Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Obedience to the authority of the Church

As I'd promised, I'll be sharing excerpts from what we're reading as part of this retreat from the writings of Fr. Isaac Hecker, the Founder of the Paulists. And finally I'm getting a clearer sense of what the driving force of his thought is: the direct inspiration of the individual soul by the Holy Spirit, within the context of the life of the Church, which, if I've understood it, is his way of talking about sanctity, about the universal call to holiness. Everything is directed to strengthening the soul's ability to be guided by the Spirit. And he was convinced that transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, regenerated men and women would transform the world.
A Paulist must know how to reconcile the greatest fidelity to the interior attrait and guidance of the Holy Spirit with perfect filial obedience to the external and divine authority of the Holy Church.

The practical aim of all true religion is to bring each individual soul under the immediate guidance of the Divine Spirit. The Divine Spirit communicates Himself to the soul by the means of the sacraments of the Church. The Divine Spirit acts as the interpreter and criterion of revealed truth by the authority of the Church.

Although we must never forget that the immediate means of Christian perfection is the interior direction of the Holy Spirit, neither must we forget that the test of our being directed by the Holy Spirit, and not by our fancies and prejudices, is our filial obedience to the divine external authority of the Church. ...

The Holy Spirit in the external authority of the Church acts as the infallible interpreter and criterion of divine revelation. The Holy Spirit in the soul acts as the Divine Life-Giver and Sanctifier. The supposition that there can be any opposition or contradiction between the action of the Holy Spirit in the supreme decisions of the authority of the Church, and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in the soul, can never enter the mind of an enlightened and sincere Christian. The Holy Spirit which through the authority of the Church teaches divine truth, is the same Spirit which prompts the soul to receive the divine truths which He teaches. The measure of our love for the Holy Spirit is the measure of our obedience to the authority of the Church. There is one Spirit, which acts in two different offices concurring to the same end: the regeneration and sanctification of the soul.
(All citations are from "The Paulist Vocation." Paulist Press: 2000)

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