After a year’s absence from the university of Our Lady, it has not taken me more than a week to fall back into the same habits, into well-worn rhythms.  Hours spent in libraries and study rooms seem more like a chapter from my first two collegiate years than any kind of progress.  The brownstone facades of dining hall and dormitories ring with memories evocative of the college routine: coursework, appointments, post-graduation concerns.  Just about everywhere I go on this campus feels saturated with familiarity.  Echoes of some sort have been reawakened.

I started reading Kierkegaard this week: The Sickness Unto Death and Fear and Trembling.  I should have been paging through some German plays and 20th century U.S. novels.  But instead I read Kierkegaard.

I like to think that I have read more of that old Dane’s philosophy than I have.  Parts of Fear and Trembling actually appeared on a course syllabus for a theology class I took severl semesters back.  He seemed pretty darn interested in discerning God’s will and understanding what it meant to be a Christian.  Back then.  Kierkegaard did, that is.  His writing contains no shortage of notes on repetition and tedium either.

I came across a passage in the preface that I remembered reading several times before.  It reads:

“In our time nobody is content to stop with faith but wants to go further.  It would perhaps be rash to ask where these people are going, but it is surely a sign of breeding and culture for me to assume that everybody has faith, for otherwise it would be queer for them to be … going further.  In those old days it was different, then faith was a task for a whole lifetime…”

As far as comprehension goes, I am just about as puzzled by what Kierkegaard means here as I was during past readings.  I do, however, find myself perplexed for different reasons.  The first time through, I was struck by the necessity of faith posited here—that anyone “going further” must be assumed to have faith in some capacity.  Looking at it now with some knowledge of Hegel, I see that the line about those who cannot “stop with faith” is aimed at the Hegelian philosophers who wanted to reduce religion to concepts and premises.  But how do we assent to this kind of faith?  I am not quite sure.  Just as Kierkegaard says in Fear and Trembling that he cannot understand Abraham, I cannot understand Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling.

I suppose my problem lies in my being lost in the world.  This is not an uncommon predicament, I think.  I am too busy considering what next to apply for, what book to peruse, what task needs doing—or else I am off in my own thoughts, jousting with meaning and mortality.  I do not feel particularly at home in the world, at Notre Dame, though it all seems pretty familiar to me.  I am probably something like what Kierkegaard terms a “knight of infinite resignation,” one who sees a certain vanity in worldly things, yet cannot lift himself above them.

I have been to quite a few Masses since being back—really nice, cozy services in dorm chapels and megachurch-sized assemblies in basketball arenas.  The messages of community, of serving one another and asking for help, reverberated on each occasion.  The liturgy effects a certain dislocation in me.  I have been to, what, many hundreds of them before.  And yet each time the ritual seems sacred, set apart from the mundane and the usual.

There is a truth that echoes in every Eucharistic celebration, a repetition that does not deaden but uplifts.  The Mass is a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice, sure, but it is also Christ-made-present.  God incarnate is there in the Eucharist, the body of Christ.

Is this maybe, just maybe, what Kierkegaard is getting at when he writes of a faith that requires a whole lifetime, that builds and builds like the concentric circles on a pond’s rippling surface, unsettled repeatedly by the piercing blow of a thrown stone?  Is it the fire that is ignited again and again?  Is it this, our awareness of the presence of God, that constantly needs to be reawakened?

Tomorrow I will rise again and pass by the same brick walls of the same brick buildings.  I will walk along paths stretched diagonally through grass like the trusses of a motionless bridge.  The campus will be bustling with the same green and gold clad denizens, keeping their schedules.  Off of each surface the echoes will rebound, the reverberations of creation whereby the Creator’s call is heard.

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the dome of the sky proclaims His handiwork (Ps 19:1).

Charlie Ducey is a senior studying English and German.  He waxes poetic without warrant, but who needs a warrant to write poetry?  Contact him at