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April 7, 2017
Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is all good and filled with love for us. He must, then, sympathize with our miseries. St. Paul affirms this when he says, “For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities” [Hebrews 4:15]. The Sacred Heart sympathizes with all our infirmities, spiritual and corporal, with infinite tenderness. He suffered more from them than we do.
This generous Heart forgets himself; he has no concern with his own sufferings, in order to think of ours. He himself tells us this when he says to the women of Jerusalem, “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” [Luke 23:28]. That is, “Think rather of your unhappy state than of my sufferings, since I suffer more from your miseries than from my own sorrows.”
Infinite joy co-existed in the Sacred Heart with the infinite sorrow that he had for our sins and for our other miseries. The sorrow resulting from compassion and the joy that comes from union with the Sacred Heart ought likewise to exist simultaneously in us. If we are united to the Heart of Jesus, we ought always to find in this union a depth of sweet joy that will continue through our sufferings.
I will have a boundless confidence in the mercy of the Heart of Jesus. In my compassion for sinners and the afflicted, I will invoke the Heart of Jesus without hesitation and will expect great graces from him.
Crowns of Love for the Sacred Heart, 5th Mystery, 1st Meditation
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
As I was cleaning my bookshelf, I came across a book which I kept because it is one of those books that you can pick up and read another time and feel as if you are reading it for the first time. I have read it several times, usually when I am discouraged or overwhelmed. The pages are starting to fall out of the binding! The book is Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy (2002, Orbis Books). She has worked with refugees in the Romero House Community in Toronto for over 25 years.
About 8 years ago, our parish was approached by the archdiocese to sponsor a refugee family. In Canada, this means being financially responsible for a family for one year and helping them with settlement activities. At the time, our parish council had several items on its agenda. We were preparing a parish directory with photos of all the parishioners so we could connect the names with the faces of the members of our church. There was a major fundraising campaign underway to do some repairs on our aging church structure. The parishioners also were aging and becoming fewer it seemed, resulting in volunteer fatigue. The same people doing the same thing. I was sitting on the parish council to give a voice to the young families in the parish.
Julie was thanked for her presentation and commitment to the refugees. After she left, the discussion did not go so well. There were several excuses as to why we could not entertain the possibility of sponsoring a refugee family; it cost too much money, there are not enough volunteers, we haven’t done this and we are not sure what we are getting ourselves into, and this is going to be a lot of work.
I was frustrated! I felt like our church was too focused inward on our own selves and not outward on those in need. One day I was venting with a friend. I said to her, “Here we are taking pictures of ourselves and fixing our house. What does that look like to someone on the outside looking in at us?” She recommended the book by Leddy. With the support of our parish priest, the conversation at the next parish council meeting was turned around to “Should we?” And “How?” We have been grateful ever since.
Our parish has learned many things from sponsoring four families since Julie’s first visit. Sponsorship formed a ministry that allowed us to engage in our faith in a range of practical ways. Some parishioners gave financially or donated goods no longer needed. Others have taken an active role in the lives of the families assisting with things we take for granted; navigating enrollment in government services, finding a doctor or other health care providers, language tutoring, helping them find jobs or buy their first car. Each of us has our own skill set and we share in our own way. During the liturgy, we include timely prayers for refugees and migrant persons. On occasion, it may even be touched upon in a homily. Two of the families participate in our parish and they are a visible reminder to us that we are created for a reason, our lives have a purpose and we are all connected.
Sponsorship allows me to approach almsgiving with a grateful attitude. I am grateful that my mind was open to learning about refugees and migrants when God, through Julie, knocked on my door. It has given me the strength to make changes in small ways and not be overwhelmed with the large scale problems in this world. I am grateful that my heart was opened to the face of God; the friendship of the refugee families. My family has grown to include 7 more brothers and sisters and 11 nieces and nephews. I am grateful that God has blessed my hands and allowed me to use my gifts and talents to give hope to these families.
Karen Mahoney, Member of the North American SCJ Migration Committee, Ottawa, Canada
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal growth
What are your spiritual and corporal infirmities with which the infinitely tender Heart of Jesus sympathizes?
On a feeling level, what’s the difference between the questions, “Can I?” and “How can I?”
How is your faith engaged in practical [i.e. beyond the spiritual] ways?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers the faith communities that sponsor refugee families. You may find helpful the following Oblation Prayer taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
you have shown us
the thoughts of your heart by saying,
“Whoever is thirsty, come to me,
and whoever believes in me, drink,
for streams of living water
shall flow from my heart.”
Make us more like you.
Give us a new heart
and put a new spirit within us,
that we may stand open and available
before God and all people.
Make use of who we are and what we possess
and so transform us into your image,
that in you and with you
we may renew the face of the earth.