Dehonian Spirituality

Dehonian Spirituality

"We contemplate the love of Christ in the mysteries of His life and in the life of people. Nourished by our attachment to Him, we unite ourselves with His oblation for the salvation of the world."
Priests of the Sacred Heart, Rule of Life Number 77

Priests of the Sacred Heart > Dehonian Spirituality

Dehonian Spirituality

CLICK HERE to subscribe to the weekly Dehonian Spirituality e-publication. Mailed on Fridays, it includes prayers and reflections based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon. Text from the most recent Dehonian Spirituality appears below. 

June 30, 2017 


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

Dehon line drawing

People have tended to forget or to be indifferent to all the wonders of love that the God-Man has shown to them.  It was not enough that all these facts were recorded in the Gospels or made present again the Eucharist.  The people needed to be reawakened to this love.

Our Lord began this reawakening by revealing himself to a Benedictine abbess named Gertrude in the 13th century, but this revelation remained confined to the monasteries.  It was only in the 17th century that a humble nun of the Visitation convent, named Margaret Mary, received the authorization to make the devotion of the Sacred Heart known, and to work for its official acceptance in the worship of the Church and to prepare for its reign in the heart of individuals in the Church and in society.  When the Pope beatified Margaret Mary, he approved her mission.

What did our Lord want to present to us in this devotion?  He wanted to place before our eyes a visible sign, a glowing symbol of his love.  His holy body, united to his divinity, is worthy of adoration, and his Heart is the most noble part of his body.  It is worthy of special homage because his Heart is the most noble organ of his body, the source of his blood, the price he paid for our redemption, and, in a certain way, the seat of his affections and the source of all the mysteries of his love. 

But how is the Savior going to present this symbol of love to us?  Divine wisdom is going to inspire him to show his Heart like the rays of the sun.  What better analogy could exist between the human heart, the divine heart, and the sun in the sky?  If we turn to modern science, we will encounter the mind who discovered the secret movements of the human heart and the circulation of the blood.  It is quite remarkable, my friends, to read the account of modern science on the study of the heart. 

Dr. William Harvey has shown, “After the blood has gone to the various parts of the body, it cools and coagulates and becomes inactive.  Then it returns to its source, the heart, and there it retrieves its purity.  It finds its natural warmth and power there, like a treasure giving off a rich perfume, which it sends off again to all the organs of the body in a circular movement which depends on the beating of the heart.”

In this way the heart is the source of life and a kind of sun to the small human world, even as we say that the sun is the heart of the world.  It is the heart that moves the blood and gives it life.  When this divine organ nourishes, warms, and reanimates the blood it serves the entire body.  It is the basis of life and the source of everything.  As Dr. Harvey said, “The heart is the king of the human organism.”

Now, my friends, you can understand why Christ chose this symbol: it gave splendid expression to the workings of the Heart of Jesus and its appearance met the needs of the times.  This symbol constantly reminds us of all the Savior’s loving actions, his graces, his blessings, and his works.  The very sight of it enlightens us, excites us, and enlivens us.  This devotion will have the supernatural effect of ceaselessly leading us back to the source of all grace.

Finally, my friends, take note of the divinely chosen moment when this devotion was revealed to the world.  The spiritual life of the people, like the circulation of blood, was tending to become cold, inactive, and one could say, rotten under the harmful influence of godless philosophies, moral corruption, and Jansenist errors. 

Our spiritual life needed to return to the source of love to rekindle itself, just as the blood returns and is rewarmed by the heart.  The devotion to the Sacred Heart will bring about this wonderful effect.  It acts like the heart in the body, like the sun in the natural world: it warms and revives the spirits of those who understand it.  Faith in the love of God for us will bring us back to life, and with it, hope and charity will be reawakened.

Excerpt from, “The Sacred Heart,” a sermon delivered at the basilica of St. Quentin during Lent 1885



Heart of Christ: Fr. Dehon’s favored image of God’s loving concern for all creation

This 1966 mural is painted in the chapel where Margaret Mary Alacoque conversed with the Heart of Jesus in a series of apparitions in the 17th century.  While adoring the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar, she recounts that Jesus appeared to her “all resplendent in glory, with his five wounds shining like five suns…From all parts of his sacred humanity there issued flames, but above all from his adorable heart, which was like a furnace.”

Fr. Dehon was taken not only with the energy of this “visible sign placed before our eyes,” but also with its timing.  As a formidable antidote to “godless philosophies, moral corruption, and Jansenist errors,” this ball of fire, which is the Heart of Jesus, would warm, activate, and heal a weakened spiritual life.

In his social ministry, Fr. Dehon did not so neatly separate the spiritual from the material world, as he seemed to suggest in his writings.  Taking his lead, we might consider why devotion to the Heart of Jesus is more important than ever in our weakened material world.  The current “godless philosophy” seems to be “profit over people.”  The resulting “moral corruption” abandons the vulnerable poor to their lack of resources.  17th century Jansenism erred with misleading exaggerations that suggested a cold and exclusionary God; so it is with today’s “prosperity gospel.”

Authentic devotion to the Heart of Jesus collaborates with the divine to warm, activate, and heal a weakened world.  “Faith in the love of God for us will bring us back to life, and with it, hope and charity will be reawakened.”      

Image: Detail of the mural painted in the Chapel of the Apparitions, Paray-le-Monial, France, by Luc Barbier.



Reflection Questions: seeds for personal growth

In what personal circumstances did you need to be re-awakened to the wonders of love, which Christ has shown you by his life?

What is the visible sign—the glowing symbol of Christ’s love—that most warms and revives your spirit?

How is devotion to the Heart of Jesus calling you to respond to the godless philosophy of “profit over people?”


Oblation BW


Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers those who tend to forget or to be indifferent to the love that Christ has shown them.  You may find helpful the following prayer taken from a collection entitled, “Prayers to the Sacred Heart,” complied by the English Province [1972].

Lord Jesus Christ,
you spent your life
in the service of your Father.
Hence every moment of it
was dedicated to the welfare of people.
You taught us in word and deed
that God is the ultimate value
and that we can reach God
only by living for others.

When the soldier pierced your Heart,
draining it of its last drops of blood,
we were given a striking summary of your whole life:
your opened Heart tells us
of a self-sacrifice that knew no limits,
and of a love wide open to all people.

The blood and water which flowed from it are a symbol
of the grace your death has won for us—
especially the grace of the waters of baptism
and of your Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

We therefore pray you, Lord Jesus,
may this pierced Heart be for us
an inspiration to be truly dedicated,
committed to establishing your Kingdom among people.
May it also give us
the courage and confidence we need
in this difficult task.