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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May 18, 2018
Theme: Pentecost 

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

Above all, it is the Spirit of love that our Lord wants to give us [on this day of Pentecost] so that we fulfill his commandments through love.  At the time of our Lord’s farewell to his apostles after supper, his heart was filled with love.  He explained to them how he wanted to remain united to them by the bond of love.  He used the comparison of the vine.  “It is necessary,” he said them, “that you be enlivened by the Holy Spirit, whom I will give you.  He will be like the sap of your soul.  Being the Spirit of love, he will unite you to me and me to you.   Persevere in my love.  How could you not be dedicated to my service, after what I have done for you?”

This is how our Lord disposed his disciples to receive his Spirit of love.  In order to dispose ourselves, let us recall his love for us.  It is similar to that which unites him to his Father: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” [John 15:9].  He has loved us from all eternity, he has had in view only our happiness.  His love for us has been disinterested even to the absolute sacrifice of himself.  He has dedicated his whole life to our salvation.  He died for us on the cross: “No one has greater love than this” [John 15:13].  What he asks of us is a mutual love for his Father and for him, who loved us first and who very much wants to call us his friends: “But I have called you friends” [John 15:15]. The Spirit of love, which he gives us today, must establish in us an intimacy filled with confidence in him, and in a powerful and fruitful union.

The Holy Spirit is a bond of love.  In the same way that he unites our Lord to his Father, he unites us to himself and he wants to unite us to one another.  This is the closest bond. He strengthens us in love, in order to make it obedient and devoted on our part, merciful and generous on his part.  It is a bond of friendship and gentle intimacy.  It is the source of all true and pure joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that our joy may be complete” [John 15:11].

Can we conceive anything more desirable than this union, than this love?  It is our Lord himself who desires to give us this love, he is thirsty for our hearts, he knocks at our door.  Let us not make him wait.  He has done everything to obtain for us a tender and attentive love.  Lord, give me today your Spirit of love, so that I abide in you from now on, united as a branch on the vine; that I serve you faithfully and have the joy and happiness of doing your will.

The Year with the Sacred Heart, May 27, “The Day of Pentecost”

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

Probably, there are few things more comforting than true friendship, which creates a safe place to accept one’s vulnerability and where active listening elicits heartfelt sharing.  Over time, an intimate union grows strong, yet looks beyond itself in order to contribute to the common good.  Nurturing such a deep relationship, however, requires intentionality.  In a culture that seems always to be rushing to the next activity, one must make time to be present to a friend.  With the constant barrage of electronic distractions, one must set aside all else to be attentive to a friend.

Acknowledging that Jesus, who calls us his friends, “is thirsty for our hearts and knocks on the door,” Fr. Dehon raises an important concern.  He wonders if we make Jesus wait to nurture a loving union.  Of course, that is not our conscious decision, but it might be the practical result of taking this friendship for granted.

Deepening a friendship with Jesus does indeed take time, but not exclusively for prayer.  Jesus is also present while one ministers among the needy, whom the world considers “least” [cf. Matthew 25:40].  And in a phenomenon that only intimate couples can appreciate, daily life offers endless remembrances of the beloved.  “She would like this.”  He would not approve.”  “I’d like to share this with her.”  “This is what he would do in this situation.”

Practicing the spirit of oblation is an act of intentionality.  To offer lovingly oneself to God each day and to be mindful of this offering at significant moments throughout the day continuously nourishes a friendship that results in the joy of knowing and the happiness of doing God’s will.

Reflection Questions: Seeds for personal understanding and growth

Fr. Dehon variously describes the Holy Spirit as the “spirit of love,” “the bond of friendship,” and as we are united to Christ as branches on the vine, the “sap of our souls.”  What is your favorite description of the Holy Spirit alive in you?

Jesus calls us friends and wishes to be united intimately with us.  How do you intentionally nurture your friendship with Jesus?

In what way does your intimate union with Jesus overflow into your ministry?

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve

This year the Church celebrates Pentecost on Sunday, May 20.  In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the Church which continually needs to be open to the sometimes surprising movement of the Holy Spirit of Love.  You may find helpful the following Oblation Prayer, adapted from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

Holy Spirit,
infinite love of God
and gift of the risen Lord,
come and renew the face of the earth.

Strengthen us to love as Jesus did
when he was in the world.
May our hearts, filled with compassion,
show forth the mystery
of divine love and grace,
and thus, witness to your gift of eternal life.