The following are unpublished thoughts of Servant of God Isaac Hecker. This text is drawn from Hecker’s personal papers under the title, Notes on the Spiritual Life. It was written in July 1860, just before the election of Abraham Lincoln and the coming of the Civil War. These reflections are drawn from his personal notes and contain a great deal of practical advice on developing the spiritual dimension of your life. He begins by talking about finding God in the very nature of the work you do.
Our Lord does not tell us to close our eyes to the beauty of the world, rather he invites us to do the contrary, “Behold the lilies of the field. Among the greatest obstacles to the practice of virtue is the false notions which people entertain of its nature and purpose. The devil gains more souls by falsifying the truth and leading many to its rejection than almost any other device. Man’s head was meant for truth and his heart for good and if truth and goodness are presented in all their beauty and attractiveness it will be hard for man to resist. Our Lord employed things in the natural order to excite us to consider the supernatural. How anyone who reads Scripture can shut their eyes to this fact is strange.
True piety is not something foreign to the common duties of our daily life; it consists in performing these duties with an eye to God. Some people think that piety and devotion is somehow different from the ordinary duties of life and so they neglect them to the detriment of their souls and those around them. We seek for the occasions to practice virtue, to do something for God, and these occasions are to use an expression, right under our noses.
Servant of God Isaac Hecker begins his reflection by distinguishing between true and false piety. Because humankind is drawn towards goodness, truth and beauty, God uses these things to draw humankind towards Himself. God has created the natural to reflect the supernatural as we see in the Scriptures and he quotes from Jesus, “Consider the lilies of the field, as an example. Father Hecker notes that false spiritual direction rejects the beauty and goodness of nature, suggesting that somehow you have to reject what God has created in order to embrace the holy.
Father Hecker also notes that true piety is found in the decisions, obligations and ordinary events of our daily life. We find in our station in life the means to develop our spiritual lives. Piety and devotion are not different from our spiritual lives and to neglect this leads us down the wrong pathway and away from true holiness. These themes will be developed more completely in the weeks that follow.
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 D.C.