April 24, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
I have never had a better appreciation of the catacombs. I’ve become enamored of them. I went there many times; I never tired of them. This time, I wanted to study them from the point of view of the Sacred Heart, and I found many insights there. The touching and delightful paintings which cover the walls all preach about the Sacred Heart.
The symbol that recurs most often in every corner and in every chapel is that of the Good Shepherd. He assumes every pose and has a variety of attributes, but he is always a loving shepherd, a shepherd with a devoted and generous heart. He has a noble bearing and a handsome face; but he is gentle, humble, kind. He almost always has a sheep on his shoulders. It is the lost sheep, the wounded sheep, and he carries it with obvious kindness and tenderness. It rests on his neck and delights in the love of his shepherd.
Often the Shepherd carries a pail of milk, symbol of the Eucharist, symbol also of the maternal care that the Shepherd has for his sheep. The Good Shepherd often has a Pan flute or Apollo’s flute in his hand, which depicts him as the ideal of beauty and the source of inspiration. He is surrounded by sheep. There are some ungrateful sheep who turn away from him; he sends the apostles to bring them back. Many graze peacefully at his feet. Several kiss his hands; he caresses them. Some, visibly intoxicated with love for their shepherd, leap about. They stretch up towards him as if to take hold of him and embrace him.
Place a heart on the chest of this picture of the Good Shepherd and you could not have a better expression of the full mystique of the Sacred Heart.
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, Daily Notes, January 18, 1891
Artwork: “Good Shepherd,” Fr. Herman Falke, SCJ
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
Great in power, / Exalted and lifted high,
God, you will reign forever, / Forever we will glorify / God over all.
Over the earth; over the sky / God, you are over all.
Over the dark; over the light / God, you are over all.
Whatever may come in this life / God, you are over all.
The above are some lyrics from “Over All,” a song on Phil Wickham’s album, Ascension. I cannot fully explain why those words have power. It is those words of prayer.
“Do not be afraid,” Tim said in response to my hesitation. Tim Lafleur was a college friend with whom I became acquainted through a faith group at Nicholls State University. Do not be afraid because God was asking to be the center of our lives. Tim and I often met at the student union to talk about those things of faith and spirit. My memory of Tim escapes me now that I am older. Those words are still imprinted on my journey. It was the beginning of my journey of wanting to know God and thus inquire about religious life. Prayer, service, and sacrifice were the words from the ad for the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
God, You are over our past.
What does it mean to be “not afraid?” Recently, those words have surfaced again. It was not easy to make a life choice to service of the Church when the future is not exactly clear. I have been a religious Brother with the SCJs for a number of years and an associate vocation director. “When God calls you, you call us,” I often say with a fun spirit to young men I meet on these vocation fairs. I do remember my days as a college student making good times with friends, driving up to New Orleans and doing whatever it is that fancied me. I cannot begin to tell you what could have happened in an alternate timeline if I stayed in Thibodaux/New Orleans. I gave those years to God. He continues to ask me to give up more of myself.
The SCJs open their prayer book, This Day of God, and recite oblation prayers every morning and reparation prayers every evening as they read it many times before. They sit in their chair and raise their thoughts to God in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Their years are recorded in different shades of gray in their hair and crevice and valley in their faces. Their bodies have given them many years of health but now starting to guzzle and gulp with age. They have given wholeheartedly to our Creator, to each other, and to the people they serve. Fr. Leo John Dehon intended that all members of his religious community work toward a union of all people and a preference of work for the poor.
The SCJs are a sign that God’s kingdom is near when we work, meet, socialize, etc. It is a blessing when the SCJs are together, and source of confusion and chaos at other times; that is the sacrament of community living. Everyone gathers at the table when six o’clock rolls around. We say a small prayer over our meals and ask for God’s blessings. Conversation, laughter, or challenge [a few examples] mark our evenings. There are days when we require an hour or 30 minutes in meetings. The SCJs come together and talk over the workings of our community life together. Sitting squarely facing each other, firing squad fashion, can get brutal such as those meetings that involve budgets. On a brighter note, we do give time to listen to each other’s stories. The conversations often take us far back in time as our “tinker” is able to take us. These stories have become collective memories. It must be done if we are to live.
God, You are over our present.
Each morning, there we are again in our prayer chairs. Prayer, community life, and ministry are elements that punctuate our lives as Dehonians. It is a challenge and a continual routine of putting ourselves in God's hands. Many SCJs who have gone before us lived by God, their prayer books, each other, and the people whom we serve; many more will come. “Don’t be afraid.”
God, You are over all and You know the pathways before us.
Br. Long Nguyen, SCJ
Associate Vocation Director
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
Imaging Jesus as the Good Shepherd, what quality most attracts you? How might Jesus be inviting you to manifest this quality so that you can be a good shepherd to the people in your care?
On your life’s journey, what makes you most afraid or tempts you to give up trying? What encourages your faithfulness?
Your words of support or encouragement are an echo of the voice of God. Who needs to hear your affirmation?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
Sunday, April 26, 2015 is Good Shepherd Sunday and World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer those who are discerning the voice of God to help them embrace their life’s calling. You may find helpful this Act of Oblation adapted from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Jesus, Good Shepherd,
you call your own by name.
They recognize your voice and follow you.
So, when you called Lazarus,
he walked out of his tomb,
unbound and set free.
When you called Mary Magdalene,
she recognized you, whom she was seeking.
Immediately, you sent her forth,
as an apostle to the apostles,
to proclaim the good news.
Today, with Lazarus and Mary Magdalene,
we hear you call our name
and send us forth as your apostles.
Accept the offering of our hearts
so that we may freely proclaim your word
and shepherd people to 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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