How many of us have an erroneous view of the object of our present life? When there are trials, afflictions and sorrows; we seek to escape from them or get rid of them. The life of a Christian upon the earth should be free of all that gives pain and trouble and accompanied instead with health, joy and uninterrupted flow of delights. This is a most false view of the Christian life. It is more like that of a non-believer whose does not look for happiness beyond this world.
The essence of the Christian life in this world is one of probation, merit and trial. By our being exercised by these virtues that we are made fit for heaven. Christian perfection is obtained through faithful performance of the common duties of everyday life. These duties are imposed upon us by God himself. Our minds and bodies with all of their instincts, powers and organs are designed expressly for their performance and fulfillment. Society (that is the church and state) depend upon their right and faithful performance for their welfare and prosperity. God has written these duties in so plain and large characters in our mental, moral and physical constitution, so that no one can ignore them. God has so constituted human nature that man’s moral nature finds one of the sources of the greatest satisfaction and delight in the fulfillment of these duties of everyday life.
Christian perfection comes about for each of us not through great heroic actions that are performed by both the martyrs and saints, but rather through the small common duties of everyday life. Servant of God, Father Hecker firmly believed in God’s Providence – God’s will for our lives. The place that each of us found ourselves at any moment of our lives was the place that God had brought us to, in fact. If we remain attentive to God’s voice, God will arm, strengthen and protect us and keep us from harm. In turn, if we are where God wants us to be at a specific time and place, so no matter what comes about to challenge our faithfulness, God will give us the strength to endure.
Father Hecker takes this a step further. The growth of a Christian toward perfection involves not running away from the challenge or difficulty but going through the experience. “The essence of the Christian life,” says Father Hecker is one of probation, merit and trial.” We have to suffer through the most difficult moments of our lives but we don’t do it alone for God goes through that experience with us. Hecker quotes Saint Philip Neri, another great Paulist patron. Neri says, “Paradise is not for corwards.” “A Christian is a raw recruit for heaven. We drill – prepare for battle on earth If we take on challenges or attempt to battle evil outside of God’s will for our lives, we will fail. With God we can do almost anything but without God’s plan and spirit we can do very little.
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.