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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 29, 2016
 
 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
“Since judgment will be unavoidable, you cannot possibly escape it.”  With sobering honesty, Fr. Leo John Dehon approaches the contemplation of a person’s final judgment.  “Everyone must be examined before the tribunal of Christ, as St. Paul said, ‘For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil’ [II Corinthians 5:10].
 
“And what will your examination be like?  God will ask how you reacted to his love as Creator, as Father, as Redeemer, as a Friend.  How have you loved your neighbor in whom God lives?  Did you help the poor and suffering when you could and should have done so?”
 
Taking inventory, however, is neither the focus of the final judgment nor the point of meditating on that decisive moment.  For Fr. Dehon, the question is not “What?” but “How?”  The only appropriate answer is, “With love.”  His vision is a lifetime of thoughts, words, and deeds that are saturated with love and that naturally flow into eternity.
 
Dehon writes, “Heaven is the abode and the reward of love.  The measure of your love here below will be the measure of your love in heaven.  There is no other distinction among the elect than that of charity.”  To emphasize this point, Fr. Dehon imagines Jesus speaking directing to the individual, who is contemplating her or his last judgment. 
 
“Did I not speak so clearly in the Gospel?  To the elect I will say, ‘Come my beloved sheep, come blessed of my Father; I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me’ [cf. Matthew 25:34-36].
 
“Such are the works and manifestations of love.  I have mentioned especially the corporal works of mercy, to which you must unite the spiritual works of mercy and, above all, acts of pure love towards my Father and me.  I have cited the exterior works presupposing the source which animates them.  This is the equivalent to saying, ‘Come, you who have loved me, either for myself or in your neighbor.’
 
“Come and receive the reward of your love.  Come, you who have loved me.  Come, faithful sheep and receive the embrace of your Shepherd.  Come, blessed of my Father, who has loved you from all eternity.  Come into his bosom to receive the reward of your love and to love him eternally.
 
“Our life is love.  We will pour out this love into your whole being that you may share our own happiness, which is all love.  And this love will be eternal, never fully satisfied.  Is not the object of this love infinite?  And how can you tire of it? 
 
“The contemplation of God’s amiability, beauty, and goodness will be your soul’s eternal food.  The more your soul tries to fathom the depths of divine perfections, the more it will discover new aspects that will ravish it with joy and overwhelm it with love.  This love will be without anxiety, without worry.  You will not have to fear that the object of your love will be taken away.  ‘No one will take our joy from you’” [John 16:22].
 
Retreat with the Sacred Heart, 14th and 16th Meditations 
 

 
  
 
 

Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
 
I have been an employee of the Sacred Heart Southern Missions Thrift Store for 16 years.  Daily we are able to fulfill one of the corporal works of mercy, as we offer clothing and household goods nominally priced or at no charge, to those in need.  This service is much needed, and makes a substantial difference in the lives of those living in poverty.

Through the years I have waited on many customers and been blessed to have served them.  One such person is Annette.  Four generations of her family have patronized the Thrift Store for the past forty-plus years.  Struggling to make ends meet, our Thrift Store has played a significant role in helping the family deal with their financial challenges.
 
I met Annette in 1992 at the Coleman Crawford housing project.  Annette spoke at a community meeting, encouraging residents to improve themselves.  After hearing her speak I was certain I wanted to get to know her personally.  Oddly, it turned out that Annette was my nephew’s school bus driver.  I saw her as I sent him off to school one morning.  As fate would have it, she came into the Thrift Store soon thereafter and we became friends.
 
Annette has always had a big heart and broad shoulders.  She cared for her infirmed, elderly parents and raised her four sons while balancing her job with Head Start and extended church duties.  She has experienced many trials in her short 56 years, including the loss of one of her sons and her mother to sickle cell disease and the loss of another son to a construction accident.  In addition to family tragedies, Annette also struggled financially, but has made the most of what she had.
 
Patronizing our store has been a way to save money.  A visit to the Thrift Store was [and still is] a part of her daily routine.  Knowing her situation, if Annette did not have the money for an item, we would save it for her until the end of the month.  Like clockwork, she would arrive on the last day, money in hand.  Occasionally, she would put in a request for a needed item, and we would call her when a donation arrived.  Such discipline and practicality has enabled Annette to pinch pennies and manage her cash flow.  Her perseverance and level-headedness have been an inspiration and fine example for her two remaining sons.
 
More than considering myself an employee through my job at the Thrift Store, I feel like I am personally an instrument of God’s mercy extending much needed help and compassion to those who are unable to clothe themselves or unable to furnish their dwellings.  Working at the Thrift Store is not only a job, but a blessing for me as well as a blessing for those in need of God’s grace, support, and kindness.

 
Ms. Dorothy Duke
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

In this Holy Year of Mercy, how can you practice the corporal work of mercy of clothing the naked?  Here are a few suggestions:
  • Go through your closets, drawers, and storage areas.  If there are any useable items that likely will remain unworn for the foreseeable future, pack them up and donate them to a local thrift store.
  • Donate to an organization, such as Catholic Relief Services, that assists people caught in tragic situations.
  • Take a few moments to contemplate how you would feel if your survival depended upon the generosity of others, and then find a way to offer a hand-up rather than a handout.
 
 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer those who practice the corporal work of mercy of clothing the naked and those who benefit from their compassion.  You may find helpful the following prayer by Fr. Dehon, from The Retreat with the Sacred Heart, 1st Meditation:
 
O my God, you are truly all loving.
Infinitely good,
you bring joy to all hearts that are not blinded by sin.
Whoever does not love you does not know you,
for you are absolutely lovable.
You have first loved us. 
You have given us your Son
and by giving him to us you have given us everything.
I will prove my love for you
by carefully fulfilling my daily resolution
to do everything for love of you,
and I will seek every opportunity
to speak of your love and to make it known.
 
 
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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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Dehonian Associates Office
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