Confidence in God: A Hecker Reflection
This is the twenty-second in a series of previously unpublished reflections from the 1854 spiritual notebook of Paulist Founder, Servant of God Father Isaac T. Hecker. The reflection series is being made pubic in conjunction with Father Hecker's cause for canonization. Father Paul Robichaud, CSP, Paulist historian and postulator for Father Hecker’s cause for sainthood, offers a response to Father Hecker’s reflection.
Introduction by Father Paul Robichaud, CSP
Let me briefly introduce these passages from Servant of God, Father Isaac Hecker’s Notebook as they are a little longer than usual. Father Hecker was known for his enthusiastic optimism. He had great hopes for the Catholic Church in America, for his own community – the Paulists – and for individuals to whom he ministered as priest. His optimism was based on two basic beliefs: the providence of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul. God’s providence is the context of Hecker’ confidence. God had a plan in creating us, which gives our lives meaning. God’s plan extends into the present and in the place God has waiting for us as Lord of the future. God’s care for us is found in all the stages of our lives – past, present and future. But in our present Father Hecker reminds us that although our discipleship may be difficult, through baptism and the sacraments, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We can have confidence in God because God is not only present to us but within us,
Confidence in God: A Hecker Reflection
How can one doubt that the providence of Almighty God watches over us when we consider for a moment where we were a few years ago and where we are today? Who has caused this change but the Almighty, the Most High in strength and goodness? What has been our guide? What has been our greatest consolation but the testimony of conscience in following faithfully and disinterestedly the voice and grace of God’s will.
This still is our hope and our consolation, the testimony of a good conscience. If we are deceived, where then, is truth to be found? It will go well for us in our last hour, if we shall be able to say, “O Lord I have with the help of Your grace, earnestly and sincerely desired to be faithful to You; have mercy on me, Your will be done.”
The more helpless matters are, so much the more should we trust in God. Why? Because God has created us. God has created us out of nothing, moved by his goodness alone. For the nature of goodness is to expand, to express itself, it surrounds us to make us happy. Every workman loves the works of his own hands.
When we face spiritual darkness, dryness in prayer, the reason for this is our lack of faith, our forgetfulness of God’s goodness. The cause of our mistrust and lack of confidence is the devil. He tempts us with the presumption that the way to heaven is not so difficult and that mortal sin is not that bad and that you can make a good confession on your deathbed. But the life of faith is difficult.
Our confidence should increase with the rage of the storm and our joy should be greatest when danger is present; because God is our God and the protector of all who trust in him. It will be so when our hope is not in ourselves but in God the Most High. He orders all things with power and disposes of them with gentleness. We must not look to humankind but to the will of God which as Saint Alphonsus (Liguori) says, sets all thing to rights. God will clothe us more beautifully than the lilies, feast us more sumptuously than the birds, esteem us to be of more value than the sparrows, and will not forget all of our wants when a hair on our head falls not to the ground without His notice. He will prepare for us a true path when we are lost and in times of trouble be our defender.
Whatever be our difficulties, our trials, pains or problems, we should chant with faith, hope and joy, “Victory, victory, victory” for we are the children of the living God, the servants of the Most High. “The just shall live forever,” says the book of Wisdom, “and the care of them with the Most High.” These words and others like them come from those inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are words full of life, hope and encouragement; and as applicable today and a thousand years hence, as when they were first spoken. The Lord God is our light, our life, our hope, our strength, our love. He gives to the needy with superabundance, and in due season He will give us the fullness of our desires. The Lord is our protector, of whom should we fear.
About Father Isaac Hecker’s 1854 Spiritual Notebook:
Servant of God, Father Isaac Hecker wrote these spiritual notes as a young Redemptorist priest about 1854 and they have never been published. Hecker was 34 years old at the time, and had been ordained a priest for five years. He loved his work as a Catholic evangelist. The Redemptorist mission band had expanded out of the New York state area to the south and west, and the band’s national reputation grew. Hecker had begun to focus his attention on Protestants who came out to hear them. To this purpose Hecker began to write in 1854 his invitation to Protestant America to consider the Catholic Church, “Questions of the Soul” which would make him a national figure in the American church.
Hecker collected and organized these notes that include writings and stories from St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Jesuit spiritual writer Louis Lallemant and his disciple Jean Surin, the German mystic John Tauler, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Jane de Chantal among others. These notes were a resource for retreat work and spiritual direction and show Hecker’s growing proficiency in traditional Catholic spirituality some ten years after his conversion to the Catholic faith. They are composed of short thematic reflections.