A novelist with faith

Flannery O’ Connor, southern US Catholic writer, died on August 3, 1964. Her novels and short stories, set in the US South, are full of strange characters but reveal a Catholic sensibility to sin and grace. Her letters, collected after her life in The Habit of Being, reveal her profound Catholicism.(I heartily recommend them.)

She suffered from lupus and, except for studies (including some time at the Iowa City Writers’ Workshop), she spent most of her time in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she wrote about two hours a day and cared for her pea-hens. I read somewhere that each night she read a bit of St. Thomas Aquinas (for inspiration, not as a sleeping pill.)

Her letters are full of gems like the following:

“It is hard to make your adversaries real people unless you recognize yourself in them — in which case, if you don’t watch out, they cease to be adversaries.”

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

“You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s sufferings and not your own.”

“The experience of losing your faith, or of having lost it, is an experience that in the long run belongs to faith; or at least it 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 required of a Christian living in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on this experience that you are having right now of unbelief. ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ is the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.”



2 responses to “A novelist with faith

  1. Eduardo García

    Gracias Juancito por esta recomendación.
    Today, I went to the APL and checked out “The Habit of Being.” It seems that the copy of this book has been read several times, because I found it had many pencil marks and folded corners. I looked at the index and read O’Connor’s entries on several saints (St. Paul, St. Ignatious, St. Catherine of Siena, etc.) and then I found one of those ‘gems’ that you mentioned. A previous reader had underlined this quote for me:

    “The fact is that in order not to be scandalized, one has to have a whole view of things, which not many of us have.”

    The work that you do by blogging gives us a “whole view of things” about the life of the poor in Honduras.

    I am taking a liberty in translating and interpreting from O’Connor’s quote the word “scandalize/ escandalizar.” Es un “escándalo” que todavía pase lo que pasa con la violencia y la intimidación en contra de quienes buscan la justicia social en latinoamérica.

    Please take good care of yourself and thanks for the enlightenment.

  2. John,
    Thanks for your comments and article on Flannery O’Connor. Our daughter, Amy, introduced me to her writings a few years ago and this past June Bill and I were in Savannah, GA, and I took a lovely picture of her childhood home. I am taking your recommendation and will find and read “The Habit of Being”.

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