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March 27, 2008
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The Holy Fool by Harold Fickett
[Amazon.com]

A Writer's Faith by Harold Fickett 
In my writing I’ve tried to dream up contemporary characters who are capable of belief, and through having a personal relationship with them, so to speak, believe myself.

Feeding Tubes and Gut Reactions: The Role of the Church in Bioethical Questions, by Harold Fickett
The secular world says that in matters of life and death, the individual should be left alone to make whatever decision he wishes. My own experience with my dying father showed me the "hard cases" prove exactly the opposite.

Gay Marriage and the Collective Lie
We are called to love one another, but real love must be grounded in truth. What I would say to Andrew Sullivan then is, I love you, but don't ask me to lie.

Image - A Journal of the Arts and Religion
"...our focus has been on writing and visual artwork that embody a spiritual struggle, that seek to strike a balance between tradition and a profound openness to the world."

Our Lady of the Global Village:World Christianity Comes Home
The faith I've had the privilege of encountering in the developing world is vibrant, courageous, and typically transcends the often-petty concerns of the West. World Christianity is coming home, and Christians are about to experience the catholicity of the church in a personal way.

The Brothers Karamazov
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The Complete Stories
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Why the Alliance between Catholics and the Democratic Party Has Broken Down
The presidential candidates are never asked the really tough questions, the ones about religion, philosophy and the meaning of life, because these questions threaten to break open the fault lines dividing American society. 

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Eternity in the Here and Now

The glittering prizes of secularism are vanity, as is life itself without its extension into eternity. On the other hand, the most humble life when seen under the aspect of eternity is invested with an unimaginable glory.

Harold Fickett
If I suddenly felt that this life is all there is, I'm not sure what I would do.
 Rage would enter into it, I'm sure. The rage that drives so many people to shatter their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Because I am a person of faith, I remain open to my faith being disproven. Let's say the bones of Jesus were exhumed tomorrow, and the world learned that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was a hoax. How would I react?

I would not make an easy transition into a "spiritualized" understanding of Jesus' life and mission—an ethics of universal brotherhood looking toward a utopian horizon. Not at all. Losing faith would destroy the fundamental premise of my life. Everything I've lived for, taught my children, and written about would be nullified.

But the loss of my way of being in the world would be the least of it. What I would most dread, as I've considered such a nightmare, would be a cosmic claustrophobia, as the whole world became a coffin with the lid descending. At first, I would probably quake with fear, and then experience the unstoppable rage of our times.

Why should any creature possess consciousness of mortality and longings for the immortal if these served, at best, an obscure socio-biological agenda? That's not a bad joke or even a dark one—that's night itself.

As I look back over my life, most of it lived within communities of faith, I have always known the deep and ultimate pleasure of eternity. It's not that I have been comforted by the thought of future rewards compensating for present difficulties. This hasn't entered into it at all.

Rather, my soul has luxuriated in the knowledge that each aspect of my life has an ultimate significance. That in God's redemption of fallen creation, all that I have known, given, failed to give, miscarried or completed will be taken up into a final reconciliation that will purge away the dross and leave God's will as all in all.

In the Christian scheme of things, the thousand memories that flood our minds will all, every one, be taken into this final reckoning. Even the quiet moment with my seven year-old daughter Eve, when she said, "I find that really disturbing," and I got a big kick out of her imitating my love of hyperbole. The moment when I touched my father's forehead in his coffin and found it even colder than I had imagined. The night I drove home, quite drunk, from a party with graduate school friends through a heavy snowstorm and could only see ahead of me by sticking my head out the window, not having the sense, in my inebriation, to wait for the car to warm and the windows to clear of their coating of frozen rain. The day a publisher spiked a book I had worked on for two years. The moment when I saw love in the eyes of my future wife that was so deep I knew this lovely young woman wanted to have children with me.

If this life is all there is, these things would be passing shadows, flickerings of electro-chemical responses, or as the Bible puts it, sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. They would not be the marks on my soul of the good and evil I have known, with enduring implications.

I remember going from my Christian elementary school into a public junior high. The usual things were wrong with that junior high, but beyond all that, I remember how the atmosphere seemed full of attenuated tones—a dampened and flattened melody. The notes being struck in that secular context never rang true—as if someone were trying to play a vibraphone that was covered with a dampening cloth. Plink, plink plink plink.

We were supposed to get a good education... so we could be good citizens... so we could make a good living... so we could be respected, even celebrated, in the future. Even at twelve and thirteen, I couldn't help thinking, Who cares?

Chesterton said that the individual is more important than any temporal institution because the individual has an eternal destiny while the greatest of civilizations are passing phenomena. This understanding, which lies at the heart of Christianity, gives to each life and every experience in that life an immeasurable dignity.

We are playing not merely for keeps but for ever.

Dostoevsky 's character Ivan Karamazov believed that if God is dead, "everything is lawful." Or, as Flannery O'Connor's Misfit put it, "Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead... and He shouldn't have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness."

For myself, being of a craven temperament, I think I would just get permanently drunk.

The glittering prizes of secularism are vanity, as is life itself without its extension into eternity. On the other hand, the most humble life when seen under the aspect of eternity is invested with an unimaginable glory. To live possessed by this hope provides a dynamism that transcends every circumstance.

I keep betting my life that Christianity is true.
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January 7, 2004

HAROLD FICKETT is a Godspy Contributing Editor.

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READER COMMENTS
08.18.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
Thanks, John. I have been out of the loop as of late, but always manage to find my way back to my thoughtful and religious friends at Godspy and the Forums.

08.17.04   John Martin says:
Thanks, Jonathan.I didn't see this for a long time, but it's cheered me this morning. I'd like to say, too, what a helpful commentator you are throughout the GodSpy forums.

05.20.04   alexander caughey says:
If life is for living then best we life this life to the fullest, for it is with our natural self that we grow our spiritual inner man and without the willingness to live life to the fullest, through cooperating with the Holy Spirit, we are unable to realise our purpose for living. That eternity is now and that our life is now and forever, should en power us to live as we are designed to live, by living according to the request of our Creator, now living and very much alive, within us. Secularism is not a crime, when we recognise that our life is to grow into the being that is within us, waiting to be grown and it is only with the benefit of living life, through all its resistance and problems, that we are then able to exercise our God given gifts of loving life by loving all that God has created for us to love. Loving God, must needs entail us loving all that He loves and His creation is His focus of His love. Let us not reject secularism rather let us embrace it by living our existence, by accepting Christ's very clear statement of intent "I have come that you may have life, in full rich abundance". Let us not abdicate our duty and responsibility to enjoy life by living our life for the benefit of all who enter our life. For it is only through joy of living that we can understand that God's intentions are clearly written into our lives of plenty of joyousness and fulfilment of all we can become by living for life's purpose, that of living in love of all that God grants us to live for.

05.19.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
Harold,Your excellent essay has brought to mind many different thoughts about the 'here and now' nature (outside of time and space? is this sort of an Augustinian eternity?) of our faith in Life everlasting after this life.Many of our fellow friends and colleagues (who are agnostic at best) peer down upon us with bemused, knowing looks as insecure and needing the 'crutch' of our Faith to get through life. You know the old argument: tell the peasants that by working hard and denying themselves in this world will give them riches and leisure in the next!Your excellent sentence, "We are playing not merely for keeps but for ever," calls to mind the poem of Emily Dickinson: We play at Paste-- Till qualified for Pearl-- Then drop the Paste-- And deem ourself a fool-- The shapes--though--were similar-- And our new Hands Learned Gem-Tactics-- Practising Sands.As Christians we struggle with our poor, clumsy and flesh-bound hands (the vain of us think the paste to be glittering prizes) but in the larger context (outside of time and space, the Eternal with God) we will earn "new Hands" to create "Gem-Tactics" (works of praise and Love) that in your words, will partake of "the deep and ultimate pleasure of eternity."And your characterization (echoing Ecclesiastes) of secularism's fruit being "vanity," reminds me of the Hebrew word which was translated in the Vulgate as vanitas: it is "emptiness." Vain and empty. You have given dimension to nongodly or ungodly person: flat without destiny, without humility that is seed to "an unimaginable glory."Good article, Harold

05.19.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:

01.07.04   Godspy says:
The glittering prizes of secularism are vanity, as is life itself without its extension into eternity. On the other hand, the most humble life when seen under the aspect of eternity is invested with an unimaginable glory.

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