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Life of Father Hecker

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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....