by Quentin Hakenewerth, SM
88 pgs. (reissued 1997)
Father Hakenewerth states in his preface: “The Grain of Wheat is meant for anyone who wants to grow in virtue and develop an effective personality for dealing with the daily challenges of life. It begins with what is within the scope of everyone and moves gradually to what is totally within the power of the Holy Spirit.” This book was first published in 1967, but especially in its revision, speaks to us today. We are a society plugged into our computers and maintaining schedules that keep us withdrawn from society. The Grain of Wheat reminds and shows us that we need to reach out to others. “Our defenses and protective habits must die so that our love can reach out to others. The redemptive message of the Gospel reminds us if the grain dies ‘it bears much fruit’ (Jn 12:24).”
Making the World Me
The mind brings the world to us and makes it a part of who we are. All those things separated from us can become a part of us by taking them into our mind. Existentially our mind is what it knows. Operationally our mind becomes the world that it takes in. If we know absolutely nothing, the world does not exist for us. If we do not know certain people, they mean nothing to us. Our world is the world as we know it.
We all behave in terms of the world we know. We act and react toward the world as we see it. We cannot do otherwise. However bizarre our behavior might seem to an outsider, it makes sense in terms of our own understanding of reality. Each one of us puts together a view of things and of people that makes sense to us. . . .
Our choice of what we know is due in part to our past experiences, our present interests, our scale of values, and a number of other things. A person might see a new car as a convenient way of getting to work, while his or her spouse sees it as a means for a family weekend together in the country. The couple’s teenagers see it as a way to increase their standing among peers. The couple’s little children hate it and perceive it as a monster that takes their parents away each morning. Next-door neighbors see it as a threat to their status. The auto dealer sees it as a means of profit. They are all looking at the same object. The above scenario illustrates that one’s view of the world is always limited and selective.
Because our mind is selective, it tends to make what we know fit in with what we feel or want. For example, if we want certain people to like us, we will see many things they do as signs of their approval and affection. Others would not interpret them in the same way because they were not desirous of the friendship. On the other hand, if we fear that others do not like us, we will interpret much of what they do as a threat to ourselves, whether they intend it as such or not. In other words, we distort our knowledge of people and events to fit our needs and feelings. . . .
We need a certain silence and calmness of mind in order to know people and events as they really are and not as our own needs dictate. So we try to eliminate what distorts our knowledge of reality.
Christ tells us where to start. He says that we should not judge one another. “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get . . . (Mt 7:1-5).”
Here we find another grain that must fall into the ground and die. When we give up our habit of judging others, we lose our excuse for treating them badly. We no longer have anything inside to justify not liking them. We give up our right to keep others out of our life. We even lose our right to hate our enemies. . . . If we take the risk, we begin to know others without distortion, to know them as God knows them.
Preface to the Revised Edition
Part I: Preparation for an Intense Life
2. Speaking Without Words
3. Making the World Me
4. Making the World I Need
5. Our Response to the World
7. Preparatory Obedience
8. Support of Suffering
Part 2: Purifying What Is Good
10. Defensive Tendencies
11. Avoiding Choice
13. Motives for Mediocrity
Part 3: Consummation
15. Total Submission to the Needs of Others
16. Submission to the Gifts of Others
17. Total Gift of Self
18. Perfect Poverty of Spirit