August 12, 2016
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Father [Alphonse-Marie] Rasset has spent all of his life in this diocese [of Soissons]; he has always loved it. He was so dedicated to priests! He helped them so willingly! He had received abundantly the graces of the priesthood—Vicar, Curé, Director of Youth Work, and Diocesan Mission Preacher—he was always eminently priest, pastor, and apostle.
His biography is like a manual of pastoral care adapted to the needs of contemporary society. The faithful will it read with edification, but priests especially will find in it the purest and most active incentive for zeal, devotion, and sacrifice. It seems to me that of all the books in a priest’s library, this one will be the most useful.
What shall I say myself? This good Father has had his large share in the foundation of the Congregation. He has been my main helper. He was interested particularly in young people, in their health and studies. He was like the mother of the family.
I've seen few priests who have a deeper faith. He was very detached from himself; he lived for God and for souls. His respect for and obedience to his superior was unqualified—he did not see a man with his weaknesses, but saw only the representative of God.
His devotion to Mary was quite exceptional. He recited the entire rosary every day, even in the midst of much work. For rising in the morning and being faithful to his hour of prayer, one can say that he was habitually heroic.
How much he loved the priesthood! What pious dedication he had for priests! When he traveled through the diocese for his preaching and his missions, he was not content to help the priest who had invited him, but he went to see all the neighbors, walking long distances. He knew how much our priests, too isolated in this vast diocese, often need encouragement and consolation. Moreover, he knew how to unite discretion with charity.
In the long trials of the foundation, no one shared with me as much as he did. Always, he helped me faithfully, and I must say that his faithfulness and perseverance were often heroic. On September 8 , he made his profession [of vows] very piously with the [additional] vow of victim. Courageously, he had to carry his cross up until the sacrifice of his life. He died as he lived, as a victim for the Church, for our large diocese, which he loved so much, for his Congregation, and for the reign of the Sacred Heart.
A Priest of the Sacred Heart, The Edifying Life of Fr. Alphonse-Marie Rasset, From His Letters and His Notes, edited by Fr. Dehon; and from Daily Notes November 1879.
Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
In the 1960s, a simply crafted, outdoor wooden sign identified the novitiate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Ste. Marie, Illinois. This cross, styled after the profession cross in use at the time, is a detail from that outdoor sign. Although weather-beaten, with the wood cracking and beginning to deteriorate, this image is an apt metaphor for the life of Fr. Alphonse-Marie Rasset.
The heart, as a symbol of love, recalls the sentiments of the Heart of Jesus—compassion, dedication, and resolve—that overflow in his total gift of self for the benefit of humanity. Atop the heart, the intense energy of the flames suggests the passion with which Jesus fulfilled his ministry of reconciliation. The cross and thorns bear witness to the reality of sacrifice, which any gift of love entails.
United to the sentiments of Jesus, Fr. Rasset spent his life building up the social reign of the Sacred Heart at a time when many people in France were caught in the cogs of the Industrial Revolution. He exuded a passion for the people whom he served in the diocese of Soissons, particularly the youth who held the promise of a brighter future, and priests who proved ill prepared to deal with the social upheaval left in the wake of the French Revolution.
As the first professed member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart after Fr. Dehon, Rasset shared in the seemingly ever-present trials of the new foundation. Overcommitted staff and finances, clerical jealousies, and some poor judgments suggested ultimate failure for a Congregation dedicated to the social and spiritual renewal of society. In a letter to his sister, Fr. Rasset confided, “In our Congregation it is like this: adversities follow each other like rainstorms in a sky that remains clear and blue. Meanwhile the grain grows, and Providence will provide good weather for the harvest.”
Unafraid of sacrifice, he remained a faithful companion to Fr Dehon and to the life of love and immolation, to which both of them aspired. Although Fr. Alphonse-Marie Rasset may have been worn out from his dedication to ministry, this reality simply served as a patina for a long life of love for God and God’s people.
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
What do you feel are the sentiments of the Heart of Jesus that result in his total gift of self for humanity?
In your life, what are you passionate about?
Recall the sacrifices you make for whom and what you love.
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the people you know who move through life with love, passion, and a willingness to sacrifice. It is in this spirit that Fr. Dehon composed and prayed the following “Pact of Love” when he made his first profession of vows as a Priest of the Sacred Heart in 1878.
before you and your heavenly Father,
in the presence of Mary Immaculate, my mother,
and of St. Joseph, my protector,
I make the vow of placing myself out of pure love
at the disposal of your Sacred Heart,
and of devoting my life and energy
to the Congregation of the Priests of your Heart.
I accept in advance all the trials and sacrifices
which it will please you to ask of me.
And I beg you to touch my heart
by inflaming it with your love,
so that I may have the intention
and desire of loving you.
Through your grace
let me again feel the happiness
of having all the affections of my heart
centered on you alone.
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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