Dehonian Spirituality includes a monthly reflection and prayer based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians).
Reflections from Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Leo Dehon truly and literally invested everything in his works and especially in the Congregation he founded. When, in 1883, the Oblates of the Sacred Heart were dissolved by the Vatican—an episode in the Dehonian tradition remembered as “Consummatum est” [It is finished!]—the bishop of the diocese of Soissons, Bishop Thibaudier, addressed the Holy Office and spoke of “success, existence of a college—founded in 1877 by Dehon, who assumed the risks and financial dangers—a college that today counts almost 300 students.
“The bishop, for lack of financial resources, is limited to offering what is possible…The diocese has never had such an institute of Christian education for young people destined for lay life. Dehon has a patrimony of about 300,000 francs, largely invested in this work” [Letter of Bishop Thibaudier to the Holy Office, 1884]. In other words, without the financial resources of Dehon, St. John’s College cannot exist. Shortly after, and at first sight by surprise, the Vatican allows the “resurrection” of the Congregation as a diocesan institute with a new name.
With the Patronage of St. Joseph [St. Joseph’s Youth Center] dedicated to young workers, St. John’s College, and Sacred Heart House in St. Quentin, the Congregation started from scratch, even economically speaking. Land, buildings, and furniture had to be bought or rented. Only with the passing of the years a network of benefactors, the patrimony of other confreres [fellow members of the Congregation] and other sources contributed to the financing of the Congregation.
In the first decades, however, it is above all Leo Dehon himself—and his family—who lays the foundations of the Congregation financially. This happens not without creating conflicts with the same family members. “I had to sell my property of Haie Maubecque to my brother to make money. Mr. Lecot goes back on his commitment and obliges me to pay him for the garden of the Sacred Heart House. I gave him a piece of land that my father valued at 72,000 francs—for this my brother reproached me harshly—I receive a very stern letter from my brother concerning the property of Wignehies that I sold; I offer this humiliation for the reign of the Sacred Heart.”
Guiseppe Manzoni, the great biographer of Leo Dehon, calculates that the founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus invested approximately 800,000 francs in the works of the Congregation. Presently, this would correspond to approximately three million Euros. This says a lot about the financial resources of the Dehon family, as well as underlining the economic importance of Fr. Dehon for the Congregation. In the same way, it is a further testimony of how Dehon really gave everything—and everything to the Congregation—for his dream of the work of the Sacred Heart.
Towards the end of his life Dehon recounts, “My family comes to visit me…I explain to them that my works have absorbed all my possessions and that they cannot wait for any important legacy on my part. My niece answers me with nobility that my works are worth more than an inheritance for the honor of the family and deserve divine blessings.”
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers the benefactors of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Traditionally, the Congregation prayed twice daily for its benefactors: after the noon meal and at Night Prayer. You may find helpful these two short prayers, taken from The Community Prayers of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart .
Let us pray for our benefactors.
Lord, be pleased to reward with eternal life
all who do good to us for your name’s sake.
the generous grantor of pardon
and the lover of humanity’s salvation,
we ask your clemency
for the brethren of our Congregation,
our relatives, and benefactors,
who have departed from this life.
Grant that, through the intercession
of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin,
and of all your saints,
they may attain to the communion
of everlasting happiness.
Through Christ our Lord.