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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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April 1, 2016
 
 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
“There is no divine attribute that is more highly acclaimed in Holy Scripture than God’s mercy,” writes Fr. Leo John Dehon as he introduces one of his meditations in The Retreat with the Sacred Heart.  “Divine mercy works on sinners in a special way. 
 
“In his goodness, God not only refrains from punishing the sinner who offends him, but he even lavishes all sorts of blessings on him.  He preserves his life and allows him to make use of other creatures.  He lets his sun shine on the sinner as well as those who are just; he sends the blessing of rain on his fields [Matthew 5:45].  God seems to share his favors equally with those who love him and those who offend him.
 
“In addition, divine mercy for sinners is shown in the constant appeals that God makes for their conversion.  If he were guided only by his justice, God would distance himself from the sinner and abandon him to the hardness of his heart.  But love inspires God to take a different course of action. 
 
“He goes out looking for the prodigal son.  He pursues him, calls to him, and invites him.  There is nothing that he would not do to draw him out of the pit into which he has fallen.  He goes so far as to plead with him and beg him.  The sinner’s conversion has such a great effect on his happiness that you would think that God is asking him for a favor.”
 
Then, to heighten the impact of divine mercy, Dehon writes in the person of Jesus, who speaks directly to the reader.  “Using many comparisons, I have portrayed my Father’s merciful kindness for sinners.  Recall the woman who had lost her coin and how she could not rest until she found it again, and the shepherd who left his flock to go searching on the mountain for his lost sheep.
 
“In the Book of Revelation I sum up my care for sinners in one word, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” [Revelation 3:20].  When someone chases me from his heart, I do not distance myself from him because of this; I remain at the door of this heart and I do not stop knocking until he opens to me once again.
 
“Is there anything that divine mercy does not do to lead the sinner to conversion?  What inspirations are lavishly bestowed on him!  What favors are piled up all around him!  Grace, as it were, lays siege to him and leaves him no rest or reprieve.  Sometimes it is a word of encouragement that echoes in his ears, sometimes it is an edifying example that captures his attention, sometimes it is a painful ordeal that brings him back to his senses.  There is no sinner to whom God cannot rightly say, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?” [Isaiah 5:4].
 
The Retreat with the Sacred Heart, 5th Meditation, “The Mercy of God”
 
 
  
 
 

Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
 
Mercy feels like being at home where love abides and one’s soul is at peace.  Mercy smells like unfrozen earth and the fresh scent of spring.  Mercy looks like the lush growth of summer as far as the eye can see.  Mercy sounds like a song of hope in a troubled, antagonistic, and unforgiving world.  Mercy is another word for God’s gift of unmerited grace and nurturing love.
 
The lush wreath of heart-shaped leaves suggests divine mercy “lavishly bestowed and piled up all around.”  The house symbolizes the self or the soul—the container for one’s deepest fears and steadfast yearnings.  The shape of a heart, superimposed on the house, may represent mercy “standing at the door” and constantly appealing for the conversion of self, or mercy as the welcomed guest, who gently transforms the self from individualism to a tender concern for the other.  The color green, nature’s sign of life and growth, implies the undying hope behind God’s “merciful kindness for sinners.”       
 
Pen and ink drawing by David Schimmel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

In this Holy Year of Mercy, how can you “be merciful just as your Father is merciful” [Luke 6:36]?  Here are a few suggestions:
  • Make note of God’s grace working within you—“a word of encouragement that echoes in your ears, an edifying example that captures your attention, or a painful ordeal that brings you back to your senses.”
  • Recall how you feel when you sense God’s merciful love and forgiveness.
  • Respond to the unwearied invitation to embody God’s merciful love and forgiveness for the benefit of someone whom you experience as “other.”
 
 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

On Sunday, April 3, 2016, the Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday.  In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the world’s inhabitants, whose experience of God’s mercy is most clearly felt in the human concern for one another.  You may find helpful the following prayer that comes from Fr. Dehon’s 5th Meditation in The Retreat with the Sacred Heart.
 
Lord,
I unite myself to the sentiments of the psalmist
in remembering your mercies.
I will never cease glorifying your infinite mercies. 
But I adore this mercy especially
as it is revealed in the Heart of Jesus,
who took on our mortal flesh
to be with us and to save us.
Amen.
 
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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? 
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