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09/01/2015

Europe - Mercy in the writings of Fr. Dehon

Towards the General Chapter 2015:
Contributions of  the European Dehonian Theological Commission

 

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Mercy
in the writings of Fr. Dehon

Fr. Stefan Tertuente, scj


"Merciful, in community, with the poor", this is the motto of our General Chapter. However in the literature of the Congregation there is little talk about mercy. In our Rule of Life, for example, “mercy” is not mentioned even once. This is very different than what is found in the writings of our founder, Fr. Dehon. If you go to the website www.dehondocs.it and apply the research function to the word “miséricorde” (mercy) you will find more than 700 instances of the word in the texts of Dehon. Obviously “mercy” is a word dear to the founder. If we want to know Dehon’s understanding of mercy we must read his spiritual writings, especially “La Retraite du Sacré-Coeur”, “Les Couronnes d’amour” and “Le mois du Sacré-Coeur”. In these texts Dehon doesn’t write as a theologian but as an expert in spiritual processes and dynamics. Many years ago Fr. Manzoni wrote about these texts noting that, “The most beautiful meditations are the ones on mercy."

In these texts Dehon is narrating a certain way of God’s being, his “mercy” being at the essence of it. He does it with the help of biblical stories; thus appear the lost sheep, the lost coin, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan, Saint Peter and Saint Thomas, and other witnesses of the mercy of God.

Dehon develops his vision of God, or more precisely, he traces his own experience of God: a God who is passionate to find and to encounter. A God, according to Dehon, who takes initiative, who goes after, a God who leaves well known places and people to find the one who does not recognize him anymore.

It is a God who welcomes and embraces unconditionally and who is capable of making a new beginning possible, beyond human expectations and possibilities.

Surely he would not be Dehon if he limited himself to only enjoy the beauty of mercy. Meditating on Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus, Dehon insists that we have to correspond to the mercy we have experienced and that we have “to practice mercy toward others."

Thus it is not surprising that Dehon concludes: "There is no other attribute of God which the Holy Scripture glorifies more than his mercy."

It seems that with the help of Dehon we still may learn a lot about the mercy of God.