March 4, 2016
Year Of Mercy: Pray for the Living and the Dead
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
With nearly three years’ worth of painful losses and senseless destruction, World War I would drag on for an additional year. In the June 1917 entry of his diary, Fr. Dehon writes, “I pray with Jesus for the glory of God and the reign of the Sacred Heart; for the Church, its leader, its ministers, for consecrated souls, for the missions, for the return of heretical and schismatic nations to the faith; for France, the eldest daughter of the Church, that she may return to her mission and be at peace again with the Church, and for the Christian nations; for our dear Congregation and those of the Sisters who are in union with us; for my relatives and friends—living, dying, or dead; for my own poor soul, for my great spiritual and temporal needs; for my progress in union with our Lord.”
In the post-war rebuilding of institutions and spirits, Dehon’s intercessory prayer remains the same, as recorded in a November 1923 diary entry. “There is so much to pray for in the Church and its apostolate, for France and the nations, for the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, our Sisters, my brethren, my school children, our apostolates, our missions; then my parents and friends and myself. In November I do not forget the anniversaries of my good co-workers: Fr. Rasset, who died on November 4th; Fr. André, who died on November 26th.”
During his last year of life, he writes, “I pray for my relatives and friends, for myself. I pray for the deceased.” While a record of his prayers of petition appeared only in his later years, this is no doubt an indication of a lifetime practice that would extend beyond death. In his Spiritual Testament, addressed to the Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1914, he wrote, “Need I tell you, that if our Lord sees fit to admit me into his presence, I shall pray for all of you and for the Congregation which is so dear to the Sacred Heart.”
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian Spirituality
Sacred Heart Southern Missions does some great work in northern Mississippi. The staff of our schools, social service offices, and housing has the advantage of working closely with those who come seeking assistance. They meet the people, they hear the stories, they see the tears, they witness the anguish and frustration. Whether it is providing food, clothing and shelter for the poor, visiting the sick and homebound, constructing ramps for the handicapped, or educating both children and adults, these staff members have first-hand knowledge of how our help touches the lives of others and makes a profound difference.
I don’t do any of that.
Like the rest of us who work in the office in Walls, my role is to help provide the resources [staff, finances, and support services] that are needed so that others can be involved in what the Church calls the Corporal Works of Mercy. My work is more directly involved with our benefactors across the country than with families here in Mississippi who seek assistance.
And what do our donors ask for in return for their financial help? Prayer.
Sometimes they ask for advice, but I think they already know that there are no easy solutions for how to convince an adult son to return to church, a spouse to quit drinking, or an adult daughter to find a job. Some are lonely, “My husband of 59 years passed away…I just really miss him.” Others are frightened, “My husband, kids, and grandkids think I’ve got Alzheimer’s.” Still others share stories of family stress caused by finances or decade-old disagreements that no one really remembers. Fears of loved ones losing their employment, grandchildren having difficulty in school, a neighbor’s daughter’s difficult pregnancy—the list goes on.
But whether by phone, by letter, or by email, the story always ends the same. Please pray for us. When there are no easy solutions or words of advice, the promise of prayer brings comfort.
“I just learned,” a woman wrote in her Christmas card to me, “that my daughter and her husband have been in rehab and go to AA. He has been sober for one year. Your prayers have helped. Thank you.”
I doubt that we will ever understand the power of prayer or how the promise of prayer itself touches the lives of others. It is another way that God uses us as agents of God’s mercy.
Jack Kurps, SCJ
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
In this Year of Mercy, how can you practice the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the living and the dead? Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t be shy about promising to pray for another’s needs.
- Don’t be shy about asking someone to pray for your needs.
- Make a list of the people for whom you promised to pray and review it during prayer time.
- As you pray for others, be conscious that you are an agent of God’s mercy.
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer someone whom you know that would appreciate your support. You may find this prayer helpful.
Heart of Jesus,
in your compassion,
teach me to love as you do.
Create in me a humble heart—
willing to face my limitations,
an expansive heart—
willing to forgive others,
and an inclusive heart—
willing to acknowledge all people
as my brothers and sisters.
Create in me a listening heart—
gently holding the dreams and fears of others,
and a praying heart—
conscious of being an agent of your mercy.
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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