November 4, 2016
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
In the autumn of 1893, Leo John Dehon made a 30-day retreat by following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Although this year was the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination, the focus of the retreat was how to respond to the harsh criticism and unsubstantiated slander coming from within the Congregation, the diocese, and the public regarding his role as Director of St. John’s Junior High School. “I was tempted to lose heart,” he wrote at the time, “but pledged my trust and love to the Heart of the good Master.”
Due to misunderstandings and prejudice, his bishop asked him to resign the post he had held for 16 years. Three days after this retreat, he made the "great sacrifice” of leaving St. John’s in other hands. This context grounds his retreat meditations in reality. “Another few years, 15 perhaps, according to the ordinary course of things, and it will be the end of my life. And after a purification in purgatory, it will, I hope, be heaven forever. Of what significance are the trials and tribulations of these few years! It’s a small matter. It will pass quickly. It’s not worth the effort to be upset by them. Simply let us keep united with God and hope for heaven.”
And so he prays, “O my God, grant me the grace of a good death. May I die like St. Joseph in the arms of Jesus and Mary and in their love. May I die like Mary in the ardor of pure love and with a burning desire to be reunited to my beloved Savior. May I die like Jesus, a victim of love for his divine Father and for the salvation of souls!”
After 28 additional years of making a daily offering of himself with Christ to the Father, along with the accumulation of further disappointments, prejudices, and setbacks, Fr. Dehon muses during November, “This entire month speaks to us about death, which is taking giant steps toward me. In our crib scenes at Christmas time, off in the distance we see the Magi making their way toward Bethlehem; this is how death is coming for me. I dread it, I have greatly offended my God; however, I do not give in to despair, for I have confidence in the mercy of the Sacred Heart and of the Blessed Virgin.”
Retreat at Braisne, October 21 and November 15, 1893;
Daily Notes, November 1921
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
In 1909, Asten was a large village in the Netherlands. Right across the street where Jacques van Hoek (pictured at right) was born stood a huge church renowned for its astronomic clock which I had the occasion to see at work, with the puppets coming out of their nest every time that the carillon would ring.
Next to his father’s drugstore was a bell factory, or should I say foundry. Hearing the jingling of bells any time during the day might have influenced his tendency to music. Next to that factory was the SCJ novitiate which is presently a home for retired SCJs.
My personal memories of Fr. van Hoek are a countless jumble of enriching experiences. To me, he was more than a priest, or a superior. He has really been a father. After my dad’s funeral, my mom asked him to be a father to me. I was 16. And he had been at my side all the years of my SCJ formation and at the beginning of my ministry as a priest.
In Canada, he accepted many religious assignments at all levels. His presence alone was kind of intimidating for people who did not know him. But when the ice was broken, the joyfully serious man would appear and he would freely share his knowledge, competence, and spirituality.
I visited with Fr. van Hoek a few months before he died in Asten, his home town, in September 1992. He went to where he belongs, escorted by the three famous Archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. [His death, on September 29, is their feast day.] Fr. van Hoek, thanks for your generosity. You are a living example of religious fraternity!
J. Claude Bédard, SCJ
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week and during the month of November, please lift up the memory of your deceased loved ones in prayer and pray for your own peaceful death. You may find the following prayer helpful.
Shepherd of Souls,
grant me the grace of a good death,
which flows from a life well lived.
In the regular experiences of personal weakness,
and the human criticism it engenders,
may I be concerned with offending you
rather than defending my pride.
may I confidently pledge my love and trust
to your compassionate Heart,
and await the escort of angels
to lead me into paradise.
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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