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Father Hecker's Spiritual Writings


The Power of the Spirit in Us:

We are once born of the Spirit we shall be led by it in all reforms we do and to abstain from all things which are a hindrance, an obstruction to the full and complete harmonious life of the Spirit in us. And he who cannot see the enemies of the Spirit which he indulges, only proves his own blindness consequent on his faithlessness, for there is no virtue which the Spirit does not teach if we would hear its whispering voice in our hearts. The miser is an outward example of what the Christian should cheerfully do from the Spirit of God living within. What does not the miser do for his God, Mammon? Should not the Christian be willing to do the same for his God, Love and Wisdom? Ah, would only Christians take the example of the miser in his abstinence, in his sacrificing all things to the one object. Do for the establishment of Christ's Kingdom upon Earth what he does for money. (Diary, November 1, 1843)

On Divine Guidance in Life:

Humbly and freely I confess with a deep sense of humility that my labour is useless and my ability to benefit or accomplish any thing in the view of the world Christian or worldly is daily becoming to me fainter and fainter. The Spirit which guides and controls me I have no disposition to rebel against but would meekly submit to its supreme and perfect guidance and do feel that in this my life, light, and love is the greatest, however small and insignificant it may seem to the world, and in reality it may be. It is all that I can be, and attempt to be more would end in making me less. It would seem that I am doing very little indeed here, but this is not criterion for what I feel conscious, of what I feel is being done for me, and through me, and, if this be a delusion, how to awaken myself from it is to me unknown. O, I would submit to be guided by a little child, be willing to obey a stranger in the street, to do anything that Spirit permitted me to do it, but unless so, there seems nothing so impossible for me to do as to disobey it. I have no fear, but that a holy pure trust in God will do more than any other, than all other efforts, have the power of doing. (Diary, May 30, 1844)

Fidelity to the Spirit's Guidance:

Surely all things in the Holy Church are good; but good when we keep in view the aim of all things -- the bringing of the soul nearer and near to God and in more perfect union with Him. What does this for our soul, we should be faithful to, and not be led astray by taking up anything else. Perhaps my love for simplicity, or sincerity, in devotion, is too strict for many souls. Let each soul study the way in which the Holy Spirit attracts it, be faithful to Him that attract, and not depart on any account from it. Fidelity to the "solicitations: of God's grace, recollection in order to obtain this knowledge, and mortification, purity of heart, in order to remove whatever may hinder the operation of grace in the soul -- Voila tout!

What you say of the sacrament of Penance seems most true. It is a miracle of grace, no less for priest than for penitent. Nowhere and in no function, it seems to me, does the priest represent Our Lord in all His Divine character so literally as in this Holy Sacrament. It is indeed a wonder how two souls, entire strangers to each other, can at once be knit into holy bonds of friendship, so close, so sincere, so sacred.

Sometimes when I speak to the souls in this Holy Sacrament, I realize the words of Our Lord to be literally true: "He that heareth you, heareth Me." For it seems to me that I only the passive, yet conscious organ of His Divine voice to their souls. (Letter to Mrs. King, March 25, 1863)

Renewal of the Christian Life:

Religious institutions repeat the history of the Church. They start from a Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit. Placing souls, thus more and more under the immediate guidance of the Divine Spirit will have far reaching and practical results. An advantage to the soul being guided immediately by the divine light, it will increase individual action, liberty and energy. They will take the direction as the natural leaders of all the great enterprises of society and embracing also in their view and actions the whole world.

An advantage to the priesthood freeing it from the care and solitude of minute and over direction of souls. Thus priests will have the leisure to devote themselves to the study of theological science and solution of the great problems of the age. Freed from all entanglements of family relations by the grace of their vocation and placed in intimate relation with the universal interest of the Church whose house is the whole world and whose interest is the whole human race, who are better calculated by their very position to study and solve the religious, intellectual and social problems of their age and give further impulse to every true progress? The priesthood will become what it ought always be, the channel of light and inspiration to the world.

These institutions will be first to practice what they teach to others -- for ordinarily the power of a preacher depends on the correspondence of his own life to what he teaches -- by increased attention and fidelity of its members and greater reliance for strength on the inspirations and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This will develop in their members greater activity of the intelligence and increased energy of will and spontaneity of life. These qualities render them attractive and popular everywhere thought the world. Christianity was not intended to be confined in its actions exclusively to those virtues which will secure the soul's salvation; it was intended to exercise and develop all moral virtues and make great men, great Christian heroic men. Its chief aim is to sanctify the soul by the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. It was not its primary work to free men from sin, this was a condition to the result.

By a sublime synthesis of the natural and supernatural, of the union of the most thorough manhood with the most exalted faith, of the most perfect liberty of the human will, with the action of Divine grace, they will make manifest the highest ideal of the Christian life and character. They will know how to secure both at the same time, salvation and manhood, humility and dignity, faith and science, ante and post mortem happiness, obedience and liberty, outward act with inward guidance, perfect intelligence, republicanism and catholicity in synthesis, natural and supernatural in one. For perfect God and perfect man in one personality, hypostatic union, constituted Christ, so he who unites the perfect action of Divine grace with perfect operation of human nature in one personality is a complete Christian. A saint is a man who is prompted in all his actions by the divine instinct of the Holy Spirit, a divine-man!

By the sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Spirit communicates Himself to the essence of the soul and substantially dwells within it as in His temple. To this indwelling divine presence is attached certain virtues, gifts and privileges which are infused therewith into the soul. It is by the exercise of these dispositions called habits or virtues and the cooperation with the movement of the Holy Spirit in the soul that the soul is sanctified. Sanctification is nothing else than the soul acting habitually by the instinct of the divine ideal, the Holy Spirit.

The first of these habits or dispositions infused into the soul relate it directly to God and are therefore called theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity. These being the proximate means of uniting the soul to God, all other exercises whatever of the spiritual life is to be directed to their perfection.

The next are the intellectual and moral virtues -- intelligence, science, wisdom and prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice; the four latter are the moral or so called cardinal virtues. The object of the practice of these virtues is to bring the passions, appetites, the will to obey promptly the dictates of reason.

The next in order are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are wisdom, intelligence, science, counsel, piety, fortitude, fear. The object of these gifts is to render reason prompt obeying and following of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

These virtues and gifts are dispositions and must be practiced and cooperated with to a greater or less extent by every adult, to attain the supernatural end for which he was created. Such is the teaching of the angelic Saint Thomas. By the faithful practice of these virtues and docility to the Holy Spirit, man is rendered, as far as this is possible, perfect as his heavenly Father is perfect. While at the same time is established, the kingdom of heaven or God in the soul. The kingdom of God in the soul consists in the possession , to a certain degree of perfection, of the beatitudes. These are purity of heart -- the sight of God; the thirst for justice -- its fullness; peacemaker -- children of God; merciful -- receiving mercy; meekness -- inheriting the earth; suffering persecution -- great reward; mourn -- they shall be comforted; poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. These beatitudes terminate as flowers do into fruits of the Holy Spirit -- to wit, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity; goodness; longanimity; meekness, faith, modesty, continence and chasitity, (December 1875)

The Holy Spirit and a New Era:

The increased action of the Holy Spirit, with a more vigorous cooperation on the part of the faithful, which is in process of realization, will elevate the human personality to an intensity of force and grandeur productive of a new era to the church and to society -- an era difficult for the imagination to grasp, and still more difficult to describe in words, unless we have recourse to the prophetic language of the inspired Scriptures. (1886: The Church and the Age, pp. 39-40)