August 5, 2013
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 titled, “How to be Happy,” that Father Hecker preached at the Paulist mother church in New York City, the Parish of St. Paul the Apostle, on New Year’s Day 1863. This sermon was published in a Paulist sermon collection in 1864.
You will find God
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 Father 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.
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.