Welcome! This blog celebrates both the local and the catholic -- that is, universal -- aspects of the Roman Catholic Church by sharing reflections on experiences of the Church in a variety of settings and cultures. Postings will come from around the world and around the corner. You don't have to be a Catholic to come along.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Amazing Flannery O'Connor

The late Flannery O'Connor, renowned both as a Catholic writer and as a Southern writer, was a remarkably independent woman.

By the age of six, she had decided to call her parents by their first names. Reared within easy viewing distance of the imposing St. John's Cathedral across Lafayette Square in Savannah, she also declared to her parents around that age that she would no longer attend the children's Mass but instead go to church with them.

This spirit of independence never deserted her during her short 39-year life. It informed her fiction, which is quite unlike anything else ever written. And yet, she willingly submitted herself to the greater wisdom of the Roman Catholic Church.

Ann and I recently visited her girlhood home in Savannah, from which we could see the back yard where she once taught a chicken to walk backward (which was recorded in a newsreel film that Flannery considered the most exciting thing that ever happened to her).

At her home I bought a book of her prose called "Mystery and Manners," which includes some remarkable thoughts on reading, writing, and Catholicism. For example:

* "When people have told me that because I am Catholic I cannot be an artist, I have had to reply, ruefully, that because I am Catholic I cannot afford to be be less than an artist."

* "The business of protecting souls from dangerous literature belongs properly to the Church."

* ". . . evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured."

Flannery O'Connor's home and her writing are both worth spending time with.

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