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November 14, 2014
Fr. Leo Dehon...
“The sea lifts one’s soul to God,” Leo Dehon wrote concerning his first sea voyage between Calais and Dover. After his second year of studying law in Paris, he was travelling to London where he would spend several months learning English. “Man feels so small, so dependent in the presence of the immense sky and waters, and in the face of perils against which he has no recourse but in Providence.”
After his third year in law school, he made a second trip to England, Scotland, and Ireland. While traveling through Scotland, he took a steamer and sailed along the Caledonian Canal. “It took us the whole night to cross the canal. How lovely are these northern evenings at the time of the solstice! It was June 21st. The sun finally disappeared under the horizon. At midnight we could still read on the bridge without lights. How this nocturnal trip lends itself to the imagination!”
However, on a return trip from the Inner Hebrides, his experience in a small boat was not so pleasant. “The wind was favorable. The boatmen expected to make the trip in two hours. It was 7 o’clock in the evening. We had two oarsmen. The wind began to change, contrary to our expectations. We had to lower the sails and take to the oars. I went to the helm to take control. It began to rain and what a rainfall! My three companions became seasick. We were now in the midst of a storm and the danger became serious. A steamer passed us; we hailed it but in vain. The two oarsmen and I took turns at the oars and the helm. It was a terrible night. Finally at four in the morning we disembarked on the rocks about one mile from our destination.”
Several years later, after successfully completing his doctorate in law, Leo had the opportunity to travel to the Orient. His father supported this adventure in the vain hope that his son would finally abandon his desire to become a priest. While traveling for two months in a light boat on the Nile, Leo Dehon again appreciated first-hand both the beauty and the danger of a large body of water. “The north wind lent us its wings,” he wrote, but it could also deliver a storm. “The river became turbulent and we became worried. Gales from the north caused high waves which rocked our boat. It was a terrible night.”
Traveling by boat to Latin America in 1906 to visit his missionaries, Fr. Leo John Dehon noted, “For many hours one lies on one’s folding chair and one dreams. I dreamed of the things of God. The ocean, I thought, is the heart of the earth. It receives all the rivers with their filth, and it sends it back as rain to fertilize all the earth with its purified water. One can see here a symbol of the Heart of Jesus, which receives all the rivers of our sins in the depths of reparation and expiation, and sends back to us all the currents of grace in order to distribute spiritual life, fertility, strength, and joy to all souls.”
While in Brazil, Fr. Dehon composed a series of meditations, which he entitled, Lessons on the Sea. In the introduction to this work he offered his reflections as “Pius readings for travelers and missionaries who undertake long voyages, and for people who spend a summer holiday at the ocean.”
Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ, Notes on the History of My Life,and Daily Notes, 1906
Abyss of Love Mandala by David Schimmel
Heart of Jesus...
“What immense depth has the ocean! What breadth! What profundity! One tries sometimes to take a sounding of certain parts, but what we know of it, what we have been able to explore, is a mere nothing! And the Heart of Jesus is like that too. The litanies call it, The depth of all virtues, Receptacle of justice and love, Plentitude of all graces, Source of life and holiness, Source of all consolation.
“But what are the means to extract these treasures that are in the Heart of Jesus? All one needs for this is a little good will and a few minutes of reflection and prayer. One must apply oneself to understand the sentiments of this divine Heart, to penetrate their nature in a short meditation. After which one must humbly acknowledge the imperfection of our interior life and of our affections, when faced with the sentiments and affections of the Heart of Jesus.
“Abyss! Immensity! How we are impressed by the ocean, when one can no longer see anything of the continent! Where are the limits of this abyss? How far do these liquid masses extend? What is their depth? Our Lord, speaking to Margaret Mary, liked to compare his Heart to the ocean. ‘Come in this abyss of my Heart,’ he said to her, ‘and seek the limits of my love, you will never find them.’ How I would like to throw myself into the ocean of the mercy of the Heart of Jesus, in the abyss of his virtues and his graces!”
In the Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon contemplates an abyss of humility, patience, zeal, and self-sacrifice. With the gift of the Eucharist, he reflects on the Heart of Jesus as an abyss of love. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends [John 15:13]. The abyss of friendship is to give his life again and again, every day, although without the shedding of blood; it is to remain always there, close to one’s friend.”
Directly addressing Jesus in this meditation, Fr. Dehon writes, “You speak according to the dispositions of those who come to you. You consent to a touching and sometimes intoxicating heart-to-heart. But there is an abyss of love far deeper than these encounters, and that is communion. Yes, you penetrate our breast because you want to be very close to our heart; because you wish to impassion our whole being, all our senses, to purify everything, sanctify everything, make everything divine.
“What an abyss of charity! Then you stay within us through a spiritual presence. He who eats my body and who drinks my blood, remains in me and I in him [John 6:56]. You said that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for those whom one loves. You forgot to say that the abyss of love is to give oneself in communion to those whom one loves.”
Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ, from a series of meditations entitled, Lessons of the Sea.
Questions for reflection...
What is your experience of a vast body of water and how does it affect you?
Comparing the immensity of the ocean to the limitless love of the Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon exclaimed, “How I would like to throw myself into the ocean of the mercy of the Heart of Jesus!” If you did this, what would you experience?
In the face of what immense or awesome reality are you able to acknowledge your smallness and dependence, and lift your soul to God?
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer all those who experience nature as a communication with the divine and those vacationing on or near the water. The following prayer, based on Psalm 65, was composed by Charles Flood, SCJ, and comes from his publication, Water and Enrich My Heart, Prayers Based on the Psalms.
Your choice has fallen on me, Lord.
You have lifted me out of the humdrum
and set me aside for your special service.
I look to you with complete confidence
that you will pardon
all my sins and negligences.
Fill my heart with love and wonder
at the marvelous things
you have done for all whom you love.
water and enrich my heart;
by your bounty
expand my emotional horizons
to take in the length and breadth
of all your beauty.