Isaac Hecker: An American Catholic

David J. O'Brien, Author
David J. O'Brien, Author Paulist Press $25 (446p) ISBN 978-0-8091-0397-3
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Founder of the American order of Paulists, Hecker (1803-1888) is described in the spirited foreword to this comprehensive biography as ``a tortured idealist who matched his time and place.'' A convert to Catholicism at age 41, Hecker was a born evangelist whose early sojourns with the New England Transcendentalists at Brook Farm and Fruitlands illuminated his mature vision of a Catholic America. After his 1849 ordination, however, he had difficulties with ecclesialstet authority and a falling-out with his old friend and mentor from Brook Farm, Orestes Brownson, another visionary and vocal convert to Catholicism. Hecker's wrenching inner conflicts and his outer struggle to put in action a uniquely American spirituality are revealed in this finely tuned portrait of a man whose struggle to reconcile religious faith and American identity has contemporary resonance. A professor of history at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., O'Brien elucidates the forces that shaped American religious history in the past century. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
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