OCTOBER 2020 – As one of the first novices with the Oblates of the Heart of Jesus, Fr. Stanislaus Falleur took notes on the conferences given at the novitiate between 1879 and 1881. His preserved notebooks, referred to as Cahiers Falleur, have recently been translated into English.
“It is not surprising that the first novitiate for the newly formed Oblates of the Heart of Jesus was a bit unusual,” writes David Schimmel in his introduction to Cahiers Falleur (before he retired, David Schimmel was part-time director of the Dehon Study Center in Hales Corners). “Fr. John of the Heart of Jesus, known throughout the city of San Quentin as Abbé Dehon, was the Novice Master, but he did not live in the Novitiate community. Rather, he commuted from his residence at St. John Institute to give no less than three conferences a week, ordinarily on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. Over the three years in which Fr. John of the Heart of Jesus served as Novice Master, there were first three, then twelve, then sixteen novices ranging in age from 18-50.
“Most of the novices were priests, and some taught morning classes at St. John Institute. This might explain why the daily schedule did not include manual labor, which would have been customary. Defending himself against the novices’ complaints about his lack of presence, Fr. John insisted that the Heart of Jesus was the real Novice Master. For most novices, the novitiate lasted for two years in order to facilitate acquired habits of virtue. ‘Otherwise,’ Fr. John observed, ‘it would take only an hour if vesting [with the habit] were enough to be holy.’”
A Strong and Generous Devotion
APRIL 2020 – The Dehon Study Center is making available a copy of a presentation given by David Schimmel to the local SCJ Mississippi community of St. Michael at their day of reflection on March 3, 2018. This presentation is entitled, “A Strong and Generous Devotion.”
David questions whether the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus has lost its energizing power, but then counters with the suggestion that for many people, the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus “is just too damn challenging.”
For Fr. Dehon, devotion to the Sacred Heart entails “strength, generosity, gentleness of love, and vigorous virtues.” In the context of community living, as spoken about in the Rule of Life 63-69, this spiritualty is put to the test. While it may be true that all the talk about community is just an unattainable dream, the apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, “The love of Christ urges us on” to try anyway. The spirituality of the Heart of Jesus roots us in our daily lives, reminding us that we can love an unseen God only by loving the people right in front of us.
Perhaps this reflection is particularly pertinent while the COVID-19 pandemic keeps everyone confined to close quarters.
The Social Writings of Fr. Dehon
JANUARY 2020 – The Dehon Study Center is making available two resources on the social writings of Fr. Dehon. The collection of his social writings is vast, comprising four volumes. In the English translation, the first three volumes are in both a print and digital edition. The fourth volume is only available in a digital edition.
Because it would take a significant amount of time to read all four volumes, these two resources aim to help you move through these writings in a selective manner, given personal interest and time constraints.
The first resource is, “A Guided Reading of the Social Works of Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ,” compiled by David Schimmel. This guide breaks down the reading of Dehon’s Social Works into 27 units of study, based on topic or focus. Several units take the reader to Dehon’s spiritual writings that reference the social reign of the Sacred Heart.
Other units include topics such as, “The Social and Political Leadership of the Church,” “Socialism and Capitalism,” “Social Action Among Youth,” and “Jews and Freemasons.” Each entry in this guided reading includes the page numbers in both the print and digital editions of the Social Works.
The second resource, “Directives for Social Justice” is a collection of short quotes taken from the first three volumes of the Social Works. These were compiled by Br. Leonard Zaworski, SCJ, in 2001, while he was ministering in India. This twelve-page document arranges these quotes by topic, including “The Service of the Church,” “Work for Social Justice,” “The Social Dimension of the Commandments,” and “Economic Justice.” Each quote cites the article from which it is taken, as well as the page number where it can be found in the print edition of the Social Works.
Click on the desired text to download:
Sacred Heart Devotion in Fr. Dehon’s Context and in our Context
JUNE, 2019 – For the month of June, the Dehon Study Center is making available a seven-page presentation, entitled, “Sacred Heart Devotion in Fr. Dehon’s Context and in our Context.” Given in 1993, by then Dutch Provincial, Piet Schellens, SCJ, it surveys Fr. Dehon’s image of the world, Church, and God, contrasts it with present-day images, and asks, “What has happened to the Sacred Heart?”
Interestingly, Schellens notes that the 19th century Church “wanted to re-evangelize the masses” because Church attendence had fallen off dramatically, religious ignorance and/or indifference was very great, and youth were left to themselves. Like other founders who responded to this need, Fr. Dehon incorporated into his Congregation elements from both active and contemplative religious life. As the author notes, both action and contemplation needed to be a hundred percent, and “all of us have grown up with the dilemma which of these weighed more heavily in our life.” Contemporary theology and biblical studies have turned to new paths and it is now commonly understood that community and prayer are at the service of the apostolate.
So, what has happened to the Sacred Heart? “Building a new world is the work of reparation,” Schellens states, “for the honor of God must be restored by removing conditions that degrade human beings… When God wills a new heaven and a new earth, and when he wants to give us a new heart, then the Heart of Jesus remains our great example.”
LENT 2018 – During the season of Lent, the Dehon Study Center is making available a presentation on “Conversion” that P. J. McGuire gave to the SCJ Formation House community in April 2001. Not sure that he had a personal conversion experience about which to speak, P. J. highlighted the experience of some of his “conversion heroes”—St. Paul, St. Augutine, St. ignatius of Loyola, and his own mother, who was a convert to Catholicism.
From Sts. Paul and Augustine, he learned that the “conversion moment” must always be preceded by a long process of discernment or followed by a lengthy time of integration. From St. Ignatius, he learned that a personal experience of God is the destiny of every human being. Reconsidering his original assertion that he never had a conversion experience, he recounts “a defining moment” in his life at age 13. His story includes “a young Frank Wittouck and a thin Tony Russo.”
He concludes his presentation by noting, “All genuine conversion is a response to the personal demand that we be true to the identity we are called to be as this ideal image of one’s self is disclosed to us in the depths of our conscience.
JANUARY 2018 – In recognition of National Migration Week [January 7-13, 2018], which the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated for nearly a half century, the Dehon Study Center is making available a recently translated article, “Immigration in the Writings of Fr. Dehon,” by Fr. Juan José Arnaiz Ecker, SCJ.
This nine-page essay [with an additional four pages of charts and footnotes] cites and contextualizes Fr. Dehon’s own words. “Migration for Dehon is fundamentally negative and painful. His analysis of the causes, consequences, and solutions has as its framework his own analysis of society, which he considers to be in crisis. This crisis appears in these four, specific areas: economics, labor, agriculture, and the middle class.”
Although the contemporary situation of world migration differs from that of Dehon’s time, it is interesting to note the unchanging reality of the human condition.
DECEMBER 2017 – The Dehon Study Center is making available a very readable, six-page reflection on the liturgical season of Advent. In giving this presentation to the SCJ community in Pinellas Park, P.J. McGuire made two major points.
First, more than remembrance, “Advent is our present and the Church is referring us to something that also represents a reality in our current Christian life,” namely, “that there are aspects of our lives that are untouched by Christ, and therefore, as yet, unredeemed.”
Second, “sickness and suffering can become a very personal Advent of our own—a visit by God who enters our lives and who wants to encounter each of us personally.” He explains, “We rebel against [illness] because there are so many important things we think we ought to be doing, and because illness seems meaningless. But this can be a moment in our life that belongs to God, a time when we are open to him and thus learn to rediscover our own selves.”