Dehonian Spirituality


Dehonian Spirituality is a weekly e-publication. Mailed most Fridays, it includes prayers and reflections based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians). Text from a recent issue of Dehonian Spirituality appears below.

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September 28, 2018
Theme: St. Thérѐse of the Child Jesus 

Reflections from Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart

The life of love towards God and the Savior has always been the Christian ideal as we have seen from the testimonies of the Fathers, Doctors, saints, and spiritual writers.  At times this union of love became so intense as to form that astounding familiarity spoken of in the Imitation of Christ [Book 3, Chapter 1].  This grace was granted to St. Anthony of Padua, St. Francis de Sales, St. Gertrude, and St. Teresa [of Avila].

But with the advent of the reign of the Sacred Heart, this intimacy became easier and more frequent.  Our Lord promised it to St. Margaret Mary.  His divine Heart is given to us as an inexhaustible ocean of the most precious graces.  How many souls, holy souls, now rise to an incomprehensible familiarity with the divine Spouse!  See how Sr.Thérѐse of the Child Jesus was favored by the friendship of the divine Infant of Nazareth.

The life of spiritual infancy, so dear to Sr.Thérѐse of the Child Jesus, harmonizes well with the life of intimate union. Our Lord himself invited us thereto when he said, ‘Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [Matthew 18:3].

A poem dedicated to the Sacred Heart by Sr. Thérѐse of the Child Jesus wonderfully expresses my sentiments; I’ve copied a stanza from it:

I need a heart burning with tenderness,
That remains my support forever,
Loving everything in me, even my weakness,
Never leaving me night and day.
I could never find another creature
Who would love me always without ever dying;
I need a God who takes on my nature,
Becoming my brother and being able to suffer.

The Interior Life, Chapter XXXI, “Life of Intimate Union with Our Lord,” and Daily Notes, July 22, 1916
Image: carved wooden plaque of St.Thérѐse of the Child Jesus, originally in the chapel of Divine Heart Seminary, Donaldson, IN.


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

Choosing warm colors within a restrained palette, an economy of line, and a contrasting, white inner garment, the artist easily focuses the viewer’s eye on the Heart.  Jesus’ gesture with his finger seems to insist that his Heart is the answer to every objection, every hesitation to accept God’s unconditional love.

Doubts of faith lose their energy in the embrace of this love.  The residue of sin and failure is washed away by mercy.  A sense of unworthiness is foreign to this expansive Heart. Depression and trauma experience a safe harbor.  Sadness and suffering meet a knowing Heart overflowing with compassion.  Discouragement and worries feel the silent presence of a friend.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens” and I will refresh you with my love [cf. Matthew 11:28-29].

Image: Painting in Casa Sagrado Corazón, Montevideo, Uruguay


Reflection Questions: Seeds for personal understanding and growth

What do you imagine “an astounding familiarity” with God looks like?

St.Thérѐse of the Child Jesus wrote, “I need a God who takes on my nature, becoming my brother and being able to suffer.”  What kind of God do you need?

What objection or hesitation do you bring to the reign of the Heart of Jesus?


Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve

The Church honors the memory of St. Thérѐse of the Child Jesus on October 1.  In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers those who long for a loving relationship with Jesus, but hesitate to believe it’s possible.  You may find helpful the following paraphrase of Psalm 124, taken from Water and Enrich My Heart, Prayers Based on the Psalms, by Charles Flood, SCJ.

How many times have I experienced
the reality of your protection, Lord.
So many times, I would have been overwhelmed
but for your protection.

Blessed and praised
be your mercy and love
that have so consistently pulled me through
when all human aid seemed to fail.

My help is indeed
in the name of the Lord
who made me
along with his heavens and earth.