Isaac Thomas Hecker wasthe prototype nineteenth-century American. He was an idealist and a visionary, a believe in the "rightness" of the American experiement. A utopian at heart, Hecker sampled life in New England's transcendentalist communes, later entering the Catholic Church where he began a new community that was found on the ideals of freedom and personal initiative. He had all the virtues and all the flaws of his eya, being optimistic, passionate, energetic, farsighted, naive. Yet Hecker was also profoundly counter-cultural. He was a mystic in an age of pragmatism. He proclaimed the value of the collective to a generation of Americans who already were falling under the influence of laissez-faire individualism. Within his adopted Catholic community he championed personalism to an unreceptive audience; Rome and its hierarchy were in a defensive posture that favored obedience and conformity. In the end Rome assailed "Americanism" as a threat to its good order.
This is the first full-length comprehensive biography of Isaac Hecker -- mystic, priest, journalist, and missionary -- and the most important person in nineteenth- century U.S. Catholicism.
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