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Elliott, Walter / Life of Father Hecker
Produced by David McClamrock





THE LIFE OF FATHER HECKER

BY
REV. WALTER ELLIOTT
________________________

NEW YORK:
THE COLUMBUS PRESS
1891
________________________

Nihil obstat:
AUGUSTINUS F. HEWIT,
_Censor Deputatus._

Imprimatur:
M. A. CORRIGAN,
_Archiepiscopus Neo-Ebor._
________________________

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

THE reader must indulge me with what I cannot help saying, that I
have felt the joy of a son in telling the achievements and
chronicling the virtues of Father Hecker. I loved him with the sacred
fire of holy kinship, and love him still--only the more that lapse of
time has deepened by experience, inner and outer, the sense of truth
and of purity he ever communicated to me in life, and courage and
fidelity to conscience. I feel it to be honor enough and joy enough
for a life-time that I am his first biographer, though but a late
born child and of merit entirely insignificant. The literary work is,
indeed, but of home-made quality, yet it serves to hold together what
is the heaven-made wisdom of a great teacher of men. It will be found
that Father Hecker has three words in this book to my one, though all
my words I tried to make his. His journals, letters, and recorded
sayings are the edifice into which I introduce the reader, and my
words are the hinges and latchets of its doors. I am glad of this,
for it pleases me to dedicate my good will and my poor work to
swinging open the doors of that new House of God that Isaac Hecker
was to me, and that I trust he will be to many.

WALTER ELLIOTT
________________________

CONTENTS
________________________

CHAPTER
I.--CHILDHOOD
II.--YOUTH
III.--THE TURNING-POINT
IV.--LED BY THE SPIRIT
V.--AT BROOK FARM
VI.--INNER LIFE WHILE AT BROOK FARM
VII.--STRUGGLES
VIII.--FRUITLANDS
IX.--SELF-QUESTIONINGS
X.--AT HOME AGAIN
XI.--STUDYING AND WRITING
XII.--THE MYSTIC AND THE PHILOSOPHER
XIII.--HIS SEARCH AMONG THE SECTS
XIV.--HIS LIFE AT CONCORD
XV.--AT THE DOOR OF THE CHURCH
XVI.--AT THE DOOR OF THE CHURCH--(Continued)
XVII.--ACROSS THE THRESHOLD
XVIII.--NEW INFLUENCES
XIX.--YEARNINGS AFTER CONTEMPLATION
XX.--FROM NEW YORK TO ST. TROND
XXI.--BROTHER HECKER
XXII.--HOW BROTHER HECKER MADE HIS STUDIES AND WAS ORDAINED PRIEST
XXIII.--A REDEMPTORIST MISSIONARY
XXIV.--SEPARATION FROM THE REDEMPTORISTS
XXV.--BEGINNINGS OF THE PAULIST COMMUNITY
XXVI.--FATHER HECKER'S IDEA OF A RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY
XXVII.--FATHER HECKER'S SPIRITUAL DOCTRINE
XXVIII.--THE PAULIST PARISH AND MISSIONS
XXIX.--FATHER HECKER'S LECTURES
XXX.--THE APOSTOLATE OF THE PRESS
XXXI.--THE VATICAN COUNCIL
XXXII.--THE LONG ILLNESS
XXXIII.--"THE EXPOSITION OF THE CHURCH"
XXXIV.--IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH
XXXV.--CONCLUSION

APPENDIX
________________________



INTRODUCTION

BY MOST REV. JOHN IRELAND, D.D.,
_Archbishop of St. Paul._

LIFE is action, and so long as there is action there is life. That
life is worth living whose action puts forth noble aspirations and
good deeds. The man's influence for truth and virtue persevering in
activity, his life has not ceased, though earth has clasped his body
in its embrace. It is well that it is so. The years of usefulness
between the cradle and the grave are few. The shortness of a life
restricted to them is sufficient to discourage many from making
strong efforts toward impressing the workings of their souls upon
their fellows. The number to whose minds we have immediate access is
small, and they do not remain. Is the good we might do worth the
labor? We cannot at times refuse a hearing to the question.
Fortunately, it is easily made clear to us that the area over which
influence travels is vastly more extensive than at first sight
appears. The eye will not always discern the undulations of its
spreading waves; but onward it goes, from one soul to another, far
beyond our immediate ranks, and as each soul touched by it becomes a
new motive power, it rolls forward, often with energy a hundred times
intensified, long after the shadows of death have settled around its
point of departure.

Isaac Thomas Hecker lives to-day, and with added years he will live
more fully than he does to-day. His influence for good remains, and
with a better understanding of his plans and ideals, which is sure to
come, his influence will widen and deepen among laymen and priests of
the Church in America. The writing of his biography is a tribute to
his memory which the love and esteem of his spiritual children could
not refuse; it is, also, a most important service to generations
present and unborn, in whose deeds will be seen the fruits of
inspirations gathered from it. We are thankful that this biography
has been written by one who from closest converse and most intimate
friendship knew Father Hecker so thoroughly. He has given us in his
book what we need to know of Father Hecker. We care very little,
except so far as details may accentuate the great lines of a life and
make them sensible to our obtuse touch, where or when a man was born,
what places he happened to visit, what houses he built, or in what
circumstances of malady or in what surroundings he died. These things
can be said of the ten thousand. We want to know the thoughts and the
resolves of the soul which made him a marked man above his fellows
and which begot strong influences for good and great works, and if
none such can be unfolded then drop the man out of sight, with a
"_Requiescant in pace"_ engraven upon his tombstone. Few deserve a
biography, and to the undeserving none should be given.

If it be permitted to speak of self, I might say that to Father
Hecker I am indebted for most salutary impressions which, I
sorrowfully confess, have not had in me their due effect; the
remembrance of them, however, is a proof to me of the usefulness of
his life, and its power for good in others. I am glad to have the
opportunity to profess publicly my gratitude to him. He was in the
prime of life and work when I was for the first time brought to
observe him. I was quite young in the ministry, and very naturally I
was casting my eye around in search of ideal men, whose footsteps
were treading the path I could feel I, too, ought to travel. I never
afterwards wholly lost sight of Father Hecker, watching him as well
as I could from a distance of two thousand miles. I am not to-day
without some experience of men and things, won from years and toils,
and I do not alter one tittle my estimate of him, except to make it
higher. To the priests of the future I recommend a serious study of
Father Hecker's life. To them I would have his biography dedicated.
Older men, like myself, are fixed in their ways, and they will not
receive from it so much benefit.

Father Hecker was the typical American priest; his were the gifts of
mind and heart that go to do great work for God and for souls in
America at the present time. Those qualities, assuredly, were not
lacking in him which are the necessary elements of character of the
good priest and the great man in any time and place. Those are the
subsoil of priestly culture, and with the absence of them no one will
succeed in America any more than elsewhere. But suffice they do not.
There must be added, over and above, the practical intelligence and
the pliability of will to understand one's surroundings, the ground
upon which he is to deploy his forces, and to adapt himself to
circumstances and opportunities as Providence appoints. I do not
expect that my words, as I am here writing, will receive universal
approval, and I am not at all sure that their expression would have
been countenanced by the priest whose memory brings them to my lips.
I write as I think, and the responsibility must be all my own. It is
as clear to me as noon-day light that countries and peoples have each
their peculiar needs and aspirations as they have their peculiar
environments, and that, if we would enter into souls and control
them, we must deal with them according to their conditions. The ideal
line of conduct for the priest in Assyria will be out of all measure
in Mexico or Minnesota, and I doubt not that one doing fairly well in
Minnesota would by similar methods set things sadly astray in
Leinster or Bavaria. The Saviour prescribed timeliness in pastoral
caring. The master of a house, He said, "bringeth forth out of his
treasury new things and old," as there is demand for one kind or the
other. The apostles of nations, from Paul before the Areopagus to
Patrick upon the summit of Tara, followed no different principle.

The circumstances of Catholics have been peculiar in the United
States, and we have unavoidably suffered on this account. Catholics
in largest numbers were Europeans, and so were their priests, many of
whom--by no means all--remained in heart and mind and mode of action
as alien to America as if they had never been removed from the
Shannon, the Loire, or the Rhine. No one need remind me that
immigration has brought us inestimable blessings, or that without it
the Church in America would be of small stature. The remembrance of a
precious fact is not put aside, if I recall an accidental evil
attaching to it. Priests foreign in disposition and work were not
fitted to make favorable impressions upon the non-Catholic American
population, and the American-born children of Catholic immigrants
were likely to escape their action. And, lest I be misunderstood, I
assert all this is as true of priests coming from Ireland as from any
other foreign country. Even priests of American ancestry, ministering
to immigrants, not unfrequently fell into the lines of those around
them, and did but little to make the Church in America throb with
American life. Not so Isaac Thomas Hecker. Whether consciously or
unconsciously I do not know, and it matters not, he looked on America
as the fairest conquest for divine truth, and he girded himself with
arms shaped and tempered to the American pattern. I think that it may
be said that the American current, so plain for the last quarter of a
century in the flow of Catholic affairs, is, largely at least, to be
traced back to Father Hecker and his early co-workers. It used to be
said of them in reproach that they were the "Yankee" Catholic Church;
the reproach was their praise.

Father Hecker understood and loved the country and its institutions.
He saw nothing in them to be deprecated or changed; he had no longing
for the flesh-pots and bread-stuffs of empires and monarchies. His
favorite topic in book and lecture was, that the Constitution of the
United States requires, as its necessary basis, the truths of
Catholic teaching regarding man's natural state, as opposed to the
errors of Luther and Calvin. The republic, he taught, presupposes the
Church's doctrine, and the Church ought to love a polity which is the
offspring of her own spirit. He understood and loved the people of
America. He recognized in them splendid natural qualities. Was he not
right? Not minimizing in the least the dreadful evil of the absence
of the supernatural, I am not afraid to give as my belief that there
is among Americans as high an appreciation and as lively a
realization of natural truth and goodness as has been seen in any
people, and it seems as if Almighty God, intending a great age and a
great people, has put here in America a singular development of
nature's powers and gifts, both in man and out of man--with the
further will, I have the faith, of crowning all with the glory of the
supernatural. Father Hecker perceived this, and his mission was to
hold in his hands the natural, which Americans extolled and cherished
and trusted in, and by properly directing its legitimate tendencies
and growth to lead it to the term of its own instincts and
aspirations--Catholic truth and Catholic grace. Protestantism is no
longer more than a name, a memory. The American has fallen back upon
himself, scorning the negations and the doctrinal cruelties of
Protestantism as utterly contrary to himself, as utterly unnatural;
and now comes the opportunity of the Catholic Church to show that she
is from the God who created nature, by opening before this people her
treasures, amid which the soul revels in rational liberty and
intelligence, and enjoys the gratification of its best and purest
moral instincts. These convictions are the keynote of Father Hecker's
controversial discourses and writings, notably of two books,
_Aspirations of Nature_ and _Questions of the Soul._ He assumed that
the American people are naturally Catholic, and he labored with this
proposition constantly before his mind. It is the assumption upon
which all must labor who sincerely desire to make America Catholic.

He laid stress on the natural and social virtues. The American people
hold these in highest esteem. They are the virtues that are most
apparent, and are seemingly the most needed for the building up and
the preservation of an earthly commonwealth. Truthfulness, honesty in
business dealings, loyalty to law and social order, temperance,
respect for the rights of others, and the like virtues are prescribed
by reason before the voice of revelation is heard, and the absence of
specifically supernatural virtues has led the non-Catholic to place
paramount importance upon them. It will be a difficult task to
persuade the American that a church which will not enforce those
primary virtues can enforce others which she herself declares to be
higher and more arduous, and as he has implicit confidence in the
destiny of his country to produce a high order of social existence,
his first test of a religion will be its powers in this direction.
This is according to Catholic teaching. Christ came not to destroy,
but to perfect what was in man, and the graces and truths of
revelation lead most securely to the elevation of the life that is,
no less than to the gaining of the life to come. It is a fact,
however, that in other times and other countries the Church has been
impeded in her social work, and certain things or customs of those
times and countries, transplanted upon American soil and allowed to
grow here under a Catholic name, will do her no honor among
Americans. The human mind, among the best of us, inclines to narrow
limitations, and certain Catholics, aware of the comparatively
greater importance of the supernatural, partially overlook the
natural.

Then, too, casuists have incidentally done us harm. They will quote
as our rule of social conduct in America what may have been tolerated
in France or Germany during the seventeenth century, and their
hair-splitting distinctions in the realm of abstract right and wrong
are taken by some of us as practical decisions, without due reference
to local circumstances. The American people pay slight attention to
the abstract; they look only to the concrete in morals, and we must
keep account of their manner of judging things. The Church is
nowadays called upon to emphasize her power in the natural order. God
forbid that I entertain, as some may be tempted to suspect me of
doing, the slightest notion that vigilance may be turned off one
single moment from the guard of the supernatural. For the sake of the
supernatural I speak. And natural virtues, practised in the proper
frame of mind and heart, become supernatural. Each century calls for
its type of Christian perfection. At one time it was martyrdom; at
another it was the humility of the cloister. To-day we need the
Christian gentleman and the Christian citizen. An honest ballot and
social decorum among Catholics will do more for God's glory and the
salvation of souls than midnight flagellations or Compostellan
pilgrimages.

On a line with his principles, as I have so far delineated them,
Father Hecker believed that if he would succeed in his work for
souls, he should use in it all the natural energy that God had given
him, and he acted up to his belief I once heard a good old priest,
who said his beads well and made a desert around his pulpit by
miserable preaching, criticise Father Hecker, who, he imagined, put
too much reliance in man, and not enough in God. Father Hecker's
piety, his assiduity in prayer, his personal habits of self-denial,
repel the aspersion that he failed in reliance upon God. But my old
priest--and he has in the church to-day, both in America and Europe,
tens of thousands of counterparts--was more than half willing to see
in all outputtings of human energy a lack of confidence in God. We
sometimes rely far more upon God than God desires us to do, and there
are occasions when a novena is the refuge of laziness or cowardice.
God has endowed us with natural talents, and not one of them shall
be, with His permission, enshrouded in a napkin. He will not work a
miracle, or supply grace, to make up for our deficiencies. We must
work as if all depended on us, and pray as if all depended on God.

God never proposed to do by His direct action all that might be done
in and through the Church. He invites human co-operation, and
abandons to it a wide field. The ages of most active human industry
in religious enterprises were the ages of most remarkable spiritual
conquests. The tendency to overlook this fact shows itself among us.
Newman writes that where the sun shines bright in the warm climate of
the south, the natives of the place know little of safeguards against
cold and wet. They have their cold days, but only now and then, and
they do not deem it worth their while to provide against them: the
science of calefaction is reserved for the north. And so,
Protestants, depending on human means solely, are led to make the
most of them; their sole resource is to use what they have; they are
the anxious cultivators of a rugged soil. Catholics, on the contrary,
feel that God will protect the Church, and, as Newman adds, "we
sometimes forget that we shall please Him best, and get most from
Him, when, according to the fable, we put our shoulder to the wheel,
when we use what we have by nature to the utmost, at the same time
that we look out for what is beyond nature in the confidence of faith
and hope." Lately a witty French writer pictures to us the pious
friends of the leading Catholic layman of France, De Mun, kneeling in
spiritual retreat when their presence is required in front of the
enemy. The Catholic of the nineteenth century all over the world is
too quiet, too easily resigned to "the will of God," attributing to
God the effects of his own timidity and indolence. Father Hecker
rolled up his sleeves and "pitched in" with desperate resolve. He
fought as for very life. Meet him anywhere or at any time, he was at
work or he was planning to work. He was ever looking around to see
what might be done. He did with a rush the hard labor of a missionary
and of a pastor, and he went beyond it into untrodden pathways. He
hated routine. He minded not what others had been doing, seeking only
what he himself might do. His efforts for the diffusion of Catholic
literature, THE CATHOLIC WORLD, his several books, the Catholic
tracts, tell his zeal and energy. A Catholic daily paper was a
favorite design to which he gave no small measure of time and labor.
He anticipated by many years the battlings of our temperance
apostles. The Paulist pulpit opened death-dealing batteries upon the
saloon when the saloon-keeper was the hero in state and church. The
Catholic University of America found in him one of its warmest
advocates. His zeal was as broad as St. Paul's, and whoever did good
was his friend and received his support. The walls of his parish, or
his order, did not circumscribe for him God's Church. His choice of a
patron saint--St. Paul--reveals the fire burning within his soul. He
would not, he could not be idle. On his sick-bed, where he lay the
greater part of his latter years, he was not inactive. He wrote
valuable articles and books, and when unable to write, he dictated.

He was enthusiastic in his work, as all are who put their whole soul
into what they are doing. Such people have no time to count the dark
linings of the silvery clouds; they realize that God and man together
do not fail. Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm. It fits a man to be a
leader; it secures a following. A bishop who was present at the
Second Plenary Council of Baltimore has told me that when Father
Hecker appeared before the assembled prelates and theologians in
advocacy of Catholic literature as a missionary force, the picture
was inspiring, and that the hearers, receiving a Pentecostal fire
within their bosoms, felt as if America were to be at once converted.
So would it have been if there had been in America a sufficient
number of Heckers. He had his critics. Who ever tries to do something
outside routine lines against whom hands are not raised and whose
motives and acts are not misconstrued? A venerable clergyman one day
thought he had scored a great point against Father Hecker by jocosely
suggesting to him as the motto of his new order the word "Paulatim."
The same one, no doubt, would have made a like suggestion to the
Apostle of the Gentiles. Advocates of "Paulatim" methods have too
often left the wheels of Christ's chariot fast in the mire. We
rejoice, for its sake, that enthusiasts sometimes appear on the
scene. The missions of the early Paulists, into which went Father
Hecker's entire heart, aroused the country. To-day, after a lapse of
thirty or thirty-five years, they are remembered as events wherever
they were preached.

His was the profound conviction that, in the present age at any rate,
the order of the day should be individual action--every man doing his
full duty, and waiting for no one else to prompt him. This, I take
it, was largely the meaning of Father Hecker's oft-repeated teaching
on the work of the Holy Ghost in souls. There have been epochs in
history where the Church, sacrificing her outposts and the ranks of
her skirmishers to the preservation of her central and vital
fortresses, put the brakes, through necessity, from the nature of the
warfare waged against her, upon individual activity, and moved her
soldiers in serried masses; and then it was the part and the glory of
each one to move with the column. The need of repression has passed
away. The authority of the Church and of her Supreme Head is beyond
danger of being denied or obscured, and each Christian soldier may
take to the field, obeying the breathings of the Spirit of truth and
piety within him, feeling that what he may do he should do. There is
work for individual priests, and for individual laymen, and so soon
as it is discovered let it be done. The responsibility is upon each
one; the indifference of others is no excuse. Said Father Hecker one
day to a friend: "There is too much waiting upon the action of
others. The layman waits for the priest, the priest for the bishop,
and the bishop for the pope, while the Holy Ghost sends down to all
the reproof that He is prompting each one, and no one moves for Him."
Father Hecker was original in his ideas, as well as in his methods;
there was no routine in him, mental or practical.

I cannot but allude, whether I understand or not the true intent of
it, to what appears to have been a leading fact in his life: his
leaving an old-established religious community for the purpose of
instituting that of the Paulists. I will speak so far of this as I
have formed an estimate of it. To me, this fact seems to have been a
Providential circumstance in keeping with all else in his life. I
myself have at this moment such thoughts as I imagine must have been
running through his mind during that memorable sojourn in Rome, which
resulted in freeing him from his old allegiance. The work of
evangelizing America demands new methods. It is time to draw forth
from our treasury the "new things" of the Gospel; we have been long
enough offering "old things." Those new methods call for
newly-equipped men. The parochial clergy will readily confess that
they cannot of themselves do all that God now demands from His Church
in this country. They are too heavily burdened with the ordinary
duties of the ministry: instructing those already within the fold,
administering the sacraments, building temples, schools, and
asylums--duties which must be attended to and which leave slight
leisure for special studies or special labors. Father Hecker
organized the Paulist community, and did in his way a great work for
the conversion of the country. He made no mistake when he planned for
a body of priests, more disciplined than usually are the parochial
clergy, and more supple in the character of their institute than the
existing religious orders.

We shall always distinguish Isaac Thomas Hecker as the ornament, the
flower of our American priesthood--the type that we wish to see
reproduced among us in widest proportions. Ameliorations may be
sought for in details, and the more of them the better for religion;
but the great lines of Father Hecker's personality we should guard
with jealous love in the formation of the future priestly characters
of America.

________________________

THE LIFE OF FATHER HECKER
________________________




CHAPTER I

CHILDHOOD

TOWARDS the close of the eighteenth century a German clockmaker named
Engel Freund, accompanied by his wife and children, left his native
town of Elberfeld, in Rhenish Prussia, to seek a new home in America.
There is a family tradition to the effect that his forefathers were
French, and that they came into Germany on account of some internal
commotion in their own country. The name makes it more probable that
they were Alsatians who quietly moved across the Rhine, either when
their province was first ceded to France, or perhaps later, at the
time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685. When Engel
Freund quitted Germany the disturbing influences of the French
Revolution may have had a considerable share in determining his
departure. He landed at New York in 1797 and established himself in
Hester Street, between Christie and Forsyth.

His wife, born Ann Elizabeth Schneider, in 1764, was a native of
Frankenburg, Hesse Cassel. She became the mother of a son and several
daughters, who attained maturity and settled in New York. As his
girls grew into womanhood and married, Engel Freund, who was a
thrifty and successful tradesman in his prime, dowered each of them
with a house in his own neighborhood, seeking thus to perpetuate in
the new the kindly patriarchal customs of the old land.

To the New-Yorker of to-day, or, indeed, to any reputable and
industrious immigrant, the notion of settling a family in Hester
Street could not seem other than grotesque. It is now the filthy and
swarming centre of a very low population. The Jewish pedlar _par
éminence_ lives there and thereabouts. Signs painted in the
characters of his race, not of his accidental nationality, abound on
every side. Here a synagogue occupies the story above a shop; there
Masonic symbols are exhibited between the windows in a similar
location. Jewish faces of the least prepossessing type look askance
into eyes which they recognize as both unfamiliar and observant.
Women, unkempt and slouchy, or else arrayed in dubious finery, brush
against one. At intervals fast growing greater the remains of an
extinct domesticity and privacy still show themselves in the shape of
old-fashioned brick or wooden houses with Dutch gables or Queen Anne
fronts, but for the most part tall tenement-houses, their lower
stories uniformly given up to some small traffic, claim exclusive
right of possession. The sidewalks are crowded with the stalls of a
yet more petty trade; the neighborhood is full of unpleasant sights,
unwholesome odors, and revolting sounds.

But the Hester Street of seventy years ago and more was another
matter. When a canal flowed through Canal Street, and tall trees
growing on either side of it sheltered the solid and roomy houses of
retired merchants and professional men, Hester Street was a long way
up town. Seven years before the subject of the present biography was
born, that elegantly proportioned structure, the City Hall, which had
then been nine years a-building, was finished in material much less
expensive than had been intended when it was begun. Marble was very
dear, reasoned the thrifty and far-sighted City Fathers of the day,
and as the population of New York were never likely to settle to any
extent above Chambers Street, the rear of the hall would be seen so
seldom that this economy would not be noticeable. What is now
Fourteenth Street was then a place given over to market-gardens.
Rutgers Street, Rutgers Place, Henry Street, were fashionable
localities, and the adjacent quarter, now so malodorous and
disreputable, was eminently respectable. Freund's daughters, as they
left the parental roof for modest houses of his gift close by, no
doubt had reason to consider themselves abundantly fortunate in their
surroundings.

One of these daughters, Caroline Sophia Susanna Henrietta Wilhelmina,
born in Elberfeld on the 2d of March, 1796, was still a babe in arms
at the time of the family emigration. She was a tall, fair, handsome
girl, not long past her fifteenth birthday when she became a wife.
Her husband, John Hecker, was nearly twice her age, having been born
in Wetzlar, Prussia, May 7, 1782. He was the son of another John
Hecker, a brewer by trade, who married the daughter of a Colonel
Schmidt. Both parents were natives of Wetzlar. Their son learned the
business of a machinist and brass-founder, and emigrated to America
in 1800. He was married to Caroline Freund in the Old Dutch Church in
the Swamp, July 21, 1811. He died in New York, in the house of his
eldest son, July 10, 1860.

Events proved John Hecker to have been equally fortunate and
sagacious in his choice of a wife. At the time of their marriage he
was thrifty and well-to-do. At one period he owned a flourishing
brass-foundry in Hester Street, and during his early married life his
prosperity was uninterrupted. But before many years had passed his
business declined, and from one cause and another he never succeeded
in re-establishing it. This misfortune, occurring while even the
eldest of the sons was still a lad, might easily have proved
irreparable in more senses than one. But the very fact that the
ordinary gates to learning were so soon closed against these children
caused the natural tendency they had toward knowledge to impel them
all the more strongly in that shorter road to practical wisdom which
leads through labor and experience. The Hecker brothers were all hard
at work while still mere children, and before John, the eldest, had
attained to legal manhood, they had fixed the solid foundations of an
enduring prosperity, and all need of further exertion on the part of
their parents was over for ever.

Isaac Thomas Hecker, the third son and youngest child of this couple,
was born in New York at a house in Christie Street, between Grand and
Hester, December 18, 1819, when his mother was not yet twenty-four.
He survived her by twelve years only, she dying at the residence of
her eldest son's widow in 1876, in the full possession of faculties
which must have been of no common order. From her, and through her
from Engel Freund, who was what is called "a character," Father
Hecker seems to have derived many of his life-long peculiarities. "I
never knew a son so like his mother," writes to us one who had an
intimate acquaintance with both of them for more than forty years.
She adds:

"Mrs. Hecker was a woman of great energy of character and strong
religious nature. Her son, Father Hecker, inherited both of these
traits, and there was the warmest sympathy between them. He was her
youngest son, her baby, she called him, but with all her tender love
she had a holy veneration for his character as priest.

"She deeply sympathized with him through the trials and anxieties
that were his in his search after truth, and when his heart found
rest, and the aspirations of his soul were answered in the Holy
Catholic Church, her noble heart accepted for him what she could not
see for herself. She said to a lady who spoke to her on the subject
and who could not be reconciled to the conversion of a daughter: 'No,
I would not change the faith of my sons. They have found peace and
joy in the Catholic Church, and I would not by a word change their
faith, if I could.'"

"She had a very earnest temperament, and what she did she did with
all her heart. The last years of her life she was a great invalid,
but from her sick room she did wonders. Family ties were kept warm,
and no one whom she had loved and known was forgotten. The poor were
ever welcome, and came to her in crowds, never leaving without help
and consolation. She had a very cheerful spirit, and a bright,
pleasant, and even witty word for every one.

"But the strongest trait in her character was her deeply religious
nature. With the Catholic faith it would have found expression in the
religious life, as she sometimes said herself. The faith she had made
her most earnest and devout, according to her light."

Mrs. Georgiana Bruce Kirby, who spent a month at the house in
Rutgers Street just after Isaac finally returned from Brook Farm,
when Mrs. Hecker was in the prime of middle life, speaks of her as "a
lovely and dignified character, full of 'humanities.' She was fair,
tall, erect, a very superior example of the German house-mother. Hers
was the controlling spirit in the house, and her wise and generous
influence was felt far beyond it. She was a life-long Methodist, and
took me with her to a 'Love Feast,' which I had never witnessed
before."

To the good sense, good temper, and strong religious nature of
Caroline Hecker her children owed, and always cordially acknowledged,
a heavy, and in one respect an almost undivided, debt of gratitude.
Neither Engel Freund nor John Hecker professed any religious faith.
The latter was never in the habit of attending any place of worship.
Both were Lutheran so far as their antecedents could make them so,
but neither seems to have practically known much beyond the flat
negation, or at best the simple disregard, of Christianity to which
Protestantism leads more or less quickly according as the logical
faculty is more or less developed in those whose minds have been fed
upon it. However, there was nothing aggressive in the attitude of
either toward religious observance. The grandfather especially seems
to have been a "gentle sceptic," an agnostic in the germ, affirming
nothing beyond the natural, probably because all substantial ground
for supernatural affirmations seemed to him to be cut away by the
fundamental training imparted to him. He was a kindly, virtuous,
warm-hearted man, with a life of his own which made him incurious and
thoughtful, and singularly devoid of prejudices. When his daughter
Caroline elected to desert the Reformed Dutch Church in which the
family had a pew, and to attach herself to another sect, he had only
a jocular word of surprise to say concerning her odd fancy for "those
noisy Methodists." He had a true German fondness for old ways and
settled customs, and to the end of his days spoke only his own
vernacular.

"Why don't you talk English?" somebody once asked him toward the
close of his life.

"I don't know how," he answered. "I never had time to learn."

"Why, how long have you been here?"

"About forty years."

"Forty years! And isn't that time enough to learn English in?"

"What can one learn in forty years?" said the old man, with an
unanswerable twinkle.

Between him and the youngest of his Hecker grandchildren there
existed a singular sympathy and affection. The two were very much
together, and the little fellow was allowed to potter about the
workshop and encouraged to study the ins and outs of all that went on
there, as well as entertained with kindly talk that may at first have
been a trifle above his years. But he was a precocious child, shrewd,
observant, and thoughtful. It was in the old watchmaker's shop that
the boy, not yet a dozen years old, and already hard at work helping
to earn his own living, conceived the plan of making a clock with his
own hands and presenting it to the church attended by the family,
which was situated in Forsyth Street between Walker and Hester. The
clock was finished in due time and set up in the church, where it
ticked faithfully until the edifice was torn down, some forty years
later. Then it was returned to its maker in accordance with a promise
made by the pastor when the gift was accepted. In 1872 the opening
number of the third volume of _The Young Catholic_ contained a good
engraving of it, accompanied by a sketch descriptive of its career.
Although Father Hecker did not write the little story, it is so true
both to fact and to sentiment that we make an extract from it. The
clock hung in the Paulist sacristy for about ten years. Then, for
some reason, it was taken to the country house of Mr. George Hecker,
where it was accidentally destroyed by fire:

"There were points of resemblance in my own and my boy maker's
nature. In him, regularity, order, and obedience were fixed
principles; and with us both, Time represented Eternity. As the days
of his young manhood came his pursuits and tastes in life changed.
Deep thought took possession of his mind, and with it a tender love
for souls and a heart-hungriness for a further knowledge of what man
was given a soul for, and the way in which he was to save it. As
these thoughts were maturing in his mind I often noticed his troubled
look. One Sunday in particular, he lingered behind the congregation
and stood before me, with a new expression in his keen gray eye; and
amid the silence of the deserted aisles he thus apostrophized me:
'Farewell, old friend! fashioned by these hands, thou representest
Truth, the eternal. What man is ever seeking, through me thou hast
found. Here I stand, not man's but God's noblest work, as yet not
having repaid my Maker with one act of duty or of service. Thou hast
faithfully performed thy mission; henceforth I labor to perform
mine.' With a grave and sad look my boy maker, now a young man, left
me. I felt then that we had looked our last upon each other in this
place; but little did either of us dream of where, when, and how we
would meet again. For thirty-five years I labored on unchanged,
though I must own to having had some ailments now and then. About
this period of my existence I overheard straggling remarks, as the
worshippers passed out of the church, which led me to conclude that
some change was contemplated, and my suspicions were confirmed by the
rector proposing from the pulpit the erection of a new church edifice
in another part of the city, to be fashioned after a more modern
style of architecture. . . . In accordance with the promise made my
boy maker, I was to go back to him. My heart bounded at the prospect.
Never in all those years had I seen him. . . .

"In a short time I learned that the author of my existence, after
many hard struggles and trials, had at last found truth and light,
peace and rest, in the bosom of the Holy Catholic Church. He had
returned, when he found me, from the Plenary Council of 1867. He is
now a priest, and the head of a religious community. Need I assure
those who have been interested in my history that I also have found a
home in the same community, where I am consecrated to its use? I am
no longer alone now; I am busy from morning until night, helping to
regulate the movements of the community. There is not an hour in the
day when I do not see my boy maker. We have established sympathies in
common; I call him to prayers, to his meals, to his matins, and to
his rest. Many a time, when he finds me alone, he gives me some
spiritual reading, or says aloud some prayers. Every time I strike,
he breathes an aspiration of love and thanksgiving. In short, we have
found our glorious mission in our new birth. We are both apostles: I
represent Time; he preaches of Eternity."

There can be little doubt, however, that the chief formative
influence in the Hecker household was that which came directly
through the mother. Young as she was when an unduly heavy share of
the domestic burdens fell to her portion, she took it up with courage
and bore it with dignity and fidelity.



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