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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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May 1, 2015 

 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
In his trip around the world, Fr. Leo John Dehon spent approximately a month visiting India.  Setting foot on its southeastern coast, he travelled north to Calcutta and Darjeeling, west to Delhi, and south to Mumbai.  Along the way, he noted the history of the country, its customs, its races and religions, the cities, museums, and tourist attractions, but above all the Catholic missions and schools. 
 
In two Indian cities, Dehon mentions the presence of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, a religious community of women who also were working with his missionaries in the Congo.  One of his first stops was in Madras, now known as Chennai, which tradition claims as the place of ministry and martyrdom of St. Thomas the Apostle.    
 
“The diocese of Madras,” Dehon writes, “has 48,000 Catholics out of 7 million inhabitants.  The Mill Hill Fathers manage the mission.  They have 34 Fathers, who are assisted by 58 secular priests, of which 21 are native born.  The Brothers of St. Patrick run a college.  Indian Brothers built the school.  The diocese also has Sisters of the Presentation, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and several indigenous communities.  These indigenous communities are the Sisters of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; the Sisters of St. Anne; and the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.  Why so many communities?  This is explained by castes, who do not mingle.  To care for children of outcasts, it takes a special community of Sisters, who also are outcasts.     
 
“The neighborhood of San Tome or Mylapore interested us the most.  This place holds the memories of St. Thomas the Apostle.  It is at the mouth of the Adyar River.  Did St. Thomas come there by land or by sea?  He lived there; preached there; and he died there.  The large Cathedral of St. Thomas was recently rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style.  It has the empty tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.  I celebrated Mass there.  The body was transferred to Edessa in the early centuries and then to Rome.
 
“The bishop’s residence is near the cathedral.  Bishop Vieira de Castro is from a noble Portuguese family.  He welcomed us and drove us in his car to Mont St. Thomas.  Mylapore has a boarding school run by the Salesians of Don Bosco and a school run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
 
“Two hills, at some distance, recall memories of St. Thomas, the Small Hill and the Big Hill.  At the Small Hill, a church was built over the cave where St. Thomas lived.  On the surrounding rocks, the piety of the faithful sees the marks of the saint’s feet, hands, and knees.  He was martyred on the Big Hill.  An ancient stone cross over the altar marks the place of his martyrdom.  St. Francis Xavier also came to pray there.  It is one of the pleasant pilgrimages in India.”
 
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, Daily Notes, January and February 1911.

 


 


Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
 
"Our whole vocation, our purpose, our duty, our promises, are found in these words: Ecce Venio... Ecce Ancilla” [Spiritual Directory of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus].
 
I am a Dehonian and a formator as the result of my life and experiences with my family, culture, tradition, and Dehonian spirituality.  I live my Dehonian spirituality with my family experiences and cultural richness.  The family atmosphere was so religious that it instilled in me the noblest qualities of compassion and love, an inclination to prayer, to be at the service of the other, and to feel as one with suffering people.  I try to treasure these things from the example of my parents.
 
Their words and their lives taught me that the Heart of Christ is so compassionate and His love for us is unconditional.  He is always ready to receive us and help us.  He never leaves us alone.  The Heart of Jesus has loved more purely, more perfectly, and more generously.  The love of my parents was so pure and so generous.  As with Jesus, their life and devotion taught me to look at the Heart of Jesus and to meditate on it.  They showed me who Jesus is by their way of life, by loving their children purely, perfectly, and generously.  The experiences with my family taught me that I am also called to do the same, loving others purely, perfectly, and generously.  A full dedication, a total submission to God, God alone, and an openness of heart is necessary.
 
Cultural and traditional values played a great role in the development of my spirituality.  The tradition and culture challenged me in many ways and asked me to learn and treasure the value of relationships.  A Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar, in his famous work, Thirukural, sheds light on the importance of relationships and family in one’s life.  Lacking rapport with friends and family––being without their affection––is like being a lake without boundaries; water of such a lake flows away. 
 
The situation in which I lived led me to become responsible and to maintain a relationship with the other.  Challenges in society opened my eyes to see clearly, to go nearly, and to love others dearly, to respect and to be available for others.  The very gesture of
Namaste[1] and touching the feet of elders, is a sign of respect.  They taught us to see God in all human beings and we experience these Godly values from them, our fellow beings.
 
From a young age I had the opportunity and desire to grow in the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The inspiration from my family and our local Catholic tradition gave me this instinct to become a disciple of the Heart of Jesus.  As I experienced and witnessed in my childhood my family’s dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I too wanted to dedicate myself to the Sacred Heart.  My parish priest showed me exactly the right place where I could grow in my desire to do this.  I joined the Dehonians in 1998.
 
The Dehonians, my formators and companions, helped me first to build up my faith, confidence, and charity.  Dehonian spirituality taught me that the love of our Lord should animate the entire life of a person who dedicates his life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  My life should be a life of love.  My love of Jesus should be reflected in my words, deeds, and actions, meaning that I can become a prophetic person, a man of courage, a man of faithfulness, and a man of justice.
 
Life with the Dehonians helped me to become a man of gratitude for all gifts and blessings.  I should be like the one leper among the ten who came back to the Lord to give thanks.  I want to be grateful to others for their contributions to my life and vocation.  There is neither Jew nor Greek [Galatians 3:28].
 
This is what I experienced during the period of my formation, a spirit of unity and equality.  Life in the seminary whispered in my heart that as a Dehonian I need to have the quality of unity and equality not only in words but also in actions.  Life with the Dehonians challenged me and taught me that fraternal charity is always necessary in the life of a Dehonian.  This quality must be particularly dear to me and all of us.  My present life teaches me to be humble and to be a repairer.  Reparation is any act by which we seek to recognize our sins and reunite ourselves spiritually with God.  
 
Through acts of reparation we work with God to restore the bonds we share with Him and with others.  Through my family, culture, tradition, and Dehonian communities, I experience becoming a healer.  I am called to participate in healing the wounds caused by sin.  Our Lord has made it known that He thirsts for love.  He has loved man and man returns His love with ingratitude, laziness, and hatred.  Out of our Dehonian spirituality I am happy to make the quality of reparation a part of my heart.  I believe that is what the Lord asks from me to become a healer, to bring back souls for Him.
 
As a happy Dehonian and as a formator, I try my best to live and make use of these fine pearls that I gathered and treasured from my family, culture, tradition, and Dehonian communities.  I try to give them to my companions with whom I live and my younger brothers.  I try to teach them through the example of my life to love one another without expecting anything in return, to be available for others, to be one with the other in both his sufferings and good times, to be one among the people where we are placed, and to become signs and servants of reconciliation, which means to become a prophetic sign for our time, for our community, and for the world.  
 
That is what I believe: that God called me to become a prophetic sign.  Clearly I see this in Fr. Dehon.  I draw my inspiration from his life and mission.  I give thanks to the Almighty for giving me such a wonderful family, culture, tradition, and Dehonian family to treasure and to live the beautiful qualities of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  My family, culture, and tradition help me to live Dehonian spirituality meaningfully and fruitfully.  May the Heart of Jesus bless all of us.  Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God [Ephesians 5:2].
 
Fr. Christy Peter Chittapanezhikathuvila, SCJ
SCJ District of India
 
[1] Namaste [Sanskrit: नमस्ते or Hindi, meaning, “listen,”] sometimes expressed as Namaskar or Namaskaram, is a customary greeting when people meet or depart.  It is a form of greeting commonly found among Hindus of the Indian Subcontinent, in some Southeast Asian countries, and diaspora from these regions.  Namaste is spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest.  This gesture is called Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana.  In Hinduism it means "I bow to the divine in you".
 
Namaste or Namaskar is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, guest, or stranger.  It is used with goodbyes as well.  It is typically spoken and simultaneously performed with the palms touching gesture, but it may also be spoken without acting it out or performed wordlessly; all three carry the same meaning.  This cultural practice of salutation and valediction originated in the Indian subcontinent. 
 
 



 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

On May 1, 1999, the Priests of the Sacred Heart established their District of India and just recently opened a new community house in Chennai.  In your kindness, please remember in your prayer the students, candidates, and members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart who form the SCJ District of India and the people to whom they minister.
 
Jesus,
in your wisdom
you chose Thomas to be an apostle.
He proved loyal enough
to express his desire to die with you,
candid enough
to admit he didn’t know the way
to the place where you were going,
and doubtful enough
to refuse believing in your resurrection
unless he probed the wounds of your body.
 
Yet, in your love
you gave him the opportunity to express
a complete faith in you as Lord and God,
and sent him as a witness
to the ends of the earth.
 
This day, as we express belief in you
as our Way, our Truth, and our Life,
we hear you sending us forth
to witness your peace and reconciliation
to those who are wounded, questioning, or doubtful.
As your flawed, yet faithful, disciples,
use us to draw them into the embrace of your love.
 
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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