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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NOTE: Dehonian Spirituality will be on summer break July 19 and 26. The next issue will be published on August 2.

July 12, 2019
Theme: The Hidden Life

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

The hidden life of the Sacred Heart is the ordinary life comprising only obscure acts that attract no attention.  This life does not allow for exterior acts of extraordinary sanctity.  In its exterior, it is entirely different from the life of St. John the Baptist in the desert, which was extraordinary and which has been imitated by the Fathers of the desert.

People err in seeing sanctity only in its outward manifestations.  Our Lord gives us a different lesson: to perform, in an uncommon manner, the most ordinary actions with perfect love.  By a single stroke of the broom in the house of Nazareth, the Child Jesus merited more than St. John the Baptist who devoted himself to most extraordinary penances because Jesus’ love was greater.  It is in these ordinary actions, disdained and scorned as they sometimes are, that we ought to find our sanctity.  Such is the life preferred by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Our ordinary life is composed of little acts like those of the Child Jesus at Nazareth.  We must change these little acts into gold pieces of purest love by accomplishing them out of love for the Sacred Heart who sheds abundant graces on these little actions, for such as these made up his own exterior life during thirty years.

We ought to be absorbed by this one occupation, this one desire: that the Sacred Heart may be loved and glorified by us and by all people.  Let us forget our own interests, even spiritual, in order to devote ourselves entirely to the interests of the Sacred Heart.  Our spiritual life will necessarily lead us to this sacrifice of the heart, always having before our eyes this Heart so lovable; then we will no longer have time to love ourselves, and our acts of love will be pure and perfect.

After having strengthened ourselves well in love for the Sacred Heart, we shall be able to devote ourselves to and be drawn toward our neighbor, always having the Sacred Heart in mind, to gain friends for him, to convert sinners who wound him, to give him saints who will praise and love him.

The Sacred Heart always had us in mind.  Let us always remember him and have no other love than love for him.  In our prayers let us ask for his reign and his triumph, and through love for him let us love souls as Jesus loves them, and be ready to work and to suffer for them in the measure that Jesus will find good.

Crowns of Love for the Sacred Heart I, 3rd Mystery, 2nd and 3rd Meditations



Oblation: the daily practice of offering oneself to God’s will

Image: Statue of St. Joseph at Sacred Heart School, Southaven MS

If we try to apply Fr. Dehon’s meditation on the hidden life to his personal experience and ministry, we can detect that his words went beyond pious musings to reveal a practical spirituality that is in everybody’s reach.  Although it would appear that priesthood and the founding of a religious Congregation are anything but ordinary activities, that’s because the daily grind is often hidden from view.

As he began his ministry as a parish priest, Dehon was the seventh associate, to whom fell tasks that the other priests did not want, like teaching catechism in the public school, and celebrating the late-in-the-day Masses which meant he was often fasting from the previous midnight.  Running St. Joseph Youth Center and St. John Junior High School entailed juggling the dizzying details of buildings, renovations, additions, staff, residences, and fund raising.

No doubt, even Fr. Dehon was surprised that his time was taken up defending his Congregation from jealous diocesan clergy, the cautious eye of the Roman curia, and an anti-Catholic French government.  He also had to learn to deal with the shortcomings of those he accepted into the Congregation and navigate his own significant health issues.

In his social ministry, Fr. Dehon participated in endless meetings with laborers, employers, and clergy; and tirelessly advocated, in numerous writings and speaking engagements, for just wages and a fair economic system.  Like St. Joseph, one of his models for the hidden life, Dehon went about all these tasks faithfully out of love for the Sacred Heart.

One of the objections to Fr. Leo John Dehon’s cause for sainthood is that he did not reveal an extraordinary sanctity.  Indeed, he didn’t; but he accomplished in an uncommon manner the most ordinary actions with perfect love.



Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

What are the obscure acts that fill up your day?

What is your definition of sanctity?  How do you recognize it in others?

What would you identify as “the sacrifice of your heart”?



Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers those whose very ordinary lives are devoted to the interests of the Heart of Jesus and the needs of their neighbors.  You may find helpful the following prayer.

Heart of Jesus,
most of your earthly life
was hidden from view.
We imagine in those years
that you took up the trade of Joseph
and joined in the daily tasks
necessary for survival.
What preoccupied you
was the depth of your love
that you brought to every action.

Make our hearts like your Heart.
No matter how ordinary our deeds,
how repetitive or unacknowledged,
may we move through each day
with love overflowing
for you and our neighbors.