May 15, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Jesus possesses the Heart of a friend, of a physician, and not the Heart of a judge. He says to the Pharisees, “Go, and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” [Matthew 9:13]; that is, the offering of a merciful heart is more agreeable to my Father and to me than all the sacrifices of the Old Law. “For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” [Matthew 9:13]; I came principally to save sinners and, in the second place, to call the just; but I did not come for the false just who scorn and repulse sinners.
In the Gospel, read the touching examples where our Lord expresses his mercy. Has the Good Shepherd the heart of a judge when he bestows all his care on some faithful sheep and permits the poor wandering lamb to be lost? On the contrary, by an apparent reversal of all justice, he leaves the faithful sheep to go after the unfortunate one and brings it back on his shoulder [Luke 15:3-7]. We see the same thing in the parable of the Lost Coin [Luke 15:8-10].
And when the prodigal son returns to his father’s house, does he find a judge’s heart determined to reserve all tenderness for the elder son who has not left him, and to drive his ungrateful son from his presence? No, by a new reversal of justice, he grants all his favors to the guilty one, and seems to forget the son who remained faithful to him, a fact for which the older son formally reproaches him [Luke 15:11-32].
And what of the poor wounded man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho who sees many judges pass him by. They are unanimous in leaving him in his distress. They feel that is where he belongs; it is his own fault that he is suffering; he has indeed merited this by his sins. The good Samaritan, however, does not have the heart of a judge, but that of a father, a brother, a friend [Luke 10:25-36]. And you know who the good Samaritan is. He is Jesus.
We ought to preach this mercy of the Sacred Heart to sinners, to believe in it strongly, and to practice it.
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, The Love of the Sacred Heart I, 5th Mystery, 2nd Meditation
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
Merciful, in community, with the poor,” this is the theme of the 23rd General Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. However in the literature of the Congregation there is little talk about mercy. In the Rule of Life, for example, “mercy” is not mentioned even once. This is very different than what is found in the writings of our Founder, Fr. Dehon.
If you research the word “miséricorde” [mercy], you will find more than 700 instances of the word in the texts of Dehon. Obviously “mercy” is a word dear to the Founder. If we want to know Dehon’s understanding of mercy we must read his spiritual writings, especially, The Retreat with the Sacred Heart, The Crowns of Love, and The Month of the Heart of Jesus. In these texts, Dehon doesn’t write as a theologian but as an expert in spiritual processes and dynamics.
Many years ago, Fr. Manzoni, SCJ, wrote about these texts noting that, “The most beautiful meditations are the ones on mercy." In these texts, Dehon is narrating a certain way of God’s being, his “mercy” being at the essence of it. He does it with the help of biblical stories; thus appear the lost sheep, the lost coin, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan, Saint Peter, and Saint Thomas, and other witnesses of the mercy of God.
Dehon develops his vision of God, or more precisely, he traces his own experience of God: a God who is passionate to find and to encounter. A God, according to Dehon, who takes initiative, who goes after, a God who leaves well-known places and people to find the one who does not recognize him anymore. It is a God who welcomes and embraces unconditionally and who is capable of making a new beginning possible, beyond human expectations and possibilities.
Surely he would not be Dehon if he limited himself only to enjoy the beauty of mercy. Meditating on Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus, Dehon insists that we have to correspond to the mercy we have experienced and that we have “to practice mercy toward others." Thus it is not surprising that Dehon concludes: "There is no other attribute of God which the Holy Scripture glorifies more than his mercy." It seems that with the help of Dehon, we still may learn a lot about the mercy of God.
Fr. Stefan Tertὔnte, SCJ
Director of the Dehon Study Center, Rome
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
What is my personal experience of God’s mercy?
“We ought to preach this mercy of the Sacred Heart, to believe it strongly, and to practice it.” What is most challenging for me in these words of Fr. Dehon?
With regard to whom and in what circumstances am I one of “the false just who scorn and repulse sinners”?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
The Priests of the Sacred Heart will hold their 23rd General Chapter in Rome from May 17 - June 6, 2015. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the Chapter delegates and their work of charting a vision for the future of the Congregation. The Priests of the Sacred Heart are using the following prayer for their 23rd General Chapter.
Thank you Father, rich in mercy,
for the love that we experience
in your Son, Jesus Christ,
who “emptied himself” to live among us.
Guide us and enlighten us with your Holy Spirit,
that we may always thank you
for the gift of faith
and the vocation we live
in the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Give us the ability to share your gift of grace
in our community service to all the brethren,
and especially to the poor, the young and the marginalized.
Mary, our Mother,
model and protector of all,
be with us and support us
that we may be faithful in every experience of life,
and may announce the Kingdom of Your Son,
to each brother and sister
awaiting salvation and joy.
Heart of Jesus,
source of salvation and eternal joy,
reign in our hearts.
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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