to become a powerful agent of love, reparation, and thanksgiving.”
With another meditation in the same book, he explains, “In the tabernacle, Jesus is, as it were, lonesome and thirsting for love; he calls us, waits for us. St. Margaret Mary says, ‘I was distressed to hear these words when the Sacred Heart appeared to me, I thirst to be loved by people in the Blessed Sacrament. This burning thirst consumes me and I find no one who satisfies my request for a return of love.’ To respond to this sorrowful complaint, the saint gave devotion to the Sacred Heart a feature which might be called Eucharistic.
“It was along these lines that our Lord guided St. Margaret Mary, revealing his Sacred Heart to her usually in the Blessed Sacrament. The outrages he suffers in the Eucharist are the special object of his complaints, and the homage he requests must be given in the presence of the Holy Eucharist. Besides, is this not natural? Every devotion, every affection, brings us nearer to the object loved. It is indeed in the Eucharist that we shall find the Heart of Jesus living close to us.”
Today many, who are genuinely nourished by a spirituality focused on the image of the Heart of Jesus, find Margaret Mary’s notion of reparation troubling. What does it mean, they ask, to say that in his Eucharistic presence, Jesus suffers from a lack of love, and that devout individuals can make up for that lack of love through the prayer of adoration? Further, the language and sensibilities of former times, such as the use of “lonesome,” “burning thirst,” “sorrowful complaints,” and “outrages,” seem exaggerated and an unhelpful deviation from the Gospel portrait of Jesus.
Yet, as modern scripture scholarship has observed, there can be a difference between the literal meaning of a text and its profound meaning. In this case, there may be additional layers of meaning that were not immediately accessible to Margaret Mary. While private visions are not scripture, this approach might expand the concept of reparation, particularly in a Eucharistic context.
Catholic faith believes in the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Catholic faith also believes that baptized Christians are members of the Body of Christ and a sacramental presence of Christ in the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that the terrors of oppression, war, racism, human trafficking, consumerism, and ecological devastation are outrages endured by the Body of Christ, and by extension, all God’s creation. This expansive view of Eucharistic presence gives Margaret Mary’s visions a contemporary vitality and urgency. Reparation is not only a prayer of consciousness, but also an action focused on healing and wholeness.
Although this understanding is not what Fr. Dehon clearly articulated in his day, it is, nonetheless consistent with his teaching. “In the Eucharist, the prayer of the Heart of Jesus is all love, reparation, thanksgiving; it is unending, all-powerful, capable of atoning for all. Therefore, let us learn how to unite ourselves to this prayer, to accept it so that our hearts may live this life of love and immolation, and consume themselves like the sanctuary lamp.
“The practice of reparation our Lord expects from us must therefore proceed from love, a love not satisfied with affection or feeling, but transforming itself into most generous acts of Christian virtue and into patience in trial. From the Heart of Jesus we shall draw this precious supplement of charity which alone can make our reparation pleasing to him.”
In summary, Fr. Dehon writes, “Our only desire will be to become a living eucharist of the Sacred Heart just as this Divine Heart is our Eucharist.”
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, The Love of the Sacred Heart III, 1st Mystery, 6th Meditation; 4th Mystery, 4th and 5th Meditation; 5th Mystery, 6th Meditation
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
The nature of reconciliation is the fullest possible revelation of the love of Christ. Active participation in revealing the love of Christ and removing the barriers to his love in the world are its marks. In this way a milieu of receptivity to the giftedness of love through and in Christ is brought to the world. The removal of these barriers will hasten the reign of Christ and the spread of his love among people and in creation.
This awakening to divine charity and union with Christ’s love will move the Christian to action. By action, the Christian seeks to serve the Lord in others, for it is by love of Christ that the Christian becomes aware of Christ in the world and in others and the need to free them for greater love of Christ. Those prayers and actions which foster an active love of Christ and the removal of the barriers which block the love of Christ are reparative in nature. It is through these actions of love that the Mystical Body reaches its fullness.
Those mortifications and acts of self-denial build up a responsive nature in the person and open them to the love of Christ. Thus self-denial that moves a person to active love of others and a return of the world to Christ by giving them true freedom in Christ is reparative. The actions of devout persons cause them and all persons to share in the realization of Christ. The value of their actions brings Christ’s love to the world and manifests it through them. The greater a person’s love for Christ and the deeper the relationship, the greater will be the demands upon them to reconcile the world and its people to Christ and to work for the day when Christ will be all in all.
The value of social justice and the reconciliation of people and the world to allow for the appearance of the love of Christ are especially of note as acts of reparation. All people have the responsibility to work for the kingdom of God here on earth. It is the continuation of the Paschal Mystery. As a person shares more fully in the life of love with Christ, he will be made a new creation in Christ. Even as he shares in this life, he is moved to alert the world and all life to its true center, that of union with Christ.
Deacon David Nagel, SCJ, excerpted from Building the Notion of Reparation
Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
With a quick glance, it is easy to recognize in this carving an image, if a bit unusual, of the Last Supper. The creative insight of the artist, however, coaxes the viewer to take a closer look and contemplate the depth of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.
At the head of the table, Jesus is praying. With open heart and hands, he is breaking the bread that he identifies as his body and is about to share himself completely with his followers. At the other end of the table, three disciples are caught up in their own concerns. From their gestures, it appears two of them are engaged in a heated debate, and both are trying to make their point simultaneously. Caught in the middle, another disciple covers his ears with his hands. Does he find this a distasteful topic, a boring one, or simply a bad-mannered discussion?
To this threesome’s immediate left, two disciples seem to be brawling, which is in contrast to the disciple next to them, who appears to be intensely focused on Jesus, if perhaps amazed or questioning. On Jesus’ immediate right, a disciple attentively watches his master’s hands breaking the bread, while on the opposite side, the disciple John clings to Jesus in a gesture that suggests he is listening to his master’s heart and the emotion behind the words. Continuing around the table, another disciple, in a meditative pose with hand to his chin, ponders the meaning of “This is my body.”
The next two disciples appear distracted. Is the disciple, who has his arm around his friend listening to Jesus or daydreaming? His friend’s attention is directed to the heated argument at the end of the table. This mixture of humanity completely disillusions Judas. With his back to the table, he holds the moneybag with one hand and with a dismissive wave of the other seems to be saying, “I’m out of here!”
This scene is an image of the Body of Christ—surely Jesus, in both his physical and sacramental presence; but also disciples, who are in turn beloved, attentive, fighting, arguing, inattentive, or faltering. Precisely because there is a need, the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus will continue to break open his life to heal a broken humanity. Those who understand that they are the Body of Christ will lovingly do the same.
The Last Supper, wood carving by Herman Falke, SCJ
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
“The practice of reparation that our Lord expects from us must proceed from love and transform itself into the most generous acts of Christian virtue and into patience in trial.” Given the circumstances of your life, what does Jesus expect from you?
“The greater a person’s love for Christ and the deeper the relationship, the greater will be the demands upon them to reconcile the world and its people to Christ.” In this moment, how would you assess your love for and relationship with Christ?
“Precisely because there is a need, the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus will continue to break open his life to heal a broken humanity. Those who understand that they are the Body of Christ will lovingly do the same.” For whom do you need to be the Body of Christ?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
On June 7, 2015, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer those who consciously try to be the Body of Christ in the daily circumstances of their lives. You may find helpful this Prayer of Reparation taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
Blessed are you, gracious God,
for drawing near to us through Jesus Christ,
the perfect image of your love.
By giving himself for us
and offering himself to you,
he healed a world broken by sin and death.
He has set us free from everything that enslaves us.
He has reconciled us to one another and to you.
He has revealed the mystery of your eternal life.
And so, merciful God,
we ask you to continue the work
you have begun in us.
May we become what we receive,
the Body of Christ given for others.
May your Spirit so fill us
that we reveal in our lives
the reconciliation Christ has won for us.
May we show the world
the love your Son has made possible
and the life you have willed for us all
since the beginning of time.
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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