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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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March 25, 2016
Good Friday
 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
In meditating on the Passion, Fr. Leo John Dehon writes, “Jesus was rejected by people, who veiled their faces and turned aside as though they blushed to recognize him.  He was falsely accused as no other had ever been.  He was called a Samaritan [John 8:48], and the rumor was spread that he was possessed by the devil [Mark 3:22].  He was, they said, “a glutton and drunkard” [Luke 7:34], and a seditious man [Luke 23:2].  To be suspected and accused of sin was an unutterable humiliation for the Savior!  The divine Master died beneath a storm of false accusations, abandoned even by his most intimate friends.”         
 
Based on personal experience, Fr. Dehon continues, “A priest falsely accused also suffers frightfully.  How many good priests there are whose conduct is criticized, censured, accused, and condemned—secretly or openly!  Their brethren, even in the ranks of the clergy, perhaps their very Superiors themselves, give credence to the calumny.” 
 
Shortly after Dehon had opened St. John Institute in St. Quentin, the clergy in Laon unjustly accused him of causing the closure of their Catholic school.  In reality, the bishop approved of St. John’s in order to fill the vacuum created by the decision of a religious congregation to leave the diocese and close their school in Laon.
 
Four young Sisters, all members of the Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart, a community that was assisting Fr. Dehon’s newly formed Congregation, died within nine months of each other.  Gossip spread that they had been poisoned to cover up some crime.  The attending physician testified that they all died of natural causes.
 
Some local clergy wanted to remove Dehon as the Director of St. John’s by giving credence to libelous attacks against his morals.  They also wanted to suppress his Congregation which proposed to make reparation for the sins of priests.  An eyewitness to these machinations asserted, “Fr. Dehon left St. John’s Institute because the Bishop of Soissons lent his ear to a conspiracy organized by several diocesan priests.  They were jealous of Fr. Dehon because of his influence among the people of St. Quentin.  They disapproved of the money people were giving him.”
 
Even a few members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart struggled for power within the Congregation by spreading rumors about the Founder.  Twenty-four years after this intrigue, one of the members involved wrote to Fr. Dehon, humbly asking pardon for all the grief he had caused many years before.  “There were conscious lairs and unconscious liars,” he confessed.  “I am sorry I sometimes listened to them.”
 
In the years that Dehon was focused on the work for social justice, his fiercest opponents came from within Catholic Church in France.  When he challenged the Third Order of St. Francis to get involved with social action, the leadership called him a revolutionary.  After authoring Christian Social Manual, some clergy accused him of being a socialist.  Regarding Dehon’s attempt to raise the social consciousness of seminarians, one French bishop verbally attacked him in the press. 
 
In another meditation on the Passion, Fr. Dehon asks, “What was this Divine Heart doing while outrages were being heaped upon him?  He was praying and loving; he was silent and continued his painful journey to Calvary.  That is what we too must do; our heart, united to His, must give itself to prayer and love.”
 
Given the frailty of human nature, Fr. Dehon knew full well that forgiveness is necessarily mutual.  On the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, he wrote, “As for myself, my very dear sons, I humble myself before God and I ask you to forgive me for having edified you so little during this long period.  With all my heart I forgive those who have grieved me; I myself need so much forgiveness.”

 
The Priestly Heart of Jesus, 25th Meditation; Crowns of Love for the Sacred Heart II,
2nd Mystery, 6th Meditation; Circular Letter 16  
 
 
 
  
 
 

Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
 
Many crosses are so serene that they fail to confront the viewer with the horror of suffocation, which is the cruel point of crucifixion.  Here, the lifeless body of Jesus hangs precariously from the nails piercing hands and feet, and the color blue may suggest the medical conditions of respiratory distress and heart failure.
 
Blue, however, being the color of sky and sea, has long been associated in the human consciousness with mystery, eternity, transcendence, and divinity.  In the Hebrew tradition, blue connotes mercy.  Without fully taking in the horror of crucifixion, the Christian cannot truly appreciate the mystery of God’s love and forgiveness.
 
Yet, even this insight is unable to exhaust the significance of Christ’s crucifixion.  Jesus’ self-offering, even to death on a cross, does not obliterate the inhumanity of war, poverty, racial profiling, or defamation of character.  Rather, it challenges Christians to offer their lives in a similar manner to oppose untiringly that which distorts God’s reign of justice and love, knowing full well the possible consequences.  Such a self-offering transcends fear, makes forgiveness possible, and enters into communion with the unfathomable mercy of the divine.  And so, the crucifix is an icon of the Paschal Mystery in which eternal life robs death of the last word.           
                                                                       
Crucifix, papier-mâché, by Herman Falke, SCJ
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

In this Year of Mercy, how can you practice the spiritual work of mercy of bearing patiently with those who do you ill?  Here are a few suggestions:
  • Meditate on the truth that every individual is a recipient of God’s love and that every individual is in need of God’s mercy.
  • Refuse to respond to an indignity by retaliating in a similar manner.
  • Recommit yourself to oppose that which distorts God’s reign of justice and love regardless of the consequences.
 
 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember someone who has wronged you and pray for his/her well-being.  You may find helpful the following Act of Reparation, taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

 
God, merciful judge,
because of our own imperfection and sin,
we want to be sensitive to everything
that hinders your love in the world and in the Church.
 
We know that our efforts need constant purification;
we also know that Jesus, crucified and risen, has redeemed us.
So, we welcome the Spirit moving in us,
and join with Christ’s work of redemption,
bearing suffering, if necessary, with patience and abandonment.
 
By sharing in Christ’s reconciliation,
we believe that our love heals humanity,
gathers it together into the Body of Christ,
and consecrates it to your glory.
 
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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Dehonian Associates Office
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