12 July 2021
12 Jul 2021

Revisiting Fr. Dehon’s “Pact of Love”

On the anniversary of the Congregation's foundation (June 28), Fr. Dehon's "Pact of Love" was published in several languages. With the exception of the original, the word 'oblates' has disappeared. The perplexities and observations of the director of the Centro Studi Dehoniani are a incentive to undertake an adequate updating. A linguistic, cultural and spiritual challenge.

by  Stefan Tertünte scj

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It was with great pleasure that I saw that on the occasion of the anniversary of the foundation of the Congregation (June 28) among the material proposed was also the ‘pact of love’. That small document found among Dehon’s clothes at the time of his death and which, for most authors, dates back to the first years of the congregation’s foundation. It is a small treasure, a vademecum in which Dehon put various intentions to which he wanted to be faithful throughout his life.

Reading the various translations, however, I realized that all the languages – except the original French – have replaced the expression “l’œuvre des Oblats de votre Cœur”, “the work of the Oblates of your Heart”, with other words: “work of the Priests of your Heart” or even in English “Congregation of the Priests of your Heart”.

I was perplexed and I share with the readers some brief observations:

The documentary situation is quite clear.  Consulting the manuscript, Dehon speaks clearly about the work of the Oblates.

We know how beloved and important it was for Dehon to be able to use the word ‘Oblates’ in the name of the Congregation. Even after the dissolution of the foundation in 1883 and after the new beginning, in the face of repeated clarifying opinions from the Holy Office, Dehon tried several times and in vain to take back the old name. Simply because for him being ‘Oblates’ was a matter of identity.

I suppose that the official translation of the original text is dated and no longer updated. Perhaps, but this is a personal hypothesis, the translations were made at a time in history when the word ‘oblation’ created difficulty and discomfort even among Dehonians. I remember a confrere of my generation repeating to me how impossible it would be to use the word ‘oblation’ in our day. And I am not unaware of how difficult it really is to find an adequate up-to-date translation.

Our Constitutions with respect to other terms and concepts have done a job of revising and updating our traditions, but in the case of the term “oblation” its meaning has not been altered. No. 26 invites us “to seek and to lead a life of union with the oblation of Christ, as the only thing necessary”. Exactly: to unite ourselves to a certain way of living, of loving, of giving ourselves up which finds its Dehonian icon in the open side of Christ – this and more is what the word ‘oblation’ refers to. This means asserting that within the Constitutions the term “oblation ” is a constitutive part of our charismatic patrimony.

Today – this is my hope – we have the opportunity to rediscover what is part of the Dehonian charismatic nucleus and what is expressed by the word ‘oblation’. The new generations of Dehonians perhaps do not have those linguistic difficulties that were present in the post-conciliar generation.

But the real challenge is whether beyond the use of the word we are today able to understand and say with new words – even familiar words – what is a pillar of our charismatic identity.

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