Father Leo John of the Heart of Jesus Dehon. Founder and first Superior General (June 28, 1878 – August 12, 1925). He was born on March 14, 1843 in La Capelle (France). He was ordained in Rome on December 19, 1868. He wrote the Constitutions on July 31, 1877 and made his first profession on June 28, 1878, the founding date of the Institute. He died in Brussels on August 12, 1925 and was buried in the church he founded, San Martino in San Quentin (France).
Circular Letter of Bishop Joseph Laurent PHILIPPE
on the Death of Fr. Leo Dehon: 23.08.1925
Let us consider the supernatural sources where this energetic sense of duty and this industrious finesse of heart [Fr. Dehon] were nurtured. It seems to me the spiritual doctrine and consequently the foundation of the interior life of our Très Bon Père can easily be reduced to a life of union with Our Lord.
The illness of our saintly Founder and more particularly the endless sleepless nights were but one continual prayer. This prayer became more ardent and more suppliant as the Holy Eucharist was brought early in the morning to the venerable sick man. On the first days of his illness, it was a great sacrifice for him not to be able to receive holy communion, so much so that on the first Friday he could stand it no longer and asked with insistence to communicate, depriving himself of all liquid until he had received the sacred host.
His favorite words which he repeated with his customary vivacity were: “Jesus is all, the friend; bring me my Jesus”. These exclamations were but the echo of his soul’s vivid desire to be united with the Master; thus his nights became a continual spiritual communion, an uninterrupted preparation for the reception of the Divine Guest. Near his bed, he had a little postcard placed there representing the well-known picture by Ary Scheffer: St. John resting on the bosom of Jesus. Pointing to this picture he used to say to his visitors: “Behold my all, my life, my death, and my eternity”. These sentiments which never left the venerated sick man, are they not both the proof and the manifestation of a profound and fervent interior life?
The constant disposition of the Heart of Jesus was to do the will of His Father: to accept completely the will of God was also the intimate disposition which dominated the soul of our Reverend Father General.