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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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July 1, 2016
 
 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
“In our recent audience, the Holy Father told us, ‘Ah! the good man, Harmel!  How good he is to his workers!  If all factories were like his, how fine everything would be!’  That wonderful factory, where the Sacred Heart reigns, is thus a model which the Holy Father proposes for all employers.  It is close to the ideal which we must always keep in front of us.”
 
Fr. Dehon used the occasion of his audience with Pope Leo XIII, to reprise in the July 1895 issue of his magazine, The Reign of the Heart of Jesus in Souls and Societies, a chapter from his book, Christian Social Manual.  In this chapter, he described the rural factory in Val-des-Bois as a place where workers enjoyed security from cradle to grave.  Leo Harmel, the owner of the factory, not only adjusted wages according to family size, but also organized a mutual aid society, an insurance and savings bank, and a consumers’ cooperative. 
 
He established a family-type boarding house for girls, a hotel for single workers, a residential center for workers, and a fire department.  The factory had a scholarship fund, dowry assistance, courses in apprenticeship and domestic economy, and lectures for factory managers.  There was an office for legal advice, a board for technical improvement, a factory board for the participation of the workers in technical and disciplinary matters, and a mixed labor union [i.e. workers and management].  Cultural, athletic, and religious organizations rounded out the social life in this rural factory.
 
Fr. Dehon first met Leo Harmel in 1872.  From him, Dehon received a realistic insight into the growth of industry when he heard Harmel say, “Nobody can reasonably oppose the tendency to industrialization.  Opposition is useless and foolish; let us go to the machine and baptize it.”  Harmel also insisted that, “The good of the worker must be sought through his collaboration—with him, never without him, and a fortiori, never against him.”
 
Immediately after the foundation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1878, Harmel begged Fr. Dehon for priests to minister at his factory on a full-time basis.  In his diary entry for July 6, 1887, Dehon writes, “Departure of Fr. Charcosset for Val-des-Bois.  I expect the growth of the Congregation will benefit from this foundation.”  Two months later he wrote, “Val-des-Bois, an oasis in the desert of our poor France.  Social peace reigns in this workers’ world.  I find here a true spirit of faith and charity, a love of sacrifice and care for the poor and sick.  It is a grace for us to be immersed in this living stream of immolation and charity.”
 
In January 1888, Dehon visited the factory at Val-des-Bois and reflects in his diary, “Everything in this oasis is edifying and encouraging.  I am humbled by the faith which pervades the place, by the piety, simplicity, abandonment to God and patience in the face of sufferings.  There are many religious houses where grace is less apparent!”
 
For many years, Fr. Dehon’s social apostolate included providing the workers’ community at Val-des-Bois with Priests of the Sacred Heart as spiritual assistants.  Their ministry promoted the reign of the Sacred Heart among workers, not in a church, but in a factory. 
 

 
  
 
 

Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image for God's loving concern for all creation

In this painting, entitled, “Christ of Justice,” Jesus’ body hovers over a crowd of people and his outer garment fans out in an image that the prophet Isaiah employed to describe God’s deliverance of the oppressed.  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” [Isaiah 61:10].
 
Jesus’ hands speak of the focus of his ministry.  His open, right hand is ready to do the bidding of the Spirit, whom Jesus says, “has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” [cf. Luke 4:18-19, 21; Isaiah 61:1-2]. 
 
His clinched left hand, symbol of power and determination, challenges his followers to collaborate with him in this struggle for justice.  The nearby star suggests the reason for hope.  “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end…It is I, Jesus…I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” [Revelation 22:12, 16].
 
A smiling and expectant crowd of people fix their gaze on Jesus.  A light, emanating from Jesus’ breast and from behind the tabernacle, illuminates their faces, suggesting the expansive meaning of the Body of Christ—incorporating the person of Jesus, the sacrament of the Eucharist, and members of the Church.  Covered as they are with the robe of righteousness, Jesus commissions his followers to contribute what they can to the ongoing work of justice and building up the Body of Christ [cf. Ephesians 4:12].    
 
IMAGE: “Christ of Justice,” painting behind the altar of the main church at the SCJ mission in Kumalarang, Mindanao, Philippines.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

“Nobody can reasonably oppose the tendency to industrialization.  Opposition is foolish; let us go to the machine and baptize it.”  What might this approach mean in today’s global economy?
 
Today, the good of shareholders seems to preempt the good of workers.  What actions are necessary to restore the rights of workers?
 
What is the connection between the celebration of the Eucharist and the ongoing work of justice?
 
 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer manual laborers and those who lobby for their rights.  You may find helpful the following Prayer of Oblation take from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
 
Lord Jesus,
you are the living bread come down from heaven.
You gather us at your table,
in union with the whole Church.
You unite us with your own offering to the Father.
 
With joy we receive from your hands
the gift of your Body and Blood.
In return, we offer you ourselves today
as bread that is broken
and as wine that is poured out
for the life 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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