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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 30, 2015


 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
My dear friend, it was good for you to write me such a long, affectionate letter of friendship.  This is a friendship that God desires, if that were not so we would not want it, would we?  By calling us into the pious society of his Heart, our Lord has made us brothers and friends.  Among the apostles, Peter, James, and John had a liking for each other that was encouraged by our Lord [cf. Mark 9:2].
 
This friendship of the apostles was lasting and it still endures because it was founded in God and according to God, even though it had a human basis which had been made supernatural through grace.  To love someone truly is to wish him well.  In Italian they do not say, “I love you,” rather they say, “I wish you well, ti voglio bene.” 
 
I truly wish you well.  I wish that you may become a saintly priest of the Sacred Heart, a pillar of the little society that should give our Lord consolation and reparation, if it is faithful to its mission.  Let us make a pact as faithful servants to lead the Work [Editor’s note: Fr. Dehon’s term for the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart] to its true goal, whatever the sacrifice that this might require of us.
 
This vocation demands a genuine interior life.  And so I wish you the graces of interior prayer, not extraordinary graces which run the risk of being illusions, but progress in union with God.  We can desire and ask for these graces of union.  St. Teresa, St. Bernard, and so many other saints invite us to ask for them.  St. Ignatius said, “We should wish for these precious gifts, insofar as we can—with their help—obtain a greater glory for God.” 
 
A pious seminarian can easily arrive at affective prayer, and a little beyond.  The means?  Great purity of conscience and tenacity to do all these exercises well and to submit to all the little sacrifices of the rule.  I desire a great many graces for you because, “ti voglio bene.”
 
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, Letter to Emile Blandin, SCJ, January 21, 1903.
 
 


 


Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality

As ordination approached in September of 1973, I began to focus on what I would like to do once ordained.  Though expressing an interest in vocation recruiting, there was a method to my madness since I felt I could recruit a few years for our high school seminaries in Donaldson, IN or Lenox, MA and then switch over to teaching those that I had brought in.  Funny how things don’t always work out as we plan.
 
I recall the Prophet Samuel being called when he responds to Yahweh’s call, as Eli had instructed him, Speak, Lord, your servant is listening [1 Samuel 3:10].  My desire to serve only a few years grew into 10 years dealing with candidates of various ages.  In being of service to those who were looking to see if priesthood and religious life was in their future, I recalled my own recruitment journey.  I had just finished 7th grade at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, IL and Sister, as she was cleaning out her closet, passed out a variety of booklets devoted to telling perspective candidates about various religious communities’ seminary programs. 
 
Though the classmate sitting next to me got one covered with a number of pictures reflecting what was offered, I got one that was plain white on the outside.  The story inside talked about a young man interested in being a pilot, which later got up-graded to being an astronaut.  One night a priest stopped by for supper to visit with the young man’s father with whom the priest had been in seminary with.  The young man listened to the stories while playing with one of his airplanes.  The next day the priest stopped by the young man’s school to give a vocation talk and something hit a nerve and he began to give seminary some serious thought.  That’s where the booklet ended. 
 
To get the rest of the story you had to send in your name and address to get volume two, which related how he made the decision to go and what the program was like at the seminary.  The real hook was that the vocation department now had your particulars and soon was on the phone asking if you would like a vocation recruiter to stop by for a visit with you and your family in order to talk things over.  I said “yes,” and during my eighth grade, Father Justin came to visit in order to answer any questions my family and I might have and to extend the opportunity to come to Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson, IN for a visit. 
 
The personal contact and invitation to “come and see” (John 1:39) has always been a part of vocation ministry as you strive to get to know the individual who is discerning and offer the chance for him or her to come and visit so as to see for themselves what a possible commitment entails, what sort of ministry the community they are exploring does so as to see if there is a match. 
 
Our high school seminaries offered weeklong programs during the summer, giving potential candidates the chance to explore and meet SCJ priests and Brothers.  Our college and above programs have offered the chance to come and see by taking part in the Christian Summer Experience where we would visit a ministry in South Dakota, northern Mississippi, or Texas and have the chance to get your hands dirty, so to speak, helping out and learning about the community through interaction with local community members.
 
As part of the personal contact, the recruiter is on the phone, typing letters, going out on visits so as to work with those who are discerning and asking questions.  The personal contact also gives you the chance to see a candidate in their native habitat and see how they are or are not involved in Church related activities of service and outreach to others.  At times you would find a candidate ready with bags packed to go back with you to the seminary or those who had good potential but were waiting for a lightning bolt from the heavens to affirm their decision to follow the Master.  The opportunity to talk things over gave both parties the chance to ask questions to get needed information and to offer suggestions or go deeper if red flags began to surface. 
 
Recently I was asked by the vocation department to visit with a young man who had been in touch with the Office and would be passing St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD on his way out to the Sturgis Bike Rally.  I met him outside his motel and we visited giving him the chance to ask any further questions and me the chance to share my journey and what religious life has been for me.  He was torn between two or three different groups and was having a tough time deciding whom he would go with.  Though you may not get everyone, it is important that you can be supportive of those discerning as they listen to the gentle call of Jesus to come and walk with Him.
 
After seven years in vocation work, the time came when I went to the Provincial and said it was time for me to move on to something else.  I could read maps, type letters, and give talks; but if he wanted me to remain a priest, I needed to get into a parish otherwise I would have forgotten all my seminary training.  I’ve had the chance to serve in several parishes around the country and my second posting in Houston, TX enabled me to have an unforeseen impact in that the giving of one Sacrament may lead to the reception of another. 
 
About a year ago I heard from a young man currently studying for the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana.  He was writing to say he was studying for the priesthood at St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana and wanted me to know that when filling out his paperwork to apply, he noticed my name on his baptismal record from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Houston.  He wanted to invite me to come to his deaconate ordination this past May.  He and some classmates came out to South Dakota for a retreat and then a visit to the Black Hills.  As they went through Chamberlain, we had the chance to meet for lunch.  At the ordination, his parents mentioned he was the only child that cried throughout the entire Baptism.  I think he was exercising his lungs as he prepares to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel.  I look forward to going back this coming June for his priestly ordination.
 
The best recruiter is a smiling priest, Brother or Sister as their smile and enthusiasm lets others know that saying “yes” to God’s call can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling life.  My priesthood has given me the opportunity for many rewarding experiences as I have had the chance to touch many lives and be touched and supported in return. 
 
My inspiration for ministry came from witnessing my dad’s commitment to the service of our country as a United States Marine for over 30 years.  Prayer is also an important aspect of discernment, not just the prayer an individual offers up but the prayers of family and friends offered in support of someone’s exploring of what the future might hold.  I was helped by my family in that they offered up an Our Father for me and my vocation at the end of every meal they had together.  This grew to a Hail Mary offered for any who were away from the family. 
 
When Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis was our Bishop of Sioux Falls, SD, he strongly encouraged each parish to have a Vocation Prayer Committee so as to encourage those giving some thought to priesthood or religious life to be blessed with the grace needed in order to follow through.  The number of vocation candidates did rise and there still seems to be a very positive interest in young people making the decision to offer themselves in service to God’s people.
 
Another positive influence is to have others offer encouragement by mentioning they could see you as a priest, Brother or Sister.  On the back of a little publication the Priests of the Sacred Heart put out each month to help those saying the Divine Office to know which prayers to say, we have a short statement asking, “Have you asked someone to be a priest or religious today?”  That question and the support and encouragement it implies could be all that it takes for someone to say, “yes.”  Perhaps that someone is you.  Thus I ask you, “Have you ever thought about being a priest or religious?”  If so, give yourself the chance to explore and discern if indeed the Master is calling you to be a laborer in the abundant harvest [Matthew 9:37-38].
 
TEXT: Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ
IMAGE: Receptive Young Samuel, black walnut sculpture, Herman Falke, SCJ,

 
  

 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, which is National Vocations Awareness Week [November 1-7], please remember in your prayer the women and men who are discerning their vocation in life, as well as Vocation Recruiters who help in this discernment.  You may find helpful the following prayer, taken from Leo John Dehon’s 34th meditation in The Year with the Sacred Heart.
 
Yes, my Good Master,
I will do all that you ask of me.
I know that you are good, that your love for me is infinite,
and that you ask of me what is most beneficial for myself.
Here I am.
Therefore speak, Lord, your servant is listening.
What should I do?
Where should I go?
What should I give up?
Here I am, send me where you will.
Make your will known to me
and give me the grace to carry it out.
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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