31 May 2024
31 May 2024

Sint Unum & Reparation   

For Fr. Dehon, communion with God was the ultimate goal of his life. But it was realized in the struggle against injustice and in social commitment.

by  Dominic Loc SCJ

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With Father Dehon, the communion with God is his ultimate purpose in life. Therefore, “Sint Unum & Reparation” are the “mottos”, the “favorite maxim” and the “habitual disposition” by which Dehon expressed his deepest desire and lived throughout his whole life.

Note: The article come from the continental theological commissions of the congregation in preparation for the XXV General Chapter.

«May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me» (Jn 17, 21)

With Father Dehon, the communion with God is his ultimate purpose in life as he wrote:“I noticed that the saints generally had a motto that served to inspire them. For myself, I adopted, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ I could find nothing more suitable for solidifying and maintaining union with God.” Therefore, “Sint Unum & Reparation” are the “mottos”, the “favorite maxim” and the “habitual disposition” by which Dehon expressed his deepest desire and lived throughout his whole life.

Sint Unum, the last prayer of Jesus for his disciples before his passion and death, was one that Father Dehon loved very much. He meditated on it many times and expressed his desire not only his love for the Lord but also for his own followers.

A friend of the Sacred Heart must make the Sacred Heart live again in himself […] Mutual charity must thus give form to our life, as we live it with our brethren…Ah! In loving each other tenderly, we love the Sacred Heart which lives in us… we love each other so that the Heart of Jesus living in us, everything must be love, pure and tender love, because we must forget ourselves in order to live only on the Heart of Jesus, and the Heart of Jesus is only sweetness and mercy[1].

This prayer, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17, 11) which Jesus longs for his disciples to love one another as he loves his Father. Inspired by this longing of the Lord, Dehon was determined to fulfill it by keeping his commandment of love. He sought untiringly to show his love both for God and for his followers. He saw these as two sides of the same coin, unique but inseparable parts of the same charism. He lived out this “mutual charity” in his community, and often spoke of it as his favorite characteristic. He explained the reasons for his twofold love as follows:

I wish to love our Lord above all else, but I wish to love Him also in my brothers, because they are the price of His blood and because He loves them. I want to love them supernaturally and for the reason which the Heart of Jesus loved them, I want to love them for the love of our Lord and because they are His image[2].

He pointed out that “Devotion to the Sacred Heart must fulfill the desire of our Lord: that they may all be one as you are in me and I am in you, said Jesus to his Father”[3]. Sint Unum, therefore, was aptly chosen by Dehon to be a motto for his life and that of his followers. In this light, mutual charity among Christians, in unity and communion, is born from the very Heart of Jesus.  It was this prayer of Jesus for the disciples that inspired Dehon’s own prayer for his followers: «O my Savior, give us this grace of union, this spirit of union. The most suitable place for this union is your divine Heart. I have come to know that this union is the source of all spiritual life. From now on, I will make every effort to no longer be an obstacle to it»[4].

Father Dehon’s «Reparation as the Dehonian Communion» begins with God’s love for us, which is revealed in and symbolized by the Heart of Christ[5]. The pierced Heart of Jesus is the perfect reparation. From the pierced Heart, the world first sees the reign of a civilization of love. «For it is from the heart of Jesus, open on the cross, human beings are reborn in heart and animated by the spirit, one become prophets of love and servants of reconciliation for the happiness of human beings and the welfare of the universe»[6].

Dehon understood that reparation is first and foremost this holiness to which one is called as Christian, and especially as religious. One must profess to strive after holiness in perfect charity[7] as Jesus asked of his disciples: «You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect» (Mt 5, 48).

Dehon was sensitive to sin and social problems gave rise to the urgency for reparation. As a result, he urged his followers to do reparation, namely, respond to Christ’s love as the solution for sin and human misery by uniting in love and especially by participating in the work of reconciliation for the glory of God, thereby cooperating in his work of redemption.

Dehon saw that the pierced heart of Jesus accomplished the perfect reparation. Jesus offered his life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. He ended evils with his self-sacrificial love. Doing this, he achieved his Father will by establishing the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of love in the world. The pierced side of Jesus is therefore the ultimate source of devotion and love that brings peace and charity into society. Dehon was certain that the act of reparation was the appropriate remedy for social evils and sins.  He saw the intrinsic union between spirituality and social commitment:

It is necessary that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, begun in the mystical life of the soul, penetrate the social life of people. He will provide the best remedy for the cruel sicknesses of our moral world… Only He will reconquer the hearts of the masses, the hearts of workers, and the hearts of the youth[8].

Living the spirit of “Sint Unum and reparation as Dehonian Communion”, the spirit of unity, love and care for each other was the main goal of Dehon’s efforts to build up the «Reign of the Sacred Heart» in society. With a firm conviction that he had discovered the real roots of all social ills, namely, the lack of response to the love of God, Dehon worked untiringly to convince others that the only way to combat sins and social evils was by advancing justice and especially love, beginning with a total love for the Sacred Heart who longs for it.

Dehon believed that private devotions such as acts of reparation, prayer, immolation and oblation are among the most practical ways to overcome and heal the ills of society, ultimately bringing it closer to the image of kingdom of God.

The Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus must lead a life of “Sint Unum and Reparation as the Dehonian Communion”, one that welcomes the Spirit as a response to Christ’s greater love for us. This life would then have the power to transform the world because of its active participation in Christ’s work of redemption[9].

In a real sense, Dehon’s “Sint Unum and reparation” as seen in his teachings, writings and apostolic activities are all prophetic in nature.  Most of his ideas eventually found their echoes in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of subsequent popes.  Within the scope of this article, it would not be possible to delve into each one.  However, Dehon’s brilliant insistence that priests, and indeed all Church leaders, need to «go out of the sacristy and to the people» is a point repeated over and over again by the official teachings of the Church, most recently by those of Pope Francis himself. This is the call to share the Gospel in today’s world that the Holy Father wants all the priests: «Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice»[10]. In a prophetic way, Dehon already saw, years in advance, the need for the Church to go out to the peripheries, bringing the love of God that she draws from the Heart of His Son to all corners of society.

In a world of secularization and individualism today, where egoism and selfishness reign, the «Sint Unum and Reparation as the Dehonian Communion» appears to be a beacon of hope for those who want to respond to God’s love. There is no doubt that Dehon would espouse the view that his way is indeed the key solution to the problems and challenges that the Church finds herself dealing with in the world today. Without a true love based on the very love of the Lord, all human interactions would be essentially devoid of its very meaning and purpose.  The work of the new evangelization that Pope Francis is calling for, Dehon would contend, would not be possible without a proper core and foundation. This core, this foundation, this ultimate motivation, is found nowhere else but in the very person of Christ, the mystery of God’s love that became tangible among humanity. The «Sint Unum and Reparation as the Dehonian Communion», the way of love and Dehonian’s way, therefore, provides the key to reaching this core and rebuilding this foundation for Dehonian communion and for the Church today.

[1] L. Dehon, OSP II, 512-513.

[2] L. Dehon, ASC III, 203.

[3] L. Dehon, OSP V, 591.

[4] L. Dehon, OSP III, 486.

[5] Cfr. P.J. McGuire, Father Dehon: A Spirituality of the Heart, 35.

[6] P. Rebello, «Reparation: A Way to Happiness», Dehoniana 3 (2000), 39.

[7] Cfr. A. Bourgeois, Reading and Meditating the Constitutions of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, 53.

[8] L. Dehon, Le Règne, 2 (Fév. 1889).

[9] Cfr. Cst. 23.

[10] Evangelii Gaudium 24.

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