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.
November 1, 2019
Theme: The Death of Fr. Rasset, SCJ
Reflections from Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
On October 30, our dear Fr. [Alphonse] Rasset underwent one of the cruelest stomach operations. He died on November 4 and was buried on November 8. His was the heroic death of a saintly priest.
To work for souls was his ideal. He was willing to risk this butcher-like operation in the hope of being able to work another ten years. He told Dr. Duret that he was offering his life for his work. The operation lasted two and a half hours. It took 300 stitches. After the operation, he had five days of atrocious suffering, which he concealed. He was asked whether he was suffering much; he answered, “No.” Those were five days of prayer, self-sacrifice, and immolation.
When the students of medicine, the Sisters, the attendants came to wait on him, he first made them recite the Our Father and the Hail Mary with him. He would politely excuse himself for troubling them. I spent the last day with him. When the physician reopened his stomach, he demonstrated constant serenity and heroic strength. He asked me several times for absolution. I gave him Extreme Unction at two in the morning.
He died at one o’clock in the afternoon on the first Saturday of the month. He had written in his notes, in 1878, that he would die on a Saturday. The Blessed Virgin loved him maternally. I took him back to St. Quentin; he rests in our vault with two saintly priests, Fathers Roth and Tharcis. The papers of St. Quentin and Laon eulogized hm. The Religious Weekly gave a notice. The Cross of Thievache gave an account of his honorable funeral. There were more than 80 priests; the archpriest officiated.
Fr. Rasset had been my first companion, my assistant, one of the best advisers. He was present at my first vows, June 28, 1878, and became a postulant on that day. In 1879, he took an oath to persevere in the Society [of the Priests of the Sacred Heart] and he remained faithful to it. He had made the vow of victim. He shared in all my sufferings and he had his own.
His last years perfected him for heaven. Crosses were abundant: political persecution, sufferings from illness, family sorrows, an ungrateful ministry at Marchais. He leaves us notes and letters exchanged with his sister, that reveal to us a saintly priest and a true victim of the Sacred Heart.
Daily Notes, November 4, 1905
Oblation: the daily practice of offering oneself to God’s will
Let us consider the actual death of our Lord. In the Gospel, he says that no one would take away his life but that he would surrender it himself. He assures us also that the greatest proof of love one can give is to sacrifice his life for his friend. He died, therefore, in this living proof of love for us.
With several theologians we believe that death came to him because of his excess of love for us. The love of Jesus for us was so great that it allowed him not even a moment of repose; it caused him all kinds of torture, finally taking his life. Such is the excess of love to which we owe so many graces. It should affect us so strongly as to even deprive us of our life. The Heart of Mary was broken through excess of love; by love, so many saints rendered their souls to God.
Let there be the desire at least to die for love of Jesus; this is what we explicitly express in the surrender and immolation we make of ourselves to the Sacred Heart. The offering of our life, after the offering of our heart itself, is the one that will be most pleasing to him. As much as it lies in our power, let us strive to obtain the great favor of dying for love of him.
Let us desire but one thing: to live out of love for the Sacred Heart and to die for love of him. Our Lord does not ask each day for the sacrifice of our life; but he desires a free and loving offering for the glory of his Sacred Heart. Whether he accepts it or not, the offering of our life out of love is made nonetheless, and this offering will help to sanctify the hour of our death.
Let us also consider that our gentle Savior wanted to die on the cross. Our cross is the rule of life adopted in our consecration to the Sacred Heart. Let us constantly ask for the grace never to depart from that rule and to end our life in its observance. This will assure us final perseverance.
Crowns of Love for the Sacred Heart II, 4th Mystery, 6th Meditation
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
Fr. Dehon writes that a free and loving offering for the glory of the Sacred Heart will help to sanctify the hour of our death. Take some time to contemplate your own death and the means by which you will prepare for it.
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers those who have not, but still have the opportunity, to prepare themselves for death. You may find helpful the following prayer, based upon the “Resolution” concluding Fr. Dehon’s 6th Meditation of the 4th Mystery in his second volume of Crowns of Love for the Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart of Jesus,
I give myself to you in life and in death.
I wish now to live only for you
according to the rule set down
in my consecration to you,
so that I can say with St. Paul,
“It is Jesus who lives in me,
it is no longer I who live.”
I desire to die in your love,
and if it pleases your Father,
to die from an excess of that love.