June 12, 2015
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
In an imagery-rich meditation, Fr. Leo John Dehon writes, “The Heart of Jesus is overflowing with compassion for all those who suffer; those beset by troubles, difficulties, and hardships; for the hungry, the toilers, the destitute, and the sick and infirm. His is the heart of a Father, the heart of a Mother, the heart of a Shepherd. Jesus is our Father as God, as Savior; but he is our Father also as Pontiff, as Priest. He is our Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd of Shepherds. It is his priestly heart that suffers when we suffer.
“To have compassion on the suffering is the mission of the Messiah. Isaiah has depicted him under this aspect. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners [Isaiah 61:1]. Our Lord’s Heart is filled with tenderness for his mission. Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest [Matthew 11:28].
“He knows what it means to suffer. He has experienced exile, persecution, hunger; he has always before his eyes the torments reserved for the end of his life.”
Absorbing these moving words is only the first step toward a mature spirituality that demands an embodied response. Fr. Dehon explains, “Each one of Jesus’ friends must reflect his Divine Heart in a distinct way, according to his inclinations and the degree to which grace calls him; but the Sacred Heart of Jesus must live in all. This Heart is always loving and always immolating himself; forever forgetful of himself, never weary of giving himself. This Heart is in truth the Heart of a man but it also the Heart of a God, who never ceases to offer and consecrate himself to us and for us.
“Is there a world for him who lives only for the Heart of Jesus, who thinks only of him, and who can say, ‘The Heart of Jesus is my heart’? We possess the Heart of Jesus; we unite ourselves to him in a mystical and real manner. We must not allow our fervor to diminish for the fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus never diminishes nor is it ever extinguished.”
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, The Priestly Heart of Jesus, 14th Meditation; The Love of the Sacred Heart III, 5th Mystery, 6th Meditation
Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
This image is an interpretation in stained glass of a pen and ink drawing by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The details give visual expression to the last two of four visions she received from Jesus. “The Divine Heart was represented to me as on a throne of fire and flames shedding rays of light on every side, brighter than the sun and transparent as crystal. The wound which He had received on the cross was clearly visible. A crown of thorns encircled the Divine Heart and it was surmounted by a cross.” With the final vision, she heard these explanatory words, “Behold this Heart which has so loved humanity that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself to prove to humanity its love.”
The date at the top of the image, July 20, 1685, refers to the first time that Margaret Mary publically honored an image of the Heart of Jesus in the Novitiate of the convent where she was the Novice Director. The Latin words, Ecce Cor, at the bottom of the image, mean, “Behold this Heart.” The Latin word for “love” is written in the wound of the heart. Surrounding the wound are the three nails that pinned Jesus to the wood of the cross.
Jesus invites his followers to contemplate his Heart and to ponder the boundlessness of God’s love. A sense of being lost in the blinding light, consuming fire, piercing thorn, and loving Heart gives way to being called. And the words, “Behold this Heart which has so loved humanity that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself to prove to humanity its love,” now identifies not only Jesus, but those who are caught up in this transforming energy.
Stained Glass Window, designed by Fr. Angelico Koller, SCJ, and fabricated for the chapels of Divine Heart Seminary, Donaldson, IN, and Dehon Seminary, Great Barrington, MA.
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
For over forty years, the people living in south Texas and especially those in Willacy County knew the SCJs [or the Dehonians, but they did not know us by that name!]. I was graced to be part of their lives for a majority of that time. I wish to reflect here on the mutual sharing that came from being with these wonderful families and how we both came to know the love of the Sacred Heart, even though the language was not always the words of Leo John Dehon.
When I arrived in Texas, I saw material poverty and great injustice in the community and I came with the enthusiasm to repair their lives. Still in my 30s, I had lots of energy and in my head I knew what my vocation as a Dehonian meant. Go to the people, of course, and teach them, and give them all that they lack. How foolish that turned out to be! But I learned so much from the people and was able to see better what a Dehonian minister should be and the spirituality that should motivate him.
The greatest poverty, as I learned the hard way, was not material but personal. The greatest need was for the people to see themselves as worthwhile and loved. Dehonian spirituality called me to a ministry of presence and to teach by my actions. The SCJs that I lived with in community, saw as I did that the people must become teachers for the local Church.
Adveniat regnum tuum, [Thy kingdom come], was not the SCJs building up the Church and forming community as much as it was to evangelize people to the love of the Sacred Heart so they would believe that they were the Church. The unconditional love of the Sacred Heart for all people, no exception, has been so important to me. In my own sinfulness, I can hold the hand of the crippled and poor and lift them up to the open side of the Sacred Heart. I can also say to others that you too are so loved by him that you can do the same. Dehon wants us to be with the poor, not to save them as much as to evangelize them to such love in their personal lives. God bless you all.
Fr. Dick MacDonald, SCJ
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
When you accept the invitation to “Behold this Heart,” what do you see, hear, feel, and understand?
“The greatest need is for people to see themselves as worthwhile and loved.” How do you address this need for yourself? How do you address this need for others?
“Each one of Jesus’ friends must reflect his Divine Heart in a distinct way, according to his/her inclinations and the degree to which grace calls him/her.” How do you reflect Jesus’ Heart?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
June 12, 2015, is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer all religious communities and individuals who take their inspiration from the Heart of Jesus. The invocations of the following litany come from the spiritual writings of Leo John Dehon, SCJ.
Heart of Jesus, Heart of our Father and of our God,
Heart of Jesus, entirely his Father’s and ours,
Heart of Jesus, incarnate love of God for people,
Heart of Jesus, incarnate love of people for God,
we praise you.
Heart of Jesus, who takes a personal, loving interest in us,
Heart of Jesus, tender as a mother’s heart,
Heart of Jesus, who loves us more than a mother,
Heart of Jesus, friend whose kindnesses are endless,
Heart of Jesus, who loves us more than a friend,
Heart of Jesus, loving spouse of our souls, whose affection is ever fresh,
Heart of Jesus, who loves us more than a spouse,
we thank you.
Heart of Jesus, overflowing with compassion for all those who suffer,
Heart of Jesus, overflowing with compassion for those beset by troubles, difficulties, and hardships,
Heart of Jesus, overflowing with compassion for the hungry, the toilers, and the destitute,
Heart of Jesus, overflowing with compassion for the sick and infirm,
Heart of Jesus, physician caring for his patients and never leaving them until he has restored them to health,
we wish to be like you.
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, fortifying bread that nourishes souls with generosity, heroism, and charity,
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, shepherd-king and benefactor,
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, affectionate and devoted brother,
we welcome you.
Priestly Heart of Jesus, vigilant sentinel standing guard over his Church,
Priestly Heart of Jesus, who prays for the needs of his people,
Priestly Heart of Jesus, who suffers when we suffer,
Priestly Heart of Jesus, who claims justice, respect, and brotherly love for the worker,
we offer ourselves with your self-offering.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, guide to infinite Wisdom,
Sacred Heart of Jesus, wishing to be at our disposal and fill all our needs,
Sacred Heart of Jesus, sympathizing with all our spiritual and bodily infirmities,
Sacred Heart of Jesus, treasure of reparation, love, and grace,
Sacred Heart of Jesus, giving yourself entirely to us,
we love you.
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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