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.
May 10, 2019
Theme: World Day of Prayer for Vocations (May 12)
Reflections from Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
The students at the Apostolic School in Sittard, Holland, celebrated Fr. Dehon’s 25th anniversary of priesthood ordination. In this diary entry, he refers to the students as “my children.”
Visit to Sittard. My children had a cordial celebration for me. Mass sung with devotion. The chant reminded me of Solesmes [a French Benedictine monastery renowned for its singing of Gregorian chant]. The children presented a play about St. Sebastian and some lifelike scenes from the Passion. Some guests were invited in my honor.
I told my children the story of my vocation to encourage them to be faithful to theirs. This vocation is a web of providential circumstances. The servant who raised me put my family in contact with her pastor. These relationships led me to the junior high school at Hazebrouck. A retreat preached by a Jesuit priest won me over to God. I first heard the call on Christmas eve.
The spiritual direction of my Superior and good comrades supported my vocation. My parents rejected it out of hand when I made it known to them after graduating. My stay in Paris presented thousands of temptations, but our Lord watched over me. He placed me in the hands of a saintly director, Fr. Prével of St. Sulpice, who began to speak to me about Rome.
My travels could also have turned me away from my goal. My father encouraged trips to England, Germany, and the Middle East. But my vocation remained firm. It was strengthened in the Holy Land. I came back by way of Rome. Pius IX encouraged me. Finally, my father allowed me to leave. At Rome, the Sacred Heart of Jesus himself formed me in his love. I had a strong attraction for the religious life, but our Lord waited until later to show me the Congregation that he wanted.
So, I began in parish ministry. Our Lord kept me at St. Quentin to put me in contact with our Sisters through the intervention of a Jesuit priest from Alsace. Through the Sisters I found my way and Bishop Thibaudier approved my plans for a Congregation. This was the Church speaking through its representative. How admirable our Lord is in all his ways. May I finally live up to his expectations!
Daily Notes, January 2-6, 1894
Oblation: the daily practice of offering oneself to God
Only in hindsight could Fr. Dehon recognize the “web of providential circumstances” which shaped his vocation story. Yet, at each step, he had to respond in some way to how his life was unfolding or how he thought it would unfold. This set of responses, which would help Fr. Dehon eventually articulate the spirit of oblation with the Latin word, fiat [“Let God’s will be done”], included important qualities such as conviction, initiative, trust, patience, and humility.
In this artistic rendering, the word, fiat, casts its shadow in the form of a cross. This suggests that offering to conform oneself to God’s will as it is able to be known, although not always easy, can only be understood from a motivation of great love. Indeed, for Christians, the cross symbolizes a loving sacrifice that is stronger than death.
With the conviction of the transforming power of God’s love, faithful people observe unmet human needs and take the initiative to address them. Yet, sometimes, for an individual, the greatest sacrifice is humbly letting go of what seemed to be God’s will and trusting that another direction fulfills God’s plans more efficiently. Even though the practice of patience is not focused on the disclosure of divine plans as much as it is on the limitations of human vision, the “web of providential circumstances” will eventually reveal itself. And the intricacies of this web make the best vocation stories.
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
What personal quality do you most need to be able to say, “Let God’s will be done”?
Fr. Dehon characterized his vocation story as a “web of providential circumstances.” How has Divine Providence been active in your life?
Don’t be shy about telling your vocation story. It will encourage others to think about and to be faithful to their own vocation.
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
May 12 is World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers all those who are discerning a call from God.
You may find helpful the following prayer from Vocation Central of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States.
Holy, loving God,
you have graced us in many ways.
You have called holy, heroic men and women
to serve you and your Church.
We come to you once again
asking for you to bless the Church
with generous souls.
Give young men and women
open hearts and minds
to answer the call of serving those in need,
bringing justice and peace to this broken world.
May they be examples
of the love of Jesus,
who came bringing hope, healing, and joy.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever.