From "The Habit of Being" an insightful bit of analysis about Faith by the incomperable O'Connor;
"I think thatthis experience you are having of losing your faith, or as you think, of having lost it, is an experience that in the long run belongs to faith; or at least can belong to faith if faith is still valuable to you, and it must be or you would not have written me about this.
I don't know how the kind of faith requireed of a Christian living in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on this experience you are having right now of unbelief. This may be the case always and not just in the 20th century. Peter said, "lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." It is the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.
AS a freshman in college, you are bombarded with new ideas, or ratheer pieces of ideas, nw frames of reference, an activation of the intellectual life which is only beginningt, but which is already running ahead of your lived experience. After a year of theis, you think you cannot believe. You are just beginning to realize how difficult it is to have faith and the measure of committment to it, bt you are too young to decide you don't have faith just because you feel you can't believe. About the only way we can know whether we believe or not is by what we do, and I think from your letter that you will not take the path of least resistance in this manner nad sinply decide thatyou have lost your faith and that there is nothing you can do about it.
One result of the stimulation of your intellectual life that takes place in college is usually a shrinking of the imaginative life. This sounds like a paradox, but I have often found it to be true. Students get so bound up with difficulties such as reconciling the clashing of so many different faiths such as Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc, that they cease to look for God in other ways. Bridges once wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins and asked him to tell him how he, Bridges, could believe. He must have expected from Hopkins a long philosophical answer. Hopkins wrote back,"Give alms." He was trying to say to Bridges that God is experienced in Charity (in the sense of love for the divine image in human beings). Don't get so entangled with intellectual difficulties that youfail to look for God in this way."
Timeless advice. O'Connor is amasing
Re Mr. Head and the action of Grace;
"About the novel of religious conversion. You can't have a stable character being converted, you are right, but I think you are wrong that heroes have to be stable. If they were stable there wouldn't be any story. It seems to me that all good stories are about conversion, about a character's changing. If it is the Church he's converted to, the Church remains sstable and he has to change as you say - but why do you say the charcter has to remain stable? The action of Grace changes a character. Grace can't be experienced in itself. An example: when you go to Communion, you receive grace but you experience nothing; or if you do experience something, what you experience is not the grace but the emotion caused by it. Therefore in a story all you can do wwithgrace is to show that it is changing the character. Mr. head (in the Artificial Nigger) is changed by his experience even though he remains Mr. Head. He is stable but not the same man at the end of the story. Staable in the sense that he bears the same physical contours and pecularities but they are all ordered toa new vision. Part of the difficulty of all this is that you write for an audience who deons't know what grace is and don't recognize when they see it. All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless, brutal etc."
That last sentence is the KEY to "getting" this magnificent artist.
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