Based in the Dehonian charism...
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page
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December 5, 2014
Fr. Leo Dehon...
“On December 5 , the Holy Father signed the final approbation of our Constitutions,” Fr. Dehon wrote in his diary. “It is the end of forty-five years of efforts and of work amidst a thousand difficulties and contradictions.” The following May, he wrote to the members of the Congregation. “At last we have the satisfaction of being able to send you the text of our new Constitutions, definitively approved by the Vicar of Jesus Christ. We hope that all of you will have a copy of them by the end of June.”
In this letter, he emphasizes that “It is not enough to read our Constitutions superficially, the precious code of our religious obligations, but we should read them again and again without ceasing, study them with care so as to have thorough knowledge of their prescriptions, penetrate ourselves with their spirit, and direct our lives by them.
“We ourselves will work with our consultors at preparing a canonical and practical commentary on our Constitutions. We hope to complete it, at least in its major aspects, for the next General Chapter, to which we will submit it.
“You will notice that the first pages of the Constitutions on the purpose of the Work and its spirit have been adopted by the Holy See just as they were. It is indeed, then, in the name of the Church and consequently in the name of our Lord that we should walk our customary path: devotion to the Sacred Heart, zeal for his reign, the spirit of love, of reparation, and of immolation, regular adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the interior life, and the practices recommended by our beloved Constitutions.
“We will read and re-read them as spiritual reading. Their observance will be our salvation at the same time that this will delight the divine Heart of Jesus. Let us beg the Sacred Heart to bless his Work, to forget all the faults committed thus far, and to send us good and faithful laborers to work for his reign. We pray him also to give you his richest blessings, and we recommend and consecrate anew our dear religious family to the Blessed Virgin, our mother and protector.”
Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ, Circular Letter 35
Lived and Shared...
The Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI charged every religious community with the work of renewal, including updating their Constitutions or Rule of Life
. Over many years and three General Chapters, the Priests of the Sacred Heart struggled with this challenge. Fr. André Perroux, SCJ, one of the principal authors of the current Rule of Life
, spoke in an interview about his experience.
“There was fear of a document that would be too normative and that would snuff out the dynamism of life. To start with, the word “rule” in the title horrified many delegates. It was a fear that we would be under too much uniformity, that we would be backing an orientation that was too institutionalized, too reactionary: we would be limiting ourselves if we developed a new text.
“[The General Chapter of 1973] was a long Chapter, almost seven weeks. At the beginning we did not know much where we were going to end up, we needed to get to know each other, to listen to each other. From the beginning we were in agreement not to maintain a division between spirituality, seen in a doctrinal or abstract way, and the apostolate. Once we were taken up with this idea of integrating spirituality and apostolate we could present our religious life in this unity.
“Well, we had to have an inspiring text. What scriptural text were we going to take that most nourished the experience of Fr. Dehon? We took time to re-read several works by Fr. Dehon and finally we opted for Galatians 2:20: I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
“We sought above all to re-express the spiritual aim
of the Congregation as Fr. Dehon wanted by recovering certain key words like oblation, union with Christ in Eucharistic celebration and adoration, fraternal life, mission, and all of that fed by a spirit of love and of reparation or immolation.
“At the end of June 1973 it was hot, very hot. We had worked a lot, everyone was tired, and some wanted to return to their Provinces. After dinner one evening, Fr. Dijkman said to me, ‘André, from your [contributions to the discussions] we can see that you are ready to draft the Rule of Life
, at least a rough draft to submit to a vote.’ Seeing my surprise, he humorously added, ‘Do you want a bottle of Bols [Dutch liquor], or better yet a case of beer? One or the other; it’s your choice. Then I will accompany you to your room and you will not come out until you have written a text that brings together and completes all that we have approved up till now.’
“We laughed. But I sensed the impatience, and also the confidence in me. I got down to writing, taking up the paragraphs we had already approved in the general assemblies, leaving some empty spaces for what was not yet clear for me—the whole night. Around four in the morning I had filled forty-seven long pages with writing. Unable to sleep, I left my room to seek a little rest in the silence and fresh air of the garden. I saw a light on the third floor, and it was Piet Adam. I said, ‘Piet, I am going to ask for your help. I just wrote a draft of our Rule of Life
, and I do not have a typewriter, but you cannot read this because there is so much that is indecipherable, covered with erasures and abbreviations. If I dictate it to you, can you type it?’ He did and around seven-thirty we finished.
“Fr. General had the text photocopied and distributed to each Chapter member. After weeks of work, a good part of the text was not new to them, and besides, this was only a provisional text. During the coming years it would be very important to study, to experiment with, to critique, and to modify it. On July 4, 1973, the text was voted on, 76 of 78 in favor.
“The Chapter of 1979 approved an important modification in the plan of the Rule of Life
: to start with the faith experience of Fr. Dehon and with our initiation in the Gospel in the Church. So, we tried to express the faith experience of Fr. Dehon, and how we can express and live this “spiritual aim” in and for the world. On the whole, the Vatican gave a positive judgment and the approbation was not delayed. We were one of the first Congregations of some importance [at that time we had more than 3,000 members] to present our new Constitutions. Consequently, the Congregation for Religious recommended that several Congregations, mainly women’s, come and get advice from us.”
Testimony of Fr. André Perroux, SCJ (pictured above)
Questions for Reflection...
Although it may not be written down, what is the “rule” by which you direct your life? What are your aspirations, your goals, and the non-negotiables?
Who are the people and what are the texts that inspire you, affirm you, and challenge you to continue growing into the person God created you to be?
If you haven’t given it much attention, you might consider formulating a personal rule of life that will be able to guide you in a faithful following of Christ through ever-changing circumstances.
IIn your kindness, throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer all those who follow the Rule and spirit of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. You may find helpful the following prayer, composed by Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ, after making the month-long Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
O my God, bless my resolutions.
I dedicate myself to your love for the rest of my life:
repentant love, stirred up by meditation on your Passion;
grateful love, sustained by consideration
of the divine blessings and all the special graces
—so numerous and often so extraordinary—
that I have received;
confident love in Jesus and Mary,
shown by a complete abandonment to divine Providence;
devoted loved, to be expressed in fidelity to my Rule,
to the duties of my state in life,
and to the inspirations of grace.
Help me, O my Savior,
to love you and to make you loved,
that you may find your rest and your joy in our houses.