A few weeks ago I made a little pilgrimage with my brother to Flannery O’Connor’s home in North Georgia.
While convalescing I have been reading her letters collected in The Habit of Being. The letters reveal her sparkling wit, sharp intelligence and deep Catholic faith.
Exiled to the family farm in her early twenties when she was struck down with lupus, she lived with her widowed mother who managed the farm and made use of her isolation to produce America’s finest Catholic fiction.
Her deep faith was evidenced by her daily attendance at Mass in nearby Milledgeville, and her approach to the faith is refreshingly pungent and honest.
When presented with a pilgrimage to Lourdes by a wealthy aunt, she complained and tried to squirm out of going. She disliked the idea of taking a bath in the healing waters, wirg, “I’d rather shed blood for my faith than take a bath for my faith.” Nevertheless, she went and believed the healing of her crippled hip on her return home was the result.
She counseled many in the faith through her letters and personal friendship. She loved the faith, but had little patience with “stupid nuns” “idiotic priests” and pompous prelates. Despite this she would counsel others who were disgusted or disappointed with the church be telling them they were disappointed because they had the wrong expectations of the church. It is human AND divine. It could never have survived for so long without being both. She quotes St Augustine of Hippo about the church being th threshing floor–the wheat and chaff together–waiting for the Lord of the Harvest to come to the threshing floor and sort the wheat from the straw and chaff.
Her faith was real–concrete and solid. There was no trace of sappy sentimentality, soft spirituality or self indulgent superstitious nonsense.
She had True Grit. A genuine Catholic Steel Magnolia.
Forgive the brevity of this blog post. I am still recovering from a stroke at the end of January and my typing is still wonky.