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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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September 15, 2017


 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
“The Bishop [of the diocese of Soissons] agreed to the idea of perpetual vows to be professed in September,” Fr. Dehon noted in his diary at the beginning of April 1886, with obvious delight.  “This will be a great grace for the Congregation.  Let us pray as he requests it.”  Significantly, this was the first opportunity for members, including Dehon himself, to make a perpetual commitment of their lives according to the Constitutions of the Congregation of the Priests of the Heart of Jesus.
 
In preparation for profession day, Fr. Dehon gave several conferences on the meaning of this solemn act.  “Good will above all.  Without doubt, our Lord will not do everything,” he explained, “so on your part, do what is possible: give your heart.  It is not so much a matter of the intellect; our Lord asks only for your heart.  He doesn't desire your head but your heart.”
 
In another conference, he summarizes his thoughts with simplicity and clarity.  “After all, we have only one thing to do to be holy: the will of God.  This is the secret of happiness and holiness.”
 
In his diary entry for September 17, 1886, Fr. Dehon writes, “A great day!  I am making my perpetual vows in company with six of my confreres [Frs. Rasset, Paris, Falleur, Legrand, Lamour, and Herr].  I feel an inner grace of renewal and complete forgiveness.  This is a great day for the Congregation.  Our Lord shows his goodness and helps me greatly.  I had not felt the effect of grace so profoundly since my ordination.  Today, I experience the reality of what I had read about religious professions.”
 

Daily Notes III: April 7, 1886 and September 17, 1886;
Cahiers Falleur VI: September 9 and 10, 1886 

  

 
 
  
 


Oblation: The daily practice of offering oneself to God's will

Fr. Leo John Dehon wanted the members of the Priests of the Heart of Jesus to profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the spirit of love and immolation, another word for oblation.  In the Spiritual Directory he teaches, “The profession of love and immolation, which gives its proper character to our Institute, should be especially dear to us.  Our profession of immolation may practically be reduced to this formula: to pray, to act, to suffer, and to sacrifice self for the Sacred Heart. 
 
“Obedience out of love will thus be our favorite virtue.  Our motto, our favorite maxim will be the word of the divine Victim: Ecce venio, ‘Behold I come, O Lord, to do your will.’  It will be our habitual disposition.  This perfection consists in making our prayers, actions, and sacrifices perfect, and in offering them entirely to the Sacred Heart.”  Dehon explains that prayer can be perfect by keeping oneself “in habitual union with our Lord.”  Works can be perfect “by performing them carefully, under the inspiration of grace.”  Suffering can be perfect by accepting the cross willing and bearing it joyfully in order to advance the reign of the Sacred Heart.  
 
In summary, he writes, “The profession of love and immolation makes us victims of the Sacred Heart.  Could there be anything more glorious for God, more sanctifying for ourselves, or more really necessary for the Church?  Let us go forward on this path with the confidence of abandonment and with holy joy.”
 
Rather than interpreting Dehon’s spirituality as severe, it might be helpful to understand it as intense.  Such intensity is not unknown for anyone who loves.  Think of a parent attending to her sick child, or a husband creating a safe place for his wife’s depression.  Consider a friend’s steadfast relationship with a peer struggling with an alcohol addiction, or an adult child holding vigil as his mother loses her memory to Alzheimer’s.  Ponder the brave person who speaks up and defends the civil rights of minorities or a concerned citizen who participates in a neighborhood political organization. 
 
In each case, these individuals face down suffering or sacrifice with fierce love.  “Could there be anything more glorious for God, more sanctifying for ourselves, or more really necessary for the Church?       
 

Excerpts from the Spiritual Directory, Part Three, Chapter V, “On the Profession of Love and Immolation”
 
Image: This profession cross belonged to Bishop Gabriel Grison, SCJ, and is an example of the style of profession cross in use for many years with the Priests of the Heart of Jesus.

 

 
 
 

 
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

Fr. Dehon defines perfect prayer as keeping oneself “in habitual union with our Lord.”  What does it mean for you to “pray without ceasing” [I Thessalonians 5:17]?
 
Fr. Dehon defines perfect work as accomplishing carefully a task that is inspired by God’s grace.  What does this mean for you as you go about your daily tasks?
 
Fr. Dehon defines perfect suffering as accepting the cross willing and bearing it joyfully in order to advance the reign of the Sacred Heart.  What motivates you to make a sacrifice or accept sufferings that come your way? 

 

 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer those who bear a heavy burden and try to carry it with much love.  You may find helpful the following Prayer of Oblation taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
 
God, Holy Father,
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Strengthen in us the priestly attitude of your Son:
“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

May we sense you will through one another,
through the various situations we encounter,
and through all your children.
Accept us as your collaborators
for the building of your reign in this world.
 
Enable us to abandon ourselves to your care.
In this way,
may we live as Jesus did
when he offered you his spirit on the cross.
 
Amen.
    

 
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
US Province, Priests of the Sacred Heart 
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