November 23, 2018
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
The thought of death was the background of ancient asceticism. “In the morning,” said St. Anthony, “we must say that perhaps we will not live until evening; and in the evening, that perhaps we may not see another morning.” St. Anthony, in his life by St. Athanasius, describes the thought of the last ends as eminently inducive to stimulate the courage of his disciples in the battle against evil.
The Imitation of Christ, St. Ignatius, St. Francis de Sales, and all retreats make us meditate upon death. The thought of death holds us back in our bent towards sin. “In all you do, remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin” [Sirach 7:36].
Our Lord, speaking at the same time of the end of this world and the death of every one of us, tells us that nobody knows the day nor the hour. “It shall come as a thief.” This thought struck the apostles. St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke repeat it; it is also in the epistles of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, and Revelation.
Our Lord gave examples: As in the days of the flood, he said, people ate, drank; the flood came and took all of them away. There are going to be two in the field, he said, one will be taken, the other shall be saved. Two women shall be grinding at the mill, one shall be taken and one shall be left. “Keep awake, therefore” [Matthew 24:36-42].
Another example: the bad servant. As the master delays in coming, he beats his fellow servants and drinks with drunkards, but the master will come, when he does not expect him, and shall take him and throw him with the hypocrites where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth [Matthew 24:45-51]. Other examples of imprudence: the foolish virgins [Matthew 25:1-13] and the unprofitable servant [Matthew 25:14-30].
Conclusion: We insure ourselves against everything—fire, the risks of war, hail, navigation, and premature death—we make regular payments. We forget to insure ourselves for heaven. Means: Regular and serious confessions, self-examination and contrition every evening, [remaining in the] state of grace.
“My Retreat at Moulins,” October 4-10, 1918
Lived and Shared: Contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
This reflection was recently shared at the funeral of Paul Kelly, SCJ.
Fiat! No, not the car! A Latin word, short-hand for “God’s will be done,” and a favorite expression of Fr. Leo John Dehon. Paul found Dehon’s use of this sentiment, particularly in response to disappointments and trials, rather irritating and excessive. It is, of course, in line with Dehon’s “victim spirituality,” which requires of an individual “a heart to love, a body to suffer, and a will to sacrifice.” Yet, Paul, who detected that the cross of clinical depression was placed on his shoulders at an early age, and who tried consciously not to overwhelm others with his burden, had no additional energy, and therefore no desire to take on voluntarily any other form of suffering. He found Fr. Dehon’s spirituality to be — well — depressing.
This is mostly true. It has to be noted, however, that Paul took inordinate pleasure in telling me repeatedly how much he disliked victim spirituality and Dehon’s frequent use of the word, fiat, because — he knew it would irritate me!
How does someone dealing with constantly lurking depression move gracefully through life? Paul did it in at least two ways. The first and most significant was to hold another’s pain with a compassion so authentic that it could only come from a heart broken open like that of the Heart of Jesus. The second and most amusing was to unveil the ironies of life with pithy sayings—borrowed or of his own creation. At least one would not be appropriate to utter in this sacred space.
He assured us that “the grass is really browner on the other side of the fence.” As for conflicting diagnoses and the proliferation of medications, Paul would note, “That’s why they call it practicingmedicine.” At a going away party, he wanted to say, “For those who have supported me, no gift is necessary. For those who haven’t, no gift is sufficient.” When the best intentions backfired, Paul advised, “No good deed goes unpunished.” And then there was the book that he wanted to write, but he needed to go no further than the title, Never Far from Tears, a recognition that life is filled with tears of sadness and tears of joy.
So, Paul, this time the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train. It is the blinding light of the love of Christ coming to embrace you and kiss you into eternity. For which I and Fr. Dehon can only say, Fiat!
David F. Schimmel (pictured at left)
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the month of November, please lift up in your prayer the deceased members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart and your deceased loved ones. You may find helpful the following Prayer for the Deceased, adapted from the Roman Missal.
O God of all times and seasons,
who through the ending of present things
opens up the beginning of things to come,
grant that the souls of your servants
and our deceased sisters and brothers
may be led by you
into the inheritance of eternal redemption.
We make this prayer
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
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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