Spiritual Basics: A Hecker Reflection

September 3, 2013

Spiritual Basics: A Hecker Reflection


Here is a reflection from the 1854 notebook of Father Hecker. It contains thoughts, stories and sayings that he collected for retreat material and spiritual direction:


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It is the will of God that we should leave undone what we cannot do without trouble. There is a point in the spiritual life when God does most for us when we do the least for ourselves. There are two shoals against which we may make spiritual shipwreck: self-activity and idleness. Freedom of spirit will guide us safely between these. For without interior freedom there can be no fidelity to divine grace … for this liberty is of God. As Paul writes in Romans (8:15) “For you have not received a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship whereby we cry Abba Father.”

All that the soul can ask, and what ought surely to be granted, is to follow faithfully the invitations of grace and the impulses of God’s Spirit. If the soul is guided by the Holy Spirit, it would not do the least thing contrary to faith or the church, for we are taught inwardly by the Holy Spirit and outwardly by the holy Church in the same grace.


Response: Father Paul Robichaud, CSP

There are so many forms of Catholic spirituality, it can be hard to choose a particular form to practice. There are classic traditions of spirituality such as Benedictine, Franciscan, Carmelite, Redemptorist and Ignatian. There are new approaches from movements like Opus Dei, Focolare, San Egidio, Communione e Liberatione and the Neocatechumenate. In the richness of our Catholic faith, just where do we begin to develop a spirituality to guide our prayers and actions?

Servant of God Isaac Thomas Hecker goes back to basics. Christian spirituality begins with the individual soul’s encounter with God. Jesus has give us the extraordinary gift of calling God our Father who has given us in our creation the further gift of interior freedom which allows us to respond to the invitations of God’s grace. Use these gifts, says Father Hecker, and if your general conduct is attuned to the spirit of God or if you work at a specific form of spirituality and it draws you closer to God, than be assured you are on the right path. 

He goes on to say that two mistakes people make in the spiritual life is attempting to do too little or too much. The answer lies somewhere in between the two. Father Hecker reminds us that our spiritual lives are a living relationship with God, sometimes God calls us to act and sometimes God invites us to stop and be still. It is in our living with God that the dynamics of faith grow guided by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we might take a lesson from Father Hecker and examine just how we doing in our response to God’s grace in our lives. Does our present practice draw us closer to God? Are we doing too much or too little? Use these the end of the summer to deepen your relationship to God.









About this series

Father Paul Robichaud, CSP, is historian of the Paulist Fathers and postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. 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 Robichaud at 202-269-2538.


If you would like to contribute to Father Hecker’s cause for canonization, please click here.