October 28, 2016
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
In the spring of his third year at St. Claire’s Seminary in Rome, Leo Dehon occasionally reflected upon death and briefly recorded his thoughts. As a seminarian, he related to the reality of death from a somewhat intellectual perspective, no doubt internalizing what he heard in sermons and pondered in his spiritual reading.
Eventually, of course, personal experiences would enrich his reflections on death. His initial approach to death, however, helps him focus on the purpose of life. The following diary entries suggest that he wanted his death to be a culmination of a lifetime united to the thoughts, words, and deeds of Jesus Christ.
“Life is short, and soon it will be necessary to appear before our Lord. Let us carry out each of our acts as we would wish to have done it at the moment of death. God has brought us forth out of nothingness and has given us being and life for his glory. Let us use it only to praise and glorify him.”
“Let us live the life of faith before God, considering our life as a day that is given to us to determine our eternity.”
“Eternity! Infinity! God asks us to cooperate with his grace during our brief lifetime, and he gives us a reward for all eternity. Each of our acts, thoughts, words, and deeds are written in the Book of Life. Let us do them as we would wish we would have done them at the moment of our death, in order to be worthy to possess God more perfectly.”
“Thinking of death is an effective way of keeping us from sin and of distancing us from the vanities of the world. Every day I am dying [I Corinthians 15:31]. Our life is a continuous dying. Every moment slips away from us until we have exhausted all the time that God has allotted to us. Our life is a short series of relations with God, with others, and with ourselves. Our actions have an almost infinite value if they are done in the grace of Jesus Christ because then they are united to his.”
“He loved us to the end [John 13:1]—even unto death [Philippians 2:8]. Together with Jesus let us persevere in love to the end. Let us always keep the lamp of charity burning bright in our heart, shielded from the winds of distraction, self-indulgence, and natural affections.”
Daily Notes: February 26, March 5, March 12, March 26, and April 11, 1868
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
Brother Clement Schmid, SCJ — Br. Clem, as he was called — was a very colorful and a very good religious-minded person (he is pictured at right). He was a true religious in every respect. He kept everyone on his toes. That meant any SCJs, and their visitor or guest. He would challenge them about their faith and their religious practices.
Sometimes his truly innocent ways would upset some of the members in community and embarrass some of the visitors because he usually caught them off guard. He would ask them if they went to Mass that day and if they knew the Act of Contrition prayer. He would have copies of different prayers that he would pass out to visitors and SCJs. There are other things that Br. Clem would do that would affect members in different ways. Some would just smile and say, “He means well and not doing any harm.”
One of the things that he took upon himself to do was to check out the magazines that were in the recreation room. He wanted to check if they were appropriate and good religious magazines or newspapers to be on the table to read. One day, a popular sports magazine was on the table. On the cover of its swimsuit edition, there were pictures of a few women with all kinds of bathing suits on. When Br. Clem saw that, he picked up the magazine and tore it to pieces. Most of the guys were upset, but others just smiled and shook their heads and rolled their eyes.
Br. Clem was a good-hearted person and sincere; and he did many things like that, which he thought was right and best for the community. Most of the time you would see him smiling or laughing with his hands up along the side of his face. He was indeed a very colorful and true religious.
One day, I took Br. Clem to shop at Stemper’s Religious Goods Store. When we walked into the store his eyes really lit up. At first there was no sound from this mouth. Then, there was a loud cry that came from his mouth as we walked around the store. There were sounds of great joy as he saw all the religious statues and pictures all over the store. It was like a kid walking into a candy store or Br. Clem walking through the pearly gates of heaven and seeing St. Peter.
On many occasions, Br. Clem told me that he was ready to die. He said that lots of his friends were dead and they were much younger than he was and it was not fair, because he was much older than all of them. One evening, as I was sitting in the recreation room, I noticed through the window that Br. Clem’s light was on. It was late and so I went to his room to check on him because he should have been asleep. When I got to his room, he was sitting on a chair. On his bed was a small box; and, in that box were two pairs of pants, plus shirts, socks, and some change. I asked him what the problem was. He said that he was sitting just waiting to die. He said that his stomach was hurting.
I thought about it for a while and had remembered that we had sauerkraut and ham hocks that evening, and that he ate a lot of it. I told him what I thought his problem was and he accepted my reason for his bellyache. Br. Clem still at times told me that he was ready to die. Well, Br. Clem finally got his wish on June 27, 1990. Br. Clem, rest in peace!
Br. Matthew Miles, SCJ (pictured here at right)
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week and during the month of November, please lift up the memory of your deceased loved ones in prayer. You may find the following prayer helpful.
God of Love,
through the cycles of our existence,
you continually call us to experience
the deepest possible intimacy with you.
From conception to birth,
from growth to diminishment,
and from physical death to eternal life,
may the lamp of charity burn bright in our hearts.
United to the Heart of Christ,
may we at last enjoy
the fullness of your promise of abundant life.
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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