August 28, 2015
Feast of St. Augustine
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
In a list of patron saints, the Spiritual Directory of the Priests of the Sacred Heart simply says, “Augustine is called the doctor [meaning, teacher] of the love of God.” He was also a personal patron of Fr. Dehon, whose middle name was Gustave, a derivative of Augustine. In reading the Confessions of St. Augustine, Dehon experienced delight and edification. “In Augustine,” he writes, “I like especially his penitence and his tears, which I would like to make my own, his great heart, and his ardent love for our Lord.”
For Augustine’s feast day, Fr. Dehon writes a meditation in his book, The Year with the Sacred Heart. Alluding to Augustine’s fierce internal battle to reject or embrace God, Dehon asks, “What miracle of divine goodness and what effort of personal courage did it take to bring about this conversion? Augustine himself tells us the power of his bondage. He was chained to the bonds of sensual delight, and nature told him that he could not live without engaging in these detestable pleasures. He was bound to vanity by his success in pagan eloquence. He was subject to greed by the considerable earnings which his much sought after lessons in rhetoric gave him.
“It took the almighty hand of God to help his personal efforts. But once set free, he showed his deep gratitude to God without fail until the end of his life. St. Augustine did not know the symbol of the Heart of Jesus, exposed on his chest, signifying his love, but in everything else he can be called a saint of the Sacred Heart. No one has better spoken of the side of Jesus opened by the lance in order to let flow blood and water, symbol of the sacraments and the Church. He saw in the wounds of Jesus a refuge for our soul.
“Who better than Augustine has sung the love of God? ‘O God!’ he said, ‘is it possible for someone to know that you are God and not love you? O beauty always ancient and always new, too late have I known you, too late I have loved you! You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart is always restless, as long as it is not resting in you’ [Confessions X: 27]. The Rule [for community living], which he composed, has been rightly called the Rule of Love. It breathes the purest love of God and neighbor.”
In iconography, Augustine’s symbol is a fiery heart, no doubt inspired by his prayer, “May the flame of your love embrace my whole heart; may nothing remain in me; may I consider myself as nothing, but may I burn with love for you and be consumed in you.” Again, in words that Fr. Dehon and the Priests of the Sacred Heart could make their own, “O Love, who ever burns and never consumes! O Love, my God, enkindle me!”
Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ, The Spiritual Directory of the Priests of the Sacred Heart; The Year with the Sacred Heart, Volume II, August 28; and The Interior Life, Chapter 27.
Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image for God's loving concern for all creation
This pen and ink drawing evokes Augustine’s prayer, “May the flame of your love embrace my whole heart; may nothing remain in me, but may I burn with love for you.” The flame is the manifestation of the Heart of Jesus and the heart represents the human capacity to receive and share Jesus’ love, which Augustine says, “ever burns and never consumes.”
The more that this heart is kindled with divine love, the greater its capacity to receive and share God’s love and the greater likelihood that it will be broken open and emptied by life’s challenges, disappointments, and limitations. At his crucifixion, Jesus’ own side was pierced to reveal a heart that gave its all in the face of rejection and sin.
The love of God is not miserly and those enkindled with God’s love strive to be as forgiving and as expansive in their compassion as God is toward them. The flame that “ever burns and never consumes” is “the love of Christ [that] urges us on” [II Corinthians 5:14], transforming the external commandment to love one another into an internal desire to share in every circumstance the transforming energy of living in union with God. “God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God and God abides in them” [I John 4:16].
Pen and ink drawing, David Schimmel
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
What is your experience of God’s love stirring within yourself?
In what way do you find yourself sharing with others God’s love, which you have personally experienced?
St. Paul proclaims, “the love of Christ urges us on.” Specifically, what is Christ’s love urging you to be and/or to do?
Image of Augustine: Wood carving originally in Christ the King Chapel, Divine Heart Seminary, Donaldson, Indiana
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the men and women who follow the Rule of St. Augustine and all who pass on the love of God that they experience. The following, from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, is an adaptation of a prayer by St. Augustine of Hippo.
let me know myself and know you,
and desire nothing save only you.
Let me do everything for your sake.
Let me humble myself and exalt you.
Let me think nothing except you.
Let me die to myself and live in you.
Let me accept whatever happens as from you.
Let me banish self and follow you.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in you,
that I may deserve to be defended by you.
Let me be among those you have chosen.
Let me be willing to obey for your sake.
Let me cling to nothing but you,
and let me be poor because of you.
Look upon me that I may love you.
Call me that I may see you,
and enjoy you forever.
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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