Interestingly, in the novitiate today, we read a brief paper on Fr. Hecker's spirituality and calling, written by Father Gallagher in 2000. Fr. Gallagher, it seems, always pushed the Paulists to continue to draw inspiration from the founder. Here are some quotes from this paper:
Hecker's great strength in all this (as everywhere in his life) was his unwavering faith in the guidance of the Spirit. It wasn't a doctrinal thing; it was a felt experience of faith so that even when he didn't fully understand the experience, he trusted it absolutely.It's no wonder that Fr. Hecker is called an "evangelical Catholic."
Thus far the Hecker vocation story played quite differently from those of most Paulists. Ministry and priesthood were never a focus. His search had been for clues that hopefully would leadh im to the "special work," [that he felt God was calling him to] and while he was ready to take on whatever role this might call for, he had given no special attention to a clerical calling. His spirituality, too, was unusual. While his mother was devoutly Methodist and the Bible part of his upbringing, he was not what you call a church person. ... Most Christians start with Jesus and come to know the Holy Spirit through Him. The reverse seems to have been the case with Hecker; he found the Spirit early in life and the Spirit led him to Jesus in His Church.I identify with that a lot, since I didn't grow up in a Christian environment, or in the Church. My first encounter, however, was with the person of Jesus (and not a seeking after the Spirit that moved Fr. Hecker). Fr. Gallagher continues with some elements of Fr. Hecker's calling and spirituality that may be relevant to today's Paulists. These include: personal experience as a font of revelation, openness to change, being alive to God and a great trust in God. And some fuller quotes from the final point.
Great love of the Church -- Hecker had a great love and respect for the Church, its laity, priests, hierarchy, and other institutions. This shows up in his attentiveness and obedient response to his CSSR superiors, the Pope, Roman prelates, the American bishops and Vatican I. ... Surely, contemporary Paulist spirituality has room (and maybe a need) for this kind of genuine and well-balanced appreciation of the Church.I agree emphatically, and add, not "maybe a need" but a "crying need!"