ABOUT THE CHURCH - SERVANT OF GOD ISAAC THOMAS HECKER
Isaac Thomas Hecker was born in New York City on December 18, 1819, the third son and youngest child of John and Caroline (Freund) Hecker. Ordained a Redemptorist priest in 1849, he founded the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in New York on July 7, 1858. The society was established to evangelize both believers and non-believers in order to convert North America to the Roman Catholic Church. Father Hecker sought to evangelize Americans using the popular means of his day, primarily preaching, the public lecture circuit and the printing press. He founded the monthly publication, "The Catholic World," in 1865.
Father Hecker's spirituality centered on the action of the Holy Spirit upon the soul and the need to remain attentive to the prompting of the Spirit in the great and small moments of life. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Father Hecker labored to establish a dialogue between faith and culture, which he believed would lead to an American Catholicism whose vitality and optimism would transform the world.
In the latter years of his life, Father Hecker suffered suffered with dark nights of the soul that varied in intensity; this was combined with the physical problems of a weak heart and leukemia. While emotionally and physically overcome at moments, Father Hecker remained faithful through his sure belief in the Holy Spirit.
"God is now visiting me with the profoundest desolation of spirit. Yet I never knew that God would permit me to come so near to Him and love Him as I have," Father Hecker wrote.
On December 22, 1888, as the Paulist community gathered around his bed in prayer, Father Hecker raised his hand, making the Sign of the Cross in blessing, and died.
You will find God
August 2, 2013
From Hecker’s Sermon Collection
Servant of God, Father Isaac Thomas Hecker CSP is the founder of the Paulist Fathers. This second series of Hecker Reflections are primarily drawn from his sermon collection. The following reflection is taken from a sermon entitled, “How to be Happy,” that Father Hecker preached at the Paulist Mother Church in New York City, the Parish of Saint Paul the Apostle on New Year’s Day 1863. This sermon was published in a Paulist sermon collection in 1864
The soul is created for God, its happiness consists in the possession of God, and reason as we will, it is no one’s fault but our own, if we fail in obtaining God. The aim of religion is to solve the dark problems of life and to place man in the possession of God. Some imagine that it is impossible to obtain satisfactory solutions to the mysteries of life. Religion appears as a form of delusion, “the pious prayers of a few imaginative men.” They have no idea that religion is based in reality on sound evidence and rational convictions; convictions that will bear the test of right reason, whose depth will increase according to one’s sincere and impartial investigation. Were we asked to prove the reasonableness of one’s religion, we would point out the fact, that in no subject of investigation can a man obtain so deep and lasting convictions as that of religion. They are deeper and stronger than death and more lasting than time. No object demands the right exercise of one’s intelligence more than religion. Unbelief in many cases is due to the neglect of examining its evidences or the lack of courage to believe in the conclusions of one’s own intelligence. It is the ignorance peculiar to the mind-set of our day that makes people think that religion is without reality. Just as some people have no ear for music or eye for color. Treat religion fairly and it will enlist all the energies of affections of your entire being. You will find what the soul always and everywhere and in all things seeks; you will find God. A
Response from the Rev. Paul Robichaud CSP:
Servant of God Isaac Hecker talks about “soul care.” He reminds us that the principle purpose of the soul, “always and everywhere and in all things” is to seek out God. Hecker teaches that to know God and therefore following from this, to discover your place in God’s universe, is the way to happiness. Father Hecker admits that there are a number of things that bring us temporary happiness, but these things pass. If we truly want to be happy we need to experience God present in our lives and God at work in our very being. When we realize that we have a role in God’s plan to redeem the world, and that God has a plan for each of us in His Providence; then God’s light begins to shine into the mysteries of our lives and we can find ourselves at peace, no matter what stress or difficulties we face. In this last segment of his sermon on happiness, Father Hecker says that one reason why people are so unhappy with their lives is that they ignore their souls and pay no attention to the signs around us that manifest the presence of God. Part of our culture does not take God seriously. For these people, believers are characterized as having overactive imaginations. Faith in their view has no substance. Or sensing that there may be some substance there, they are simply afraid to give it an honest look. By ignoring the way to God, they miss the path to happiness.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington, DC. Publishing and disseminating the writing of Servant of God Isaac Hecker is the work of the Office for Hecker’s Cause If you have asked Father Hecker to pray for you or another person who is ill and you believe something miraculous has happened, please phone Father Paul at 202-269-2538