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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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May 20, 2016
 
 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
Fr. Alphonse Rasset and Fr. Germain Blancal were two early members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, whom Fr. Dehon described as “zealous and saintly apostles who were esteemed and loved throughout the diocese of Soissons.”  Both of them died within the span of two months.  In his Diary, Dehon notes how he attended to each one during their last days.
 
After twenty years of suffering from a severe stomach ailment, “our dear Fr. Rasset underwent the most frightful operation on October 30, 1905.  To work for souls was his ideal.  He wanted to risk the butchery of this operation in the hope of being able to work another ten years.  He told Dr. Duret that he was offering his life for his Congregation.  The operation lasted two and a half hours.  He required 300 stitches. 
 
“After the operation he endured five days of terrible suffering, which he concealed.  Someone would ask him if he were suffering much, and he would say no.  Those were five days of prayer, of self-oblation, and immolation.  I spent his last day at his side.  When the doctor reopened his stomach, he displayed a constant serenity and heroic strength.  Several times he asked me for absolution.  I gave him Extreme Unction at two in the morning. 
 
“He died at one in the afternoon on the first Saturday of the month.  In 1878 he had written in his notes that he would die on a Saturday.  The Blessed Virgin loved him like a mother.”
 
During the years when the French government was suppressing religious communities and confiscating their properties, Fr. Dehon fought to retain the House of the Sacred Heart, which he maintained was his personal property.  By April 1903, Dehon resided in the house “alone with Fr. Blancal who is sick and cannot be moved.”  Two months later, “The liquidator accompanied by the Justice of the Peace wanted to seal off the house and make an inventory. 
 
“The superintendent rudely questioned Fr. Blancal.  ‘We gave you two weeks, why are you still here?  Do you suppose by waiting here that your youth will come back?”  These are the morals of thugs and the manners of the Freemasons.  This caused Father to become even sicker.” 
 
The court battle dragged on for two years.  “Our expulsion was set for May 13, 1905, then the 17th.  It is always postponed.  Fr. Blancal’s condition is embarrassing those who are banishing us.  He can hardly be moved.  Since Easter Tuesday he has no longer been saying holy Mass.  Again he has received Extreme Unction.  On some days we expect him to die; then he bounces back a little.  The nightmare of expulsion haunts him.  He always thinks that the time has come to depart and that the carriage is waiting for him.
 
“On June 26, the delegate of the liquidator showed up and criticized me for not having led Fr. Blancal away.  I greeted him just as sharply and told him that Fr. Blancal would leave only if he were expelled.  If they give me written notification attesting that they have decided to expel him, I will take him to the hospital.  The delegated bailiff hesitated to give it to me in writing.  He was going to consult his attorney and report to me in writing.  Then I had the poor old man taken to Fayet.
 
“Good Fr. Blancal had died on December 1, 1905.  He expired quietly without suffering.  I made all the arrangements for the funeral which took place solemnly at Fayet on the fourth.  He was laid to rest in our vault with Father Alphonse Rasset.”
 
Daily Notes, 1903-1905
 

 
  
 
 

Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
 
Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you [Deuteronomy 32:7].
 
Aging is inevitable.  It is difficult for most people to face that fact, especially in a culture that promotes youth and the cosmetic elements that are intended to slow down the process.  Fear is the word that comes to mind.  Aging for the young and others who cannot consciously yield to this natural progression of life see it as an assault on their own mortality.  It is difficult, then, for many to reach out to and spend time with a person who is aging.
 
When I visit with senior citizens in a nursing home and, more specifically and especially my SCJ confreres at the Congregational Home, I do not focus on their physical frailty or their diminished cognitive skills.  [That said, I must be aware of those issues.]  What is important is that I bring with me and demonstrate my care and concern, and my support and compassion.  In a word: kindness.  Kindness is never wasted even if the response appears muted and indifferent. 
 
What I see is appreciation; and a prime example is when I bring the Eucharist.  It can be a smile of thanks or a spoken “thank you.”  It can be the obvious happiness of a woman in a wheelchair, who sees my visit as the highlight of her day.  Or the good feeling I get when I hear a Brother SCJ say, “Until we meet again.”  Then another Father SCJ will bless what we do after he receives Holy Communion.
 
In a sense, I believe I am not just visiting the sick but feeding the hungry, too.  It is not the food of the dinner table, a “meals-on-wheels”; it is the nourishment of being loved and not forgotten.  The nourishment is God’s love in the Eucharist and the love and presence that I hope [and believe] is felt when I bring the Eucharist.  What I do is a specific ministry and a very special one.  It is not about me; it is about the aging person(s) with whom I have the privilege of visiting. 
 
Looking back I realize the influence of aging persons in my life—family, friends, and relatives.  It is without a doubt that I have been influenced by their presence in my life.  How blessed I am that that became, even without realizing it, the motivation that led to my life of service to my aging brothers and sisters.  During my visits, current and past, I think about lives lived and the stories heard and implied.  Even silence among photos and ephemera can speak for the aging person.
 
Aging cannot come to a halt.  No one is exempt from it.  The youth and others who find difficulty in dealing with aging should visit their older family members, volunteer at a nursing home, and get to know that age is not to be feared.  Instead of distance, develop a healthy closeness.  Reverence the past and the wisdom of those who have given so much.  In the sight of God it is the right thing to do.  In reaching out with sincerity and love to help the aging and visiting the sick we, too, can hope and pray for the assistance we need when the “twilight” years envelop us.  The youth of today are the aged of tomorrow.
 
Brian Tompkins, SCJ
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

In this Holy Year of Mercy, how can you practice the corporal work of mercy of caring for the sick?  Here are a few suggestions:
  • Be a listening presence.  Honor the person’s dreams and fears; reverence the person’s experience and wisdom.  Silence can be healing.
  • Through acts of kindness, offer the nourishment of being loved and not forgotten.
  • As a regular feature of your prayer, remember those who are struggling with health issues or diminishment.   
 
 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer those who care for the sick as well as those who are in need of this care.  You may find helpful the following prayer, inspired by the sentiments of #68 in the Rule of Life of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
 
Jesus,
united with your compassionate Heart,
we surround with special love
our sisters and brothers
who bear the cross of aging or infirmity.
As they do their best
to accept the fragile nature of our human condition,
they model for us the spirit of oblation.
We ask you to grant them the healing
of which they are most in need,
and we pledge to attend
to their immediate needs.
Amen.
 
 
 
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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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