Last night, our local Paulist Associates had their monthly meeting. (Paulist Associates are lay people who formally associate with the Paulist Fathers in order to explore the spirituality of Servant of God Isaac Hecker and to identify with the mission and spirituality of the Paulists in their own lives and in their vocation in the world.) For the past year or so, in our local group w have been studying Isaac Hecker’s last book, The Church and the Age. Having finished with that, the group has now decided to study Hecker’s first book, Questions of the Soul, which we began discussing last night.
Hecker wrote Questions of the Soul in 1855 while a Redemptorist missionary. Hecker’s account (written in Rome in January 1858) of how he came to write both this 1st book and his 2nd book, Aspirations of Nature, is instructive:
The blessings of God upon our missions were most evident, and my share in them most consoling; usually the most abandoned sinners fell to my lot. But holy and important as the exercises of the missions among Catholics are, still this work did not correspond to my interior attrait, and although exhausted and frequently made ill from excessive fatigue in these duties, yet my ardent and constant desire to do something for the conversion of my non-Catholic countrymen led me to take up my pen. That took place as follows: One day alone in my cell the thought suddenly struck me how great were my privileges and my joy since my becoming a Catholic, and how great were my troubles and agony of soul before this event. Alas! how many of my former friends and acquaintances, how many of the great body of the American people were in the same painful position. Cannot something be done to lead them to the knowledge of the truth? Perhaps if the way that Divine Providence had led me to the Church was shown to them, many of them might in this way be led also to see the truth. This thought, and with it the hope of inducing young men to enter into religious orders, produced in a few months from my pen a book entitled Questions of the Soul. The main features of this book are the showing that the sacraments of the Catholic Church satisfy fully all the wants of the heart….