September 23, 2016
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
The piety of St. Vincent de Paul is the source of all his graces. Providence led him by unforeseen ways to the foundation of all his works. In his childhood, he is only a little shepherd from Landes [an area in southwestern France]. God will look for him there, as he sought David in Bethlehem and Mary in Nazareth.
During his greatest works and even during his old age and his last illness, he never lessened his exercises of piety. He rose at four o’clock, said Mass, and spent three hours in prayer. His zeal embraced the most varied countries. He sent missionaries to Tunis, Madagascar, and Algiers.
Having himself noted the religious ignorance which prevailed in the countryside, he established the rural missions [an organized program of adult catechesis through preaching] which did an immense good in our [French] provinces. To serve God—this was the ideal of St. Vincent de Paul and the expression of his love for God.
To speak of the charity of St. Vincent de Paul is commonplace. He was the king of charity in these latter centuries, and the Church declared him the patron of all the works of charity. He founded the Sisters of Charity; this suffices to characterize him. And this Institute became a model that many have imitated.
As soon as he saw misery or suffering, he brought a remedy to it; and if it was a question of an habitual and widespread misery, he sought to found an Institute or a work which devoted itself to rescue this misfortune. In turn, orphans, abandoned girls, convicts, and children from the countryside drew his concern. His heart was overflowing with mercy.
All of today’s works still seem to go out from this heart. Have not the Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul been the starting point for every Christian social movement, which is a new development of the charity of Christ? Let us love our Lord and our neighbor, and Providence will use us to create works or develop them.
St. Vincent de Paul is particularly extolled in his heart, which he was able to model after the Heart of Jesus. Let us also form our hearts on this divine model. The means will be a constant union with this divine Heart in his dispositions, his feelings, and his sacrifices. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus [Philippians 2:5].
The Year with the Sacred Heart, July 19: St. Vincent de Paul
Oblation: The daily practice of offering oneself to God's will
As a first year theology student, Leo Dehon followed the example of some of his favorite saints by choosing a motto to inspire him in his spiritual growth. Deciding upon, Lord, what would you have me do? [Acts 22:10], he wrote, “I could find nothing more suitable for solidifying and maintaining union with God.”
Reflection on this motto appeared in notes from several of his retreats, and as late as 1919, he wrote in his diary, “As a general rule, I will listen to the advice, the promptings of grace, and the judgments of our Lord and of the Holy Spirit in my interior life. Above all, I will speak directly to the Sacred Heart: Heart of Jesus, what would you have me do?
This personal motto became, in a slightly different form, the motto of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. “Ecce venio” is the introductory phrase of the Latin translation of another scriptural quotation, See, I have come to do your will, O God [Hebrews 10:7]. This is the self-offering that Christ made as he took flesh and entered our world.
The SCJ Rule of Life explains the significance of this motto. “In founding the Congregation of Oblates, Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon wanted his members to unite in an explicit way their religious and apostolic life with the reparatory oblation of Christ to the Father for people. In Fr. Dehon’s own words, our whole vocation, our purpose, our duty, our promises, are found in these words: Ecce venio” [Rule #6].
“The life of oblation stirred up in our hearts by the freely-given love of the Lord conforms us to the oblation of him, who, through love, is totally given to the Father and totally given to people. This life leads us to search ever more faithfully with the poor and obedient Lord for the will of the Father for us and for the world. This life makes us attentive to the appeals he makes to us through small and great events, and in human expectations and achievements” [Rule #35].
Like St. Vincent de Paul, Fr. Dehon, when confronted with unmet needs, found ways to address them. In response to the French education system that mocked faith and resisted the influence of religion, Fr. Dehon established St. John’s Institute, a boy’s Catholic junior high school. In the wake of industrialization that exploited laborers, he raised social consciousness and promoted the rights and duties of both workers and employers. In his desire to make God’s love known by extending the reign of the Heart of Jesus beyond Europe, Fr. Dehon made missionary work a priority for his Congregation.
For the Priests of the Sacred Heart, oblation is a way of life that manifests itself throughout the day in prayer, listening, questioning, analyzing, discerning, and acting. With the question, “What would you have me do Lord?” an SCJ notices a pressing need, acknowledges what he can do to alleviate it, and responds, “See, I come to do your will, O God.”
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
What personal motto would inspire your spiritual growth?
In the desire for constant union with the Heart of Jesus, what will help you understand his dispositions, experience his feelings, and share his sacrifices?
In the circumstances in which you find yourself, what need goes unanswered and how might you respond?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
The Church honors the memory of St. Vincent de Paul on September 27. In your kindness throughout the week, please remember in your prayers the Vincentians, the Daughters of Charity, and the members of the Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul throughout the world. The following Prayer of Oblation is from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
God, Holy Father,
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Strengthen in us the priestly attitude of your Son:
“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”
May we sense your will through one another,
through the various situations we encounter,
and through all your children.
Accept us as your collaborators
for the building of your reign in this world.
Enable us to abandon ourselves to your care.
In this way, may we live as Jesus did
when he offered you his spirit on the cross.
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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