March 31, 2017
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
You may perhaps have heard the expression of the prejudice which is currently popular, namely, that the Gospel is a pessimistic doctrine which preaches only fasting, penitence, and voluntary poverty, and which is consequently opposed to all social progress. What? The Gospel is hostile to progress? That reproach can come only from a superficial judgment.
One must know how to read the Gospel. It sets forth two kinds of Christian life: one for the great number, simple, easy, reduced to the duties of justice, work, and sobriety, and responding to the best conditions of social progress. The other is for the minority, an exceptional elite, who want to detach themselves from the things of the earth and attain a higher level of piety. To them, the Savior has recommended voluntary poverty, permanent chastity, and the denial of will.
But the ordinary lives of Christians must not be confused with asceticism. Leave asceticism to those who have a definite vocation for it and who are especially attracted to it, and content yourself with ordinary piety which, as St. Paul says, contains the promises of earthly life as well as those of the life to come.
No, religion is not the enemy of progress. It teaches the very conditions of progress: work, thrift, justice, charity. What progress can there be without work? What social happiness can there be without the practice of justice and charity?
Christian Social Renewal, “The True Causes and Remedies of the Contemporary Malaise”
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
These past months we have had the privilege of welcoming and beginning to walk in friendship with many government sponsored Syrian refugee families in the Toronto area. In walking with them, these families have extended incredible hospitality to us by opening their homes and honoring us with food and drink, have expressed thankfulness and appreciation for the welcoming Canadian people, and have expressed excitement and eagerness about learning English and how much they love going to school—some of whom have never had the opportunity to attend it before.
These families have generously shared their stories with us, speaking of long journeys through dangerous circumstances and of family members who remain in the midst of the war. All of them are carrying grief of loss in a variety of ways: shattered dreams, violent deaths of loved ones before their very eyes, and the loss of any sense of home, safety, and freedom.
Trauma is etched right beneath their skin. Everything has been stripped away including their dignity and their capacity to care concretely for their loved ones. As we know, grief, depending on how we carry it, can lead to bitterness and anger or to freedom, peace, and a new sense of self. Our Syrian friends have made a choice. Deeply religious people they have put all their trust in God [Allah]. They strongly believe it is Allah who has and who will continue to sustain them. They are totally dependent on Allah and hold in their hearts not only the suffering people of Syria, but also suffering people worldwide, with whom they are in solidarity. It is very challenging and humbling to be invited to accompany them.
As we have experienced, fasting can take many forms. The invitation is to let our physical hunger evoke our spiritual hunger and in this our Syrian friends have taught us a lot about surrender to God and their heartfelt gratitude for the generosity of others. Though we have not known each other for long, already we feel like friends, neighbors; we find common ground in our mutual valuing of family, faith, and the practice of hospitality. Pope Francis says, “Love overflowing with small gestures of mutual care sets before us the ideal of a CIVILIZATION OF LOVE. We need one another and we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world.”
Peter McKenna, SCJ, Member of the North American SCJ Migration Committee
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
What are the gospel stories that promote social progress?
“The shortest distance between two people is a story.” Regarding the global issue of migration, whose story do you need to hear? What will enable you to hear it?
What spiritual hunger is evoked in you as you experience physical hunger from fasting?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers Syrian refugee families and their search for freedom, peace, and a new sense of self; and for those who welcome them into their country. You may find helpful the following Prayer of Reparation, abridged and adapted from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
help us hear Jesus’ cry, “I thirst,”
as it echoes through our world and in our lives.
Send us forth as servants of your will.
Remove from us all indifference,
and all paternalism.
May we never rest
until there is food for the hungry,
shelter for the homeless,
and justice everywhere.
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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