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Dehonian Spirituality includes prayers and reflections based in spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon; it is published weekly by the US Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
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January 9, 2015 
 
Fr. Leo Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
As a voluminous writer, Fr. Leo John Dehon earned the epithet, “The man who lived with pen in hand.” He kept a diary, wrote an account of his life, composed numerous newspaper articles, and authored social and spiritual works. For the computer literate, it is difficult to imagine that all this was originally written by hand. In addition, he carried on a vigorous personal correspondence, which he sometimes mentions in his diary, particularly at the turn of the year.
 
“Days taken up with letters, visits, and New Year’s cards,” he writes in January 1889. “It’s a chore. Some good can come of it. A good number of my former students have written to me; this reawakens their faith and gives me the opportunity to encourage them.”
 
He attempts to prioritize his time, even as he perceives his correspondence as a duty. “The first moments of 1893 are for God, for the Sacred Heart, for Mary, and for our Holy Patrons. I carry out my rightful obligations and I’ve received countless New Year’s wishes. I have fully 200 letters and 800 cards to respond to, not counting the visits. Many of the letters are quite cordial. They make my heart beat more lively at the memory of these good and pious acquaintances. Thank God everything is not trite and superficial in this bustle of the first days of the year.”
 
Dehon’s December 1901 diary entry notes, “During the final days of the year and in part of January I have many letters to write.  It’s a duty imposed by custom, but one can hope to do some good with them.” In January 1903, having recently moved his residence from St. Quentin to Brussels, he acknowledges, “Letters and cards are coming to me from every direction.  There is a conventional courtesy in this, but they are also genuine signs of affection and gratitude.”
 
The theme repeats itself during Christmastide of 1904. “These are beautiful feasts. Good wishes are coming to me from every direction. These are days when my correspondence increases to 50 and 60 letters. I wrote an endless number of letters during these feast days and the end of the year.” And two years later, his diary entry reads, “I am in Brussels where I am receiving New Year’s greetings from my spiritual sons.  I am writing to our houses and my friends.  I include some edifying words to my affectionate expression of best wishes.”
 
Personal correspondence was such a natural part of Dehon’s life that a few days before his death he scribbled a note to his assistant, Fr. Philippe, instructing him to send feast day greetings to a long-time acquaintance of Fr. Prévot, a member of the Congregation who had died twelve years earlier. It seems Fr. Dehon died with pen in hand.
 


 
Lived and Shared, contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
 
One can say that I am good corresponder. It probably began when I was drafted into the army. I served in Korea and missed my family and friends. Mail Call are two beautiful words when you are far away from people you love and care for and so I began my letter writing. As the months went by I was writing more and more and receiving many replies. It made me feel that I was not that far away from friends and family. It was also in Korea when I first began to communicate through a tape recorder.
 
My ministry as an SCJ took me to many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, including Canada and many places in the USA. I was able to visit my own families in Ireland and Switzerland. I was blessed by meeting so many of my SCJ brothers and people of different cultures. My circle of family and friends increased as did my correspondence.
 
I send them my best wishes and congratulations on their birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. I know that it makes them happy. When I am aware of someone who is suffering, whether it be a health problem, loss of a loved one, loneliness, or whatever, I let them know by an appropriate note or card or both that they are in my thoughts and I pray for them. I know it brings them hope and comfort.
 
It is only in recent years that I see my correspondence as a ministry. At times it can become difficult to keep up with so much correspondence but for me it is the right thing to do.
 
Johnny Klingler, SCJ 
 
 
 

Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation

The most striking feature of this image of the Heart of Jesus seems to be the energy or movement of the figure; this Heart of Jesus is not serene.  His backward-streaming hair and the folds of his clothing suggest that Jesus is walking at a brisk pace.  Also notable is his gaze, which is not fixed on the viewer, but directed beyond, perhaps inviting the viewer to observe what he sees.  His pierced left hand draws attention to his Heart that is surrounded by emanating rays.  The human heart pumps blood throughout the body; the Heart of Jesus sends accepting, forgiving, and transforming love throughout the universe.  His pierced right hand is lifted high in a gesture at once witnessing to his presence in the world and rallying his followers to action.
 
This image challenges those who reflect upon it to understand grace—another word for God’s love—as the energy needed to bring about conversion, whether individual or societal.  Grace is not something to be measured or stored, but rather an energy to be expended.  Love is less a sentimental feeling than a consuming fire or overflowing fountain.
 
Followers of the Heart of Jesus are an active bunch.  They open themselves as wide as possible to take in a portion of God’s grace, set their faces resolutely toward whatever reality is in front of them, and lovingly do their part to bring about needed change.  Their focus might be on their own prejudice, fear of aging, or consumerism; it might be on homelessness, militarization, or global warming.  And while conversion is usually incremental, each step widens the capacity to take in God’s grace, act from the motivation of God’s love, and bring about the Reign of God.
 
 
 


 
Reflection Questions, seeds for personal understanding and growth

What is your preferred way of communicating personally with another person?
 
Although sending a birthday, anniversary, get-well, or Christmas card might be a conventional courtesy, how might you make it a genuine sign of affection, hope, or comfort?
 
How has the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus opened you as wide as possible to God’s transforming grace and empowering love?

 
 


Prayer, hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer those who are in need of a kind word, a warm remembrance, or an expression of love, and those who take the time to communicate it.
 
Heart of Jesus,
delight of all saints,
make my heart like your Heart.
Inspire me
to lighten the burden of someone who suffers,
to congratulate someone who celebrates a significant moment,
to affirm someone in need of recognition,
and to thank someone who is a gift to me.
May I take the time to express myself
as personably as possible
in a card, a call, or a visit.
Help me to show my delight
in all your saints.
Amen.

 
The backstory
 
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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