“Half-Wits” and Beatitudes, Essay Example

Published: 2021-07-03 02:55:05
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Servais-Théodore Pinckaers is a moral theologian and Roman Catholic priest who was a member of the Dominican Order. His most noted influence on the expansion of the Church has been in regards to the modernization of Christological ethics and Christian values. According to Pinckaers, “Morality is a search for happiness.” This can be seen as the main theme of his popular book, “The Pursuit of Happiness – God’s Way.” Pinckaers identifies the beatitudes as Jesus’ response to the human journey for joy. These answers are presented in the form of   eight challenges, or promises, which are known as the beatitudes. In “Half-Wits,” the main character Fitzsimmons exemplifies characteristics of the continual development of conscience in response to the call of ecclesia, or the Church. His journey can be directly paralleled to that of the call of ecclesia described through the beatitudes in Pinkares’ book.
Challenges are a major part of the Beatitudes. The main challenge is understood as the challenge posed by people going about their lives without thought assuming they have everything they need and not evaluating themselves or the world around them. The Beatitudes focuses on tragedy, poverty, and other controversial issues. These concepts demand attention and make individuals analyze their lives.  As Pinkaers states, the Beatitudes confront us with the “realities of existence and show us what lies in our own depths.”[1] Facing one’s own lies about themselves forces them to look inward and find happiness and joy on more meaningful terms, ultimately leading to a relationship with God. Pinkaers points out how this dares one to put faith in “Jesus’ seeming paradox.” This theme is communicated by the character Fitzsimmons through the prism of his life. The Beatitudes represent the continual development of conscience in response to the call of ecclesia, or the church. In this respect embracing the way of the cross is interchangeable with the call of ecclesia. It describes the internalizing of the foundations of the “living science” of moral theology that is demonstrated within the character of Fitzsimmon.
When Fitzsimmons goes through four years of darkness and isolation, it leads him to an inner journey and Pentecost that helps him find joy in God. Pinckaers notes that man does not need anyone to teach him that good fortune and joy will make him happy. The unexpected aspect of this is that poverty and suffering could be the most direct road to happiness and that Christ has chosen these individuals as the path to salvation.[2] Pinckaers points out how life in the form of trials of human condition likes “poverty, suffering, unjust violence and death, speaks the Word of God in the beatitudes to us.” It is a life without the simple joys of society that one is more susceptible to beatitudes. Early on the author makes it clear that Fitzsimmons does not live a conventional life. Fitzsimmons lives a life deprived of luxury and haunted by his past. He is isolated form society. Often mistaken for weakness, real meekness is recognized as the outcome of a drawn out battle against the violence of emotion, failures and fears.[3] These are tenants of the beatitudes and they parallels Fitzsimmon’s journey in many ways.
Pinckaers notes how the Beatitudes  have a timeless quality about them. He argues that poverty, meekness, and sadness are all elements that all people can relate to throughout history. These are timeless issues that must be faced by all societies.  Pinckaers states they are “questions which have constantly recurred throughout history.”[4] This is timeless because it will always be true. In “Half-wits,” Fitzsimmons epitomizes the Beatitudes. He is broken and must look within himself in order to get value out of his life, to find happiness, joy, and peace of mind. Fitzsimmon’s relationship with his first wife, is shallow and voided, and he comes to realize that he did not have real joy with her.  For Fitzsimmons, he must first lose everything before he can experience the transition mentioned in the Beatitudes, the transition of reaching his “bottom rock” and then finding happiness. On page 147, Fitzsimmons is at his lowest point. It appears like he has lost everything, he says, “I cannot put the events in sequence. The moment I saw the blood something happened to my mental process. Perhaps I went a little mad, or maybe it was shock.”[5] This traumatic event sets the tone for Fitzsimmon’s numbness throughout the book and the dark insecure and fearful nature in which he is first presented to the reader.
Fitzsimmons has closed himself off from the world. He has condemned it and himself without mercy. The sixth beatitude focuses on purity of the heart and requires commitment to justice, as well as mercy and faith. The conflict Fitzsimmons shows in relation to this can be seen when his heart is made unsure due to his unjust acts. It alerts one that seeking God is the only thing that makes one truly happy. Pinckaers views justice in the real world as it relates to the biblical interpretation. He notes that enduring injustice is preferred over behaving unjustly. He argues that to behave in an unjust way is to lose one’s appreciation of the virtue of justice. When Fitzsimmons is living an unjust life, he is burdened by his past crimes and the fears they caused him, but when he walks in the way of the cross, he goes through his Pentecostal and the following happens, “…Fitzsimmons began to be aware of a tremendous sense of release. It was as if a great catharsis had taken place and all the weight of his past life had been lifted from him. He was, he knew, free of the burden of the deaths of Eileen and Sarah, and he was free of the foreboding that Sarz had caused him. He was also free, to some extent, he realized, of self.”[6] This is a significant part of the novel because it represent the author’s expansion into his new peacemaking relationship with God. The seventh beatitude declares peacemaking as the core goal of the daughters and sons of God. Pinckaers clarifies the difference between the cowardly peace of no conflict, and the noble peace of truth. Justice and love, and peace are based on the correct relationship with God.Fitzsimmon’s Pentecostal represents his reconciliation with Christ from a point of uncertainty and now having the correct relationship with God.
The author notes that, “The beatitudes really “seek us out rather than we they.”  The main concept here is that when one journeys on the path of conscience to internalize the living science of moral theology, that the call of ecclesia takes-over. When Fitzsimmons finally attains the correct type of relationship with Christ, he becomes detached from his torment. Likewise, he notices this same type of detachment in Father Peter early on in the book.  Fitzsimmons, who unknowingly is in desperate need of spiritual counseling, most notices the characteristics Peter has that he lacks in himself. On Fitzsimmon’s perception of the Catholic Priest, the author says, “Peter had that quality of detachment which only comes with experience, and his face, while it was clearly that of a man in his fifties, was also quite youthful. For Fitzsimmons, that should have been the clue to Peter’s vocation because he had found that the quality of a youthful countenance was peculiar to spiritual people. Even now, when Peter seemed to be upset with him, Fitzsimmons was struck by the serenity of the priest’s countenance.”[7]  The key concept here is that father peter is detached because as Pinkaers notes, he is sustaining a conversation with the Lord similar to the other martyrs of Christ.[8]
In sum, the view of persecution in the eighth beatitude is similar to the plights of the impoverished spirit of the first. These children of God are granted the kingdom of heaven. The reader is not told to chase after persecution, but there is also no message to run from persecution either.   It is through persecution that the challenged encounter Christ. This can be seen in both “The Half-Wits” and Pinckaers’ take on the beatitudes, in that the authors mentions the martyrs of Christ as “not present in their bodies,” when going through their torment. This explains why when Fitzsimmons goes through his Pentecost he describes the experience as no longer feeling his pain, as being completely free and detached from his torment. Fitzsimmon’s experience of fear, uncertainty and apprehension for life due to dark thoughts and obsession with his past sins, leads him to his ‘bottom rock,’ which the beatitudes identify as the transition point before happiness can be found. Fitzsimmons hits his bottom rock and then releases himself from the burdens that have bound him to despair for over four years. After an empty marriage, the recovering from the deaths and losses of his loved ones, he finds God and in finding God he finds joy and happiness internally within himself. It’s through persecution, that Fitzsimmons is able to able to attain true joy.
Work Cited
Gerard, Goggins. Half-Wits. Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1988.
Pinckaers, Servais . The Pursuit of Happiness- God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011. (accessed October 15, 2012).
[1] Servais Pinckaers, The Pursuit of Happiness- God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes., (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011), 35.
[2] Servais Pinckaers, The Pursuit of Happiness- God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes., (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011), 35.
[3] Servais Pinckaers, The Pursuit of Happiness- God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes., (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011), 61.
[4] Servais Pinckaers, The Pursuit of Happiness- God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes., (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011), 37.
[5] Gerard Goggins, Half-Wits. , (Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1988), 147.
[6] Gerard Goggins, Half-Wits. , (Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1988), 147.
[7] Gerard Goggins, Half-Wits. , (Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1988), 45.
[8] Servais Pinckaers, The Pursuit of Happiness- God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes., (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011), 181.

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