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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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October 2, 2015


 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
Jesus came and he sacrificed all for the love of God and souls.  Thus St. Francis has left all: parents, homeland, and wealth, in order to be able to say to God, “You are my father and my all.”  He gave himself entirely to his Lord and to his God, saying as did Saul on the road to Damascus, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  Jesus answered, “Leave all and you'll have all.”  By this offering, Francis was prepared for the mission that God wished to entrust to him.  One day, kneeling before a crucifix, he heard a voice which said to him, “Repair the ruins of my Church.” 
 
He immediately set himself to the task, and he worked until his last breath.  Taking the opposite view of the world in all respects, he followed in every way the motto of the Heart of Jesus, “I do not seek my glory, but I honor my Father.  I thirst to glorify him!”  Like our Lord, St. Francis truly practiced self-abasement for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.  He became so similar to our Lord that he was marked with the stigmata of the passion on his body and on his heart.   
 
Certainly, of all the similar features between the Heart of Jesus and the heart of Francis, the principle one is love for God.  It was enough to say the name of love to Francis, to make him fall into ecstasy.  He often expressed the burning affections of his heart, “I desire to love you, adorable Lord.  I have consecrated to you my soul and my body with all that I am.  Fervently, I shall undertake whatever will contribute most to your glory.  Yes, my God, this is the sole object of all my desires.”
 
His life was one of prayer and contemplation; he never tired of conversing with the person who was the object of his affections.  Above all, he loved to ponder the mysteries of the incarnation and passion, which are the most perceptible manifestations of the great love of our Lord for us.  Francis had wanted to give his life to Jesus as Jesus gave his for us.   
 
The Heart of Jesus and the heart of Francis had the same feelings toward humanity: those of a mother and of the most tender of mothers.  The heart of Francis was, as that of Jesus, a port of refuge in which all poor human hearts, tossed by the storm, could find shelter.  The heart of Francis was a heart of an apostle, a heart on fire.  Oh, how much he loved the poor and poverty!  How he was tender toward the sick and the afflicted!  Like St. Paul, St. Francis tells us all, “Be imitators of me” [Philippians 3:17].  By his example, let us enter the Heart of Jesus by love and imitation.
 
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, “St. Francis of Assisi” [Meditation for October 4], The Year with the Sacred Heart of Jesus




 
 


 
Oblation, the daily practice of offering oneself to God's will

In Francis of Assisi’s day, there were spiritual movements that repudiated Catholic belief in the incarnation and passion of Christ.  Because, as these dissenters believed, the material world was the work of the devil and therefore evil, Christ could not have taken on a human body, nor could he have suffered and died.  As a corrective, Francis’ identification with the humble and suffering Christ was a living witness to what Fr. Dehon described as “the most perceptible manifestations of the great love of our Lord for us.” 
 
Yet, his radical identification with creation in itself was also a corrective for the people of his day and it remains so for ours.  Over the past few centuries, rationalistic and scientific forces repudiated Christian belief and that of many religious traditions to assert that humans are the masters of creation.  In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says, “We have come to see ourselves as [Earth’s] lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.  The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air, and in all forms of life” [2].
 
In composing his Canticle of the Creatures, Francis of Assisi explains, “For his praise, I wish to compose a new hymn about the Lord’s creatures, of which we make daily use, without which we cannot live, and with which the human race greatly offends it Creator.”  And so, in praising “the Most High God,” Francis reflects on “Sir Brother Sun,” “Sister Moon,” “Brother Wind,”, “Sister Water,” “Brother Fire,” and “Sister Mother Earth.”
 
Reflecting on this hymn, Pope Francis says, “Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behavior.  If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.  By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.  The poverty and austerity of St. Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled” [11].
 
As he concludes his encyclical, Pope Francis states, “No one can cultivate a sober and satisfying life without being at peace with him or herself…Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life” [225].
 
The spirit of oblation is one of complete openness to God’s will, uncluttered with preferences or the need to defend the status quo.  In the midst of a growing consciousness regarding the fragile state of Earth’s ecology, one can hear God saying, “Repair the ruins of my Creation.”  Like St. Francis, we need immediately to set ourselves to the task and work at it until our last breath.  No doubt this will mean a simpler lifestyle, but also one with a capacity for wonder and inner peace.  “Leave all and you’ll have all.”   
 
PHOTO: St. Francis, basswood sculpture by Herman Falke, SCJ

 
  

 
 

 
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

If you heard God saying to you, “Repair the ruins of my Creation,” how would you respond?
 
How do you understand the statement, “Leave all and you’ll have all”?
 
With what element of creation can you identify as your brother or sister?




 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

The Church celebrates the memory of Francis of Assisi on October 4.  In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the many women and men who follow the rule and spirit of St. Francis.  Please remember also all who promote the integrity of creation.  You may find helpful this Act of Reparation from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
 
Loving God,
you made a beautiful world:
the land and the sea,
the hills and the valleys,
the plants and the animals.
You saw how good your world was
and you loved it.
 
God,
you made man and woman in your image.
When we turned against you,
when we polluted your creation,
you did not stop loving us.
You gave us new life in the Heart of Jesus.
Through him you gave us the Holy Spirit
to make everything a new creation.
 
Gracious God,
we welcome your Spirit today.
Help us restore the earth and the air,
the water and the plant life we have poisoned.
Help us care for all the creatures, great and small,
that we are injuring.
May we love all of life as you do
and so worship you in the heart of the world.
 
Amen.


 
 
 
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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