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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June 15, 2018
Theme: The Heart of Jesus, part III 

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

In the eyes of God, there are no small, forgettable people.  There are no insignificant, disposable people who don’t count for anything.  For God says to each of us through the Heart of his Son: I have called you and I have loved you, I have chosen you to be the apple of my eye.

“Fr. Leo Dehon passionately believed this.  On the opening page of his Christian Social Manualhe wrote, ‘Every person has inalienable dignity, duties, and rights. Whatever social class one belongs to, every person is endowed not only with a living body, but with an intelligent, free, and immortal soul which God created.  Having come from God, this soul should serve God and return to God. Whether this soul lives in the body of a worker at the bottom of a dark coal mine, or in the body of a well-fed financier living in the lap of luxury, it doesn’t matter: in reality, both of them have the same value.  They have equal personal dignity, equal moral responsibility, the same eternal destiny, and both of them have been given earthly existence so that through truth, morality, and religion they may strive for eternal life.’

“The devotion of the Sacred Heart is a fairly recent development; it only began to emerge in Christian life about three hundred years ago.  It started to gain acceptance and popularity at the same time that modern science and technology were becoming dominant in the world.  The Industrial Revolution and the miracles of modern medicine have changed the way we live and how long we live and have made our lives easier and more secure in countless ways.  But these inventions and the progress they bring came at a price.

“The Age of the Machine created not only wealth and material abundance, it also brought its own values and created a culture where the production of things was more important than the people who produced them, where efficiency and cost effectiveness were valued more than the health of the workers and the welfare of their families.  Modern technology has created a world that runs like a well-oiled machine but it often dehumanizes the people operating the machine, treating them like cogs on a conveyor belt whose sole purpose is to increase productivity. Even modern medicine has reduced the human body to the sum of its movable parts and it considers the human heart as nothing more than a pump in the machine.

“It was into this world that Christians introduced the devotion to the Sacred Heart which boldly proclaims that there is at least one heart that is a burning furnace of love. Our God is not an impersonal watchmaker who has set the world in motion and then withdraws at a distance to admire the way it keeps on ticking.  God loves this world and all who are in it, and he sent his Son among us with a human heart to prove that every human life is meant to be a love affair with God.

“We are created in the image and likeness of God; our hearts are made for God and will find their happiness only in God. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is a statement that every human being is precious in the sight of God and is infinitely valued by God regardless of the person’s abilities or liabilities, his strengths or his weakness, his achievements or his failures; even our sins do not disqualify from the love of God.”

Excerpt from the homily, “Secret People,” Paul J. McGuire, SCJ

Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality

This is the third of four installments of a reflection given by Fr. Bob Bossie, SCJ, to local superiors in October 1993.

Fr. Bob

Please allow me to offer you some reflections of this Jesus I have begun to know, to paint a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that is different from the one today’s dominant culture would have us acknowledge.

When you consider all of these challenges to the status quoas well as Jesus’ condemnation of the religious leaders in the famous, “you hypocrites” and “liars” texts [Mark 12 and Matthew 23], one begins to understand the basis of the charges against him.  In the Gospel of Luke, he is accused of “subverting our nation, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar, and calling himself the Messiah, a king” [Luke 23:2].

At one level, these charges are true; at another level, these criminal charges are being utilized to cover Jesus’ deeper challenges to the prevailing (dis)order.  This has happened to thousands of non-violent opponents of U.S. policies who are tried on criminal charges such as trespassing, destruction of property, even sabotage, for symbolic non-violent actions.  Their motivations are ruled irrelevant, outside the concerns of the court.  There were 70,000 such arrests that we have documented from 1981-1991.  Four individuals were sentenced to up to 18 years for sabotage, the only time in the history of the U.S. that persons have been so charged outside of wartime.

Entirely consistent with this understanding of Jesus that I have been presenting is his self-offering to God for his brothers and sisters as an eminently human act.  The handwriting was on the wall, as they say.  Jesus knew the risks he was taking as did Martin Luther King, Jr., Oscar Romero, the four North American churchwomen killed in El Salvador, and countless others.  By continuing to live in such a challenging way to the principalities and powers, his life was at risk.  But he could do no other and still remain faithful to the Reign of God.  Adveniat Regnum Tuum[Your Kingdom Come].

With regards to his execution, I am curious as to the way in which his words, “Forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” [Luke 23:34], are forgotten as the fullest expression of his life of non-violence during a particularly brutal time.  This is different from the brutality of today only in the absolute numbers and the power of contemporary weaponry.  Evidence from excavated graves originating in Jesus’ time, indicate early and brutal death of large numbers of the people.

I am curious — angry is probably a better word — at the insistence on absolute sexual morality and the dismissal of this fundamental life commitment of Jesus.  In stark contrast to Jesus’ fundamental call to his disciples is the teaching in the new Roman Catholic catechism, which says that the State has a right to execute persons though it is not recommended.  Perhaps this was the mentality of the Gestapo, who were 75% Roman Catholic.  A sobering statistic.

Again, Gandhi’s words come to mind here. Christians seem to be the only ones who don’t know that Jesus was non-violent, and I might add, addressed violence and injustice non-violently day in and day out.

“The Sacred Heart of Jesus Had a Name and an Address, Part III,” Bob Bossie, SCJ

Reflection Questions: Seeds for personal understanding and growth

How do you respond to the thought that, “God sent his Son among us with a human heart to prove that every human life is meant to be a love affair with God”?

What affirmation and what challenge does the statement, “Jesus lived a life of non-violence,” hold for you?

How do you understand your self-offering to God for your brothers and sisters as, “an eminently human act”?

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers all persons who work for peace and reconciliation. You may find helpful the following prayer, taken from Prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by Rev. J. Galot, SJ, distributed by the International Institute of the Heart of Jesus.

it is your desire
to embrace all humankind
and to form a community
of which you are the center.
Give us also
such an all-embracing heart,
open to all and guided by love
towards everyone.

Create in us
an ever-growing desire
for the unity of humankind
held together by the bond of love.
Help us to work towards harmony
with those who differ from us;
give us tolerance and understanding
for cultures alien to us.

Help us to find ways
towards mutual understanding;
protect us against
undue individualism and nationalism.
Make us ready for the sacrifices necessary
to achieve this unity.

Let us find in your Heart
the source of true solidarity,
ready to cooperate
for the welfare of humankind,
eager to eliminate whatever divides
and to do all that will lead
to a true community spirit.