January 30, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Our Lord announced the foundation of the religious life in his answer to the young man who asked him what to do to be more perfect. “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me” [Matthew 19:21].
The religious state is a state of perfection, or at least a state striving for perfection. Our Lord points out the conditions: namely, to leave family and live in chastity, to renounce one’s possessions and live in poverty, and to obey our Lord or his representative. Our Lord calls those he destines to this state by a special and personal vocation. The religious vocation is a great favor; it is a manifestation of a choice, of a preference for our Lord and his guard of honor; it is knighthood in the Church.
Religious profession is, therefore, an honor; but it is also a serious act which should be prepared for and reflected upon, because it imposes duties and responsibilities. To make profession is to consecrate one’s self to God without partition or reserve, and to contract the obligation of following Jesus Christ by the practice of the evangelical counsels. These counsels are opposed to the three concupiscences which lead man to sin. They are, therefore, at the same time a preservative and a reparation.
The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which formally constitute the religious state, are common to all Institutes. However, there is a difference in their practical application in accord with the special end proposed by each Institute.
The Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus should understand that they are to attain the perfection proper to them by perfect observance of the regulations which determine for them the meaning, the import, and the practice of their vows in conformity with the end of their vocation. Their vows should be pronounced and fulfilled in the spirit of love and immolation proper to them.
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, Spiritual Directory of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Lived and Shared, contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
“How religious life helped me to appreciate SCJ spirituality” is the question that kept me worried for the past month. To tell the truth, this question never came to my mind. However, I must admit that it made me realize that the way of life is influenced by the ambiance in which we are raised.
This ambiance I dare call SCJ spirituality. It could be summarized by the four main quotes taken from the Gospel: “Thy Kingdom come, I am the servant, Here I come, and Let them be one.” For me they became the pole of attraction of my religious life.
Religious life brings people together to share their understanding of this very one pole of attraction and put it into action. Once we join the Club, we are bound by its laws. We are no more individuals but rather partakers in the beautiful adventure of building a world of love and peace.
This being said, my personal religious life seems to have been a stream of blessings throughout the years. I have been privileged to be appointed to communities living their vows in a family spirit. In most of the communities I found a mentor to teach and to lead me in the spirit of our common pole of attraction, the above-mentioned Gospel quotes. They also prepared me to take over from them some responsibilities, acknowledging my limits and incapacities. In such moments, it is good to feel the complementarity in religious life. Whatever one cannot achieve, somebody else will do it for him!
In my religious life I also learned that when “the call” comes, the reply must come fast: Here I come! So I did, without hesitation or doubt, leaving the rest to Holy Providence and to the Mercy of God. That is how I was led to the Congo where I shared life in a spirit of creative abandon. I served for 15 years in many different fields, trying to establish a climate of justice and peace in the population. This is incredible to say but, especially in hardships, I felt the reality of what alliance is! It is really amazing to see how the Lord works in a religious community! Our ways are not always His. During those years, I was arrested twice and then expelled from the country. Then I could really feel the support of the community. What words cannot express, faith does!
Along the years, the SCJ spirituality has been the lighthouse of my religious life and I appreciate every moment of it. It is now time to recommend my religious life to the great Mercy of God, especially for all the good things that I failed to do. Gratitude is not a word strong enough to cover all the graces that I received in my religious life.
J. Claude Bédard, SCJ
Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon’s favored image of God’s loving concern for all creation
In 1988, Claude Bédard, SCJ, with the sponsorship of the French Canadian Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, opened La Maison Dehon [Dehon House] as a hospice for persons living with AIDS. Over 19 years, 145 individuals called La Maison Dehon home. This ministry ended in 2007.
In this poster for La Maison Dehon, the simple green lines form the outline of a family home. The color is the sign of hope and the outline conveys the intention to host individuals living with AIDS within a family setting rather than at a hospital or hospice. The symbol of a heart figures prominently. The heart is rendered in purple, the color of sorrow, and in a graffiti style to suggest that persons living with AIDS, their families, and those caring for them are often treated as if they are on the margins of society. The large heart fills space both inside and outside of the house. Inside, love is expressed through individual attention and nursing care; outside, love beckons and supports family and friends who are affected by the virus.
Although highly unusual, this image can be seen as a representation of the Heart of Jesus, who always overflows the boundaries, whether healthy or unhealthy, that we create. Jesus’ heart is filled with sorrow for his passion that continues in those who suffer and whose burden is intensified by prejudice. Yet, his heart is also filled with unconditional love that he freely offers to every individual.
This image might also suggest the house that Fr. Dehon built: the Priests of the Sacred Heart. To the members of his community, he writes, “I beg of you as St. John did: let there be no division among us. Let us overlook everything in order to remain united. Let us endure offenses and little personal clashes patiently. All of us are brothers of the Savior and children of Mary. Let us love one another in the Sacred Heart.”
In their Rule of Life, the Priests of the Sacred Heart echo their founder. “We let ourselves be permeated with the love of Christ and we hear his prayer Sint unum [“that all may be one”]. We do our utmost to make our communities authentic centers of Gospel life, particularly by openness, sharing, and hospitality. The mark of its genuineness will be the simple way with which all strive to understand what each one has at heart.” [63-64]
This spirit made possible La Maison Dehon as a house where God’s love is incarnate. Elsewhere, the Rule explains, “With the grace of God we would like to bear prophetic witness with our religious life: by involving ourselves without reserve for the coming of a new humanity in Jesus Christ.” 
Prayer, hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
February 2, 2015, is World Day for Consecrated Life. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer all men and women who have consecrated their lives in the service of Christ, as well as those who are discerning a call to religious life. You may find the following prayer, composed by Br. Ray Kozuch, SCJ, to be helpful.
you have provided us
with priests, brothers, and sisters
throughout the history of your Church
to serve the poor,
to preach the Gospel,
and to journey with us
in our celebrations, our successes, and our losses.
Make us sensitive to the call to religious life
in our own hearts
and give us the courage to join you
in your ministry of love.
When we sense the call in others,
may we pray for them,
encourage them, and honor them.
May your kingdom come.
May you will be done.
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