Waiting for the Light
Leave much to God’s secret ways. When hearing a confession on the missions, and when about to give absolution, I used to say to myself about the penitent, well no doubt God means to save you, poor fellow, or he would not have given you the grace to make this mission. But how he will save you, considering your bad habits I just can’t see, but then this is none of my business.
Leave much to the natural or acquired inclinations. “It is vain to rise up before the light” (Psalm 127). When God shows the way, you will see, and no amount of peering in the dark will bring the sun over the hills. Pray for light but don’t’ move an inch until you get it. When it comes, go ahead with all your might.
What must one do in order to favor the reception of the Holy Spirit and be faithful to the Spirit’s guidance when received? First, receive the sacraments, these divine channels of grace. One can scarcely persevere in living in the state of grace who does not regularly receive Communion. Second, pray, above all the highest form of prayer, the Mass; then meditation and vocal prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours and your own devotional prayer. Third, read spiritual books every day, especially the Bible, the Lives of the Saints and works of spirituality. But in all of this, pay attention to that steady impelling force underneath these outward things; the inner and secret promptings of the Holy Spirit, this hidden inspiration. Cherish that above all, be obedient to it and seek in the meantime good counsel wherever it is likely to be had.
Trust in your inner inclinations. Father Hecker was not deeply interested in souls who either by temperament or training needed minute and continuous guidance in the spiritual life: to him they seemed to exert so much energy wearing a harness that they had no strength left to pull the wagon. But he would not interfere with them; he knew it was of little avail to try and change them once their actions had become habitual; and he realized that there were some people who just could not get along without them. He was extremely tolerant and if it proved useful to them, then they were well-meaning souls at best. Self-imposed penances, self-assumed devotional practices Hecker mistrusted. He was convinced that the only way to succeed in the spiritual life and succeed perfectly was when the inner attraction was either too powerful or too peaceful to be other than God calling us, or one pointed out by the Church authorities.
When Father Hecker was asked for advice on matters of conscience his answers were generally quick and always simple. Yet he often would refuse to answer without time for prayer and thought. He would say, “ I have no light on this matter; you must give me time.” And sometimes he would refuse to answer altogether for the same reason. One of the things that often annoyed him was when he would speak about the guidance of the Holy Spirit and have people respond with blank silence and stupid wonder, treating his words as beyond the reach of ordinary mortals, intricate in its rules, mystical and visionary. For Father Hecker there was only one simple method, with a minimum of rules, useful for all, and readily understood.