June 16, 2017
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
This is the third of four installments of an article by Thomas Sheehy, SCJ, regarding the social dimension of Sacred Heart devotion, an understanding championed by Fr. Leo John Dehon.
Father Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, displayed the social aspects of reparation valiantly in his own apostolic life. He recognized Christ’s wounded Heart in the person of his neighbor. His whole life was geared to making social reparation. He preached the social encyclicals of Leo XIII. He worked with the poor and the destitute.
In 1895, Leo Dehon was already writing about and analyzing “the dignity and the rights of the workingman’s personality,” the family, society and the state, the right to form unions, capital and labor, divorce, abandoned youth, and juvenile delinquency. He organized study groups, wrote magazine articles, lectured at social conventions. His one dominant message: you offer reparation to the Heart of Christ by righting injustices done to men as well as by adoring Him in the Eucharist.
This is the aspect of devotion to the Sacred Heart, which many Catholics find convenient to ignore. “Don’t get involved.” “Live and let live.” “I’m a peaceable man.” These sleepy, stereotyped attitudes are unworthy of a true friend of the Sacred Heart.
In his book, The Gospel to Every Creature, Cardinal Suenens insists, “that the Christian has a duty to fight with all his might against penury and pauperism, unemployment and sickness, social and racial injustice, and to promote a Christian social order which will favor the full development of human personality. All that is human belongs by right to us,” Cardinal Suenens concludes.
The Social Reality of Sacred Heart Devotion, Third Installment, Thomas J. Sheehy, SCJ, The Reign of the Sacred Heart, October 1969
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian Spirituality
This is the third of four reflections by David Jackson on how he grew to appreciate the social dimension of Sacred Heart devotion.
During the years I studied scripture for a Master’s Degree at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, I lived in an SCJ community which included Bob Bossie, who was in ministry at the Eighth Day Center for Peace and Justice and Integrity of Creation. I was glad to learn that Bob was involved with social justice issues after the example of Fr. Dehon. Bob introduced me to and involved me and other community members in a variety of social justice issues.
We protested in downtown Chicago, aware that cameras were recording our protest. I was part of a takeover of our Senator’s office protesting the invitation of President Reagan to speak at the Catholic Education Association. We ended up being dumped on the sidewalk by the federal police. The Senator did not want this event to be publicized.
We participated in the downtown Stations of the Cross, organized by the Eighth Day Center. We stopped at various banks and other facilities which were involved in various injustices. We stopped at the courthouse and multinational corporation headquarters.
When the four religious women were killed in El Salvador on December 2, 1980, I attended the prayer service at a downtown church. An Ursuline sister friend of mine [from our days ministering in Mississippi] was now working in the port city of Lima, Peru. When the song, “Be Not Afraid” was intoned as part of the prayer service, I burst into tears with concern for my dear friend.
Sometime during the following months, Bob Bossie invited me to think about making a trip that his fellow staff member, Chuck Dahm, OP, was organizing to Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Peru. Bob had made a previous journey with Chuck. He said it allowed him to read the Scriptures from below, meaning to put oneself in the place of those who were hearing the message. I went and learned about Basic Christian Communities, Liberation Theology, and the U.S. role in Central and South America.
The difference between the narratives that we read and heard in the U.S. and the narrative we listened to in the countries we visited, could hardly have been more different. When the tour ended, I spent several more days visiting with my Sister friend in Callao, Peru. It was a joy and education to share with her and learn.
My commitment to social justice issues had been enlightened and commanded greater action. I became a member of the Justice and Peace Committee of the United States Province.
David Jackson, former SCJ
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
Among what group of people or in what circumstances do you recognize an expression of Christ’s wounded Heart?
How would you explain the concept of “social reparation?”
What one, specific action can you take to practice the spiritual discipline of “social reparation?”
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer those who dedicate their efforts promoting justice for all people. You may find helpful the following Act of Reparation taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
you have restored
our human condition to its true state:
one of life with you.
Your Heart has become
the sign and source of unbounded love,
which has made of us a new people.
while we rejoice in our union with you,
we are sometimes weak, forgetful,
and even indifferent to the love offered us.
We therefore fail to serve you in others
or even turn them away,
rejecting you as we do so.
Give us a new heart and a new spirit.
Make us centers of love,
drawing our strength from you.
In this way may all come to know you
and your open Heart.
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.
Anyone is welcome to receive the Dehonian Spirituality email. Click here to add a subscriber.
The Dehonian Spirituality updates are edited by David Schimmel, U.S. Province director of Dehonian Associates. Questions or comments for David? Click here.
Click here to learn more about the Priests of the Sacred Heart on the US Province website. Click here to visit us on Facebook.