March 6, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
“We wish to live the interior life and to follow the inspirations of grace. In order to do this, a life habitually calm and recollected is necessary. The Word of God is like a gentle breeze which souls do not notice if they are agitated [cf. I Kings 19:11-13].” In writing about the interior life in the Spiritual Directory, Fr. Dehon promoted a style of living that seems monastic. For example, his emphasis on “religious silence” within the house is not easily duplicated in our wired world of instant communications.
While circumstances have changed, “the vocation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart cannot be conceived without the interior life. This interior life, by union of their hearts with the Heart of Jesus, is an essential condition for each one of their actions to be truly reparatory.” Indeed, for Fr. Dehon, their “occupation is to contemplate him within the soul, to listen patiently for his voice, and to be faithful to his holy inspiration.”
Among a variety of practices aimed at nurturing the interior life, Fr. Dehon consistently emphasized daily adoration of the Eucharist, “the official Adoration of Reparation, in the name of the Holy Church, to console our Lord and to hasten the reign of the Sacred Heart in souls and among nations.” Explaining this practice, he writes, “In the Eucharist, Jesus is present as a victim, a friend, a benefactor, and a consoler. It is the mystery of love. Let us approach the Eucharist with faith, confidence, abandonment, and love.
“This Jesus of the tabernacle is our God; let us adore him, let us love, visit, and consult him. Let us go to him in our doubts, fears, and needs. When we adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, our adoration does not always require many words; there are moments when silence itself is eloquent. Nothing is more beautiful than union with this Heart ever silent and always yearning for us.” The goal is to internalize this daily, half-hour spiritual exercise. “Our heart must become a ciborium in which the Eucharistic Heart alone reposes.”
In their Rule, the Priests of the Sacred Heart reaffirm this fundamental exercise, saying, “In very close relation with the Eucharistic celebration, we meditate on the riches of this mystery of our faith in adoration, so that the body and blood of Christ, food of eternal life, may transform our beings more deeply. Thus we respond to a requirement of our reparatory vocation. In Eucharistic adoration we want to deepen our union with the sacrifice of Christ for the reconciliation of all with God” [# 83].
For Fr. Dehon and the Priests of the Sacred Heart today, Eucharistic adoration is not a practice of personal piety. Rather it is an essential component of their vocation. In his meditation book, The Life of Love towards the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Dehon imagines Jesus speaking to his followers, saying, “The affection of the heart such as I ask leads to action and to generosity. The sign by which one recognizes the value of true sentiment is the good works which it inspires. I ask for an affection which inspires action, an action sustained by affection. Such should be the character of the faithful and of the religious consecrated to my Heart.”
As a spiritual practice, Eucharistic Adoration nurtures within an individual the sentiments of the Heart of Jesus that not only inspire, but also sustain the ministry of reconciliation “in souls and among nations.”
Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
What might make this image of the Heart of Jesus appealing to some and not to others is its simplicity. The heart is a simple open space without the accompanying symbols of thorns, cross, and flames, which St. Margaret Mary observed in her visions. Additionally, in the standard iconography of the Sacred Heart, Jesus is looking directly at the viewer, but in this image, Jesus’ eyes are closed.
This is a depiction of the Heart of Jesus at prayer. In contemplation, Jesus is aligning “the thoughts of his heart” [Psalm 32:11] with those of his Father. The visual is at once peaceful and fierce. Whether praying in the desert while being tested by Satan, praying on the mountaintop before choosing his twelve apostles, or praying in an olive garden on the night before his execution, Jesus concentrates all his love and devotion toward faithfully accomplishing his Father’s will.
Jesus knows failure. “Jerusalem, how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” [Matthew 23:37]. Jesus experiences betrayal. “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Humanity?” [Luke 22:48]. Jesus is in agony on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Mark 15:34]. Still, in the face of it all, he prays to remain faithful.
In this image, the placement of Jesus’s hands does not draw attention to his pure and undivided heart as much as to radiate its love through all his thoughts and actions. Rooted in prayer, Jesus ministers with love.
This simple image of the Heart of Jesus at prayer has the advantage of serving as a mirror. Everyone can pray and align their will with God’s will. Regardless of circumstances, everyone can radiate love with their words and actions. “Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, touch our hearts and make them like your own” [Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus].
Reflection Questions, seeds for personal understanding and growth
When and where are you able to adore God in moments of silence?
How can you nurture a love that inspires and sustains your thoughts, words, and actions?
How might your life be different if your heart is a ciborium in which the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus alone reposes?
Prayer, hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers those who aim to accomplish God’s will with faithfulness and love. You may find helpful the following prayer, inspired by the Rule of Life of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, #77-79, 82.
your Son loved to maintain union with you in prayer.
In our times of silence and solitude
renew our intimacy with Christ.
May our contemplation of the love of your Son,
expressed in his obedience to you
and in his ministry among people,
unite us to his oblation
for the salvation of the world.
We pledge a faithful following of Jesus,
who unceasingly throws us back
onto the streets of the world
and entrusts to us the ministry of reconciliation.
Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the Dehonian Associates office is offering one-minute meditations on the significance of the cross. The reflections come from the writings of Fr. Leo John Dehon. There will be 14 total, sent each Wednesday and Sunday during Lent, with a final meditation on Easter. Those who are subscribed to Dehonian Spirituality will also receive the Lenten meditations.
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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