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 8, 2015 

Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
In his meditation book, Month of Mary, Leo John Dehon reflects on many of the invocations from the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  With each invocation, he refers to a particular devotion or shrine to Mary.  On the last day of the month, he begins his 31st meditation with a slight elaboration of the concluding invocation of every litany.
Citing the words, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, forgive us, hear us, have mercy upon us, he writes, “The Litany of the Blessed Virgin leads us to the feet of the Lamb of God.  Mary always leads to Jesus.  The month of Mary leads to the month of the Sacred Heart.
“It was a providential and happy thought to call Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.  Consequently, as soon as the Reverend Fr. Chevalier and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun proposed this name, it was welcomed with great joy everywhere.  Pius IX willingly authorized this new title of Mary, and countless confraternities gathered under that beautiful name.   
“O Mary, this is the end of your beautiful month and the dawn of the month of the Sacred Heart.  I have come to you, I have given and entrusted to you all my concerns, my life, and my salvation; take me to Jesus and to his Divine Heart.  O Mary, I do not leave you at the end of this month; it is with you, and near you that I want to make the month of the Sacred Heart; aren't you Our Lady of the Sacred Heart?
“In Holland, it is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, whom pious souls favor.  She won hearts in 1867 by a beautiful healing among the Ursulines of Sittard, by saving from death a child who had swallowed a needle.  [Editor’s note: The Dutch town of Sittard is very close to both the German and Belgium borders.]  The pious Ursulines have admirably promoted the cult of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.  They have built for her a graceful Basilica, in the neo-Gothic style of the North, with decorated brick and black stone. 
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart protects many religious communities in Sittard and in particular the Novitiate and the Apostolic School of the Priests of Sacred Heart of Jesus, which she has drawn under her maternal mantle since 1882.  One hundred thousand pilgrims from Holland, Germany, and Belgium come every year, offer their tributes to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and solicit her favors.  O, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, present us to Jesus and be our advocate before him.”
In his Daily Notes of 1888, Dehon records, “Pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.  This pious shrine is certainly a special source of grace for our Congregation.  There the most holy Virgin has doubtless many times obtained mercy for us when we deserved destruction.  On this trip I am concerned with the material future of our little colony at Watersleyde.  I’ve decided on the purchase of a property for the school at Leyembroeck near Sittard.  We do not want to be far away from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.”  A year later he writes in his Daily Notes, “Trip and visit to Sittard.  I was consoled to pray at the shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and to see the new house coming along and taking shape.”



Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
Preceding Fr. Dehon’s foundation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart by 24 years, Fr. Jules Chevalier founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in response to the spiritual devastation resulting from the French Revolution.  Convinced that the only remedy lay in the Heart of Jesus, Chevalier promoted a devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, explaining, “We would thank and glorify God for having chosen Mary among all creatures to form in her virginal womb the adorable Heart of Jesus.  We ask this compassionate Virgin to lead us to the Heart of Jesus.”
This devotion, focusing on the special relationship between a mother and her divine Son, relied on the powerful intercession of Mary.  In his meditation book, Month of Mary, Dehon appeals to a number of spiritual writers throughout the history in the Church who developed this understanding of Mary’s role in salvation.  He concludes this survey by addressing Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, saying, “I know that your prayers are always the prayers of a mother, and that they therefore have a kind of all-powerful supplication.”   
This strong emphasis on Mary’s maternal intercession could be countered by the scriptural evidence that downplays Mary’s motherhood.  When the crowd that pressed around Jesus informed him that his mother and brothers and sisters wished to reach him, Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” [Mark 31-35].  In response to a woman who cried out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” [Luke 11:27-28]. 
Nonetheless, the scriptural evidence does present Mary as a faithful disciple.  In response to the angel Gabriel’s message, she said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word” [Luke 1:38].  When Mary heard the shepherds repeat the good news they received and when she tried to make sense of her young son’s reasoning for staying behind in the Jerusalem Temple, “She treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” [Luke 2:19, 51].
In this image, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart gestures toward the Heart of her Son, suggesting that the heart of a faithful disciple beats as one with the Heart of Jesus.  This was true for Mary, standing at the foot of the cross [John 19:25] and praying in the midst of disciples awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:14], and it is true for us. 
The Priests of the Sacred Heart established a high school seminary and novitiate near the shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Sittard, Holland.  Since Fr. Dehon liked to pray to the saints and patrons of the areas where the members of his Congregation worked, he placed this statue in the chapel of the Motherhouse in St. Quentin and probably professed his perpetual vows in front of it.  Presently, this statue is in the chapel of the Generalate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Rome.
Originally May 31 was the Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, but with the revised liturgical calendar of Vatican II, this day is now the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Presently, the Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is celebrated on various days in June.

Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

What quality in Mary do you find most supportive of your spiritual life?
By what means can you best discern God’s Word and obey it?
What does it mean to you to say that your heart beats as one with the Heart of Jesus?



Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer people who are devoted to Mary.  May they nurture within themselves a disciple’s heart and reflect God’s love in every circumstance.  You may find helpful this prayer, taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
God of love,
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
through the faith of Mary’s heart,
you gave us your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
He freed us from sin and death,
and he gave us the grace
to live in communion with one another
and with you.
God of grace,
grant us the Spirit you gave Mary.
Give us a faith like hers,
that we may hear your word and keep it.
With Mary, grant us a disciple’s heart.
Send us into the world
to show the human race
the love you revealed in the Heart of Christ.

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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