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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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February 6, 2015 

 
Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
 
After a great deal of consultation and discernment, Fr. Leo Dehon professed the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on June 28, 1878, and took the religious name, John of the Sacred Heart.  With this public act, he founded the Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an apostolic religious community that would later be known as the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  While still the only member of this religious community, Fr. Leo John Dehon sought the collaboration of clergy and laity by founding, under the authority of the local bishop, the Reparatory Association of the Sacred Heart.
 
Members of this Association participated, by varying degrees, in the spirituality and work of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Characterized by adaptation, the Reparatory Association of the Sacred Heart changed its name eight times, reformulated its specific purpose occasionally, and for at least five years, lost its balanced emphasis on prayer and action.
 
As first conceived, the Reparatory Association of the Sacred Heart promoted devotion to the Heart of Jesus through the prayer and service of its members.  The specific intention of its efforts focused on a holy and dedicated clergy, and the coming Reign of the Heart of Jesus.  The Association’s two degrees of membership differed only in the intensity of commitment.  Both Associates and Aggregates committed themselves to a life of prayer, sacrifice, and service, but the Aggregates agreed to abandon themselves completely to the will of God and live, as Fr. Dehon described it, as victims of love.
 
Within two years, there were 100 Aggregates, including Fr. Dehon’s mother and aunts, as well as relatives and acquaintances of the members of the fledgling community.  The spiritual connection was strong.  Communicating with an Aggregate member in 1919, Dehon wrote, “I call you sister, because you are part of the family.” 
 
On February 8, 1889, the local bishop officially approved the Reparatory Association and Fr. Dehon articulated its direction as working toward the establishment of the Reign of God in souls and in society.  In that same year, he began publishing a magazine entitled, “The Reign of the Sacred Heart in Souls and in Society,” in which he championed the social consequences of the devotion to the Heart of Jesus.  In writing for the magazine, he occasionally spoke of the Association, indicated its purposes, and addressed its members.
 
Between 1897 and 1902, the local bishop named as director of the Reparatory Association a member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart other than Fr. Dehon.  With the appointment of Fr. Blancal, SCJ, as director, Dehon’ social commitment was lost.  Working to transform a world wounded by social sin was not as important as consoling the Heart of Jesus wounded by personal sin.
 
The next director, Fr. Prévot, with the blessing of Dehon, wrote a manual for the Association, entitled, “Love and Reparation.”  In it, he meditated on the victim of love spirituality, which he considered the foundation of a fruitful apostolate, but did not stress the apostolate as a necessary commitment for members of the Association.  By 1919, however, the dual commitment to prayer and service was reestablished.
 
In 1923, the Association needed to adjust its statutes to conform to the new Code of Church Law.  It also dissolved the distinction between Associates and Aggregates.  With the authorization of the Pope, it became a worldwide association “of prayer and sacrifice for the extension of the Reign of Jesus on earth, for the triumph of the Church, and for an increase in priestly and missionary vocations.”  At this time, the Association reached its peak of 50,000 members.
 
Forty years later, the Second Vatican Council ushered in a new understanding of Church and vocation.  In 1964, the Priests of the Sacred Heart dissolved the Reparatory Association of the Sacred Heart and created a lay association called Dehonian Auxiliaries.  Yet, it would take another 30 years to reimage its collaboration with laity as “a communion of vocations within the Dehonian Family.”
 
The unfolding story of the Dehonian Family will continue in next week’s posting.
 


 

Lived and Shared, Contemporary expressions of Dehonian Spirituality

“What does it mean to be a Lay Dehonian?  To me, being a Lay Dehonian gives me an identity, an identity that is both a privilege and a responsibility.  The Ecce venio of Christ [“Behold, I come to do your will”] and the Ecce ancilla of Mother Mary [“Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word”], and the Vivat Cor Jesu [“May the Heart of Jesus live!”] are the maxims that I have slowly absorbed in my active involvement with the Dehonian community and which I firmly believe will sustain me in my journey through a life of faith.
 
“My Catholic education instilled in me the commitment to faith, instilled in me a sense of conscience [social awareness and responsibility] and the importance of prayer and service from which we gather strength to face life’s challenges; to do more for God.  Being involved with the SCJs and knowing their spirituality has given me a feeling of being at home.  It is this sense of home that embodies everything about the Dehonian Spirituality that I have embraced as a way of living my faith and understanding the meaning of my existence.
 
“Dehonian Spirituality adorns and beautifies my vocation, and my duty and commitment in the secular world.  It shapes my identity [“Who am I?”], my purpose and place in living [“Why am I here?”], and how I live my live [“What values do I hold?”].  The Dehonian Spirituality of love and oblation, availability and self-surrender, and reparation struck a chord in my heart.  The charism of Fr. Dehon has enhanced the good in me and strengthened my relationship with God and loving devotion to his Sacred Heart: loving him more deeply, knowing him more clearly, following him more closely.
 
“What strikes me most about Fr. Dehon is his passion for God and his commitment to social justice.  And this, my brothers and sisters in Christ, will guide me as I continue to practice my legal profession, as an educator, in my advocacies, in the different religious congregations which are my clients and whom I bestow free legal services, as well as my involvement in the parish managed by the SCJs and in the formation house.  All is in the service of God and for his greater joy and glory.”
 
Grace Escobia, Lay Dehonian and member of the International Organizing Committee for the Dehonian Family
  

 


Prayer, hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve

February 8 marks the anniversary of the official founding of The Reparatory Association of the Sacred Heart.  In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer all those who link themselves with the spiritual vision and mission of Fr. Leo John Dehon.  You may find the following prayer helpful.

 
Loving God,
Creator and Generous Gift-Giver,
we are grateful for
the gift you entrusted to Leo John Dehon
in founding the Congregation of the Priests of the Heart of Jesus
and mindful of the continual unfolding of this charism
among Dehonians throughout the world.
 
With confidence
we ask for an additional gift
as we seek to make known the words and deeds of Fr. Dehon.
Help us perceive his spirit—your Spirit—
which motivated all his attempts to promote your reign in his day.
And when we have understood that spirit,
may it motivate us to look at our world
and address the issues of today.
Allow us a share in promoting your reign
and in passing on this gift to the next generation.
 
Prompted by the guidance of your Holy Spirit,
we make this prayer
through the Heart of Jesus.
 
Amen!


 
 
Lenten meditations
 
Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the Dehonian Associates office will be sending one-minute meditations on the significance of the cross. The reflections come from the writings of Fr. Leo John Dehon. There will be 14 total, sent each Wednesday and Sunday during Lent, with a final meditation on Easter. Those who are subscribed to Dehonian Spirituality will also receive the Lenten meditations. 
 

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. 

Anyone is welcome to receive the Dehonian Spirituality email. 
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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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Dehonian Associates Office
US Province, Priests of the Sacred Heart 
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