Tag Archives: Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor opens a new door to Easter Mysteries

FlanneryFlannery O’Connor is a rather intriguing and an important Catholic woman of importance for us today. She is too often overlooked by Catholics and secularists alike and that is a sad point. George Weigel wonder aloud on several critical points about faith and reason, and faith, but he also opines about the lack of a concerted study of O’Connor’s sanctity. Is Weigel asking something important here?

You need to read Weigel’s most recent article, “Easter with Flannery O’Connor” because brings to light some new aspects of O’Connor’s witness to truth that I have not heretofore thought about in detail.

Weigel’s opening paragraphs read (to read the full article click on the link above):

This coming Aug. 3 will mark the golden anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s “Passover,” to adopt the biblical image John Paul II used to describe the Christian journey through death to eternal life. In the 50 years since lupus erythematosus claimed her at age 39, O’Connor’s literary genius has been widely celebrated. Then, with the 1979 publication of The Habit of Being, her collected letters, another facet of Miss O’Connor’s genius came into focus: Mary Flannery O’Connor was an exceptionally gifted apologist, an explicator of Catholic faith who combined remarkable insight into the mysteries of the Creed with deep and unsentimental piety, unblinking realism about the Church in its human aspect, puckish humor—and a mordant appreciation of the soul-withering acids of modern secularism.

Insofar as I’m aware, there’s never been an effort to initiate a beatification cause for Flannery O’Connor. If such a cause should ever be introduced, The Habit of Being (and the lectures found in the Library of America edition of her collected works) should be the principal documentary evidence for considering her an exemplar of heroic virtue, worthy to be commended to the whole Church.

Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it, Flannery O’Connor’s insight into eucharistic coherence

Flannery O'Connor2.jpg

One of the authors that I believe we have to look to for insight when it comes to sacramentality is the great southern woman, Flannery O’Connor. The great feast of Corpus Christi is this weekend. 


Here is a reflection for us on the Vigil of Corpus et Sanguis Christi:

“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life). She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. 

We went at eight and at one, I hadn’t opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them. 

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. 

I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

Church of Canada priestess gives communion to a dog

communion distribution.jpgAND you wonder why fewer and fewer people take the Anglican Church (or the Episcopal Church if you are American) with a degree of seriousness. Recently a Church of Canada priestess gave communion to a German Shepherd as a “simple church act of reaching out.” What a gesture of welcome! This act is not only contravening “church policy” as much as it is an acknowledgement that the real Presence of Christ is not a Reality for these people. Policy is has nothing to do with it, does it? But if the Anglicans of the Church of Canada simply believe Communion is a symbol or that it represents something else…. Sounds like Joseph Campbell, Derida and many Protestant theologians (e.g. Borg, Tillich and Bultmann) are patron saints of mere symbol and not of Jesus Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity.

What comes to mind is Flannery O’Connor’s famous insight when she said to hell with a symbol. O’Connor said:
“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater…. She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual…. Toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the most portable person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, “Well if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

Flannery O’Connor: the only great Christian writer in the US

Flannery O'Connor.jpgEncountering the grace through the literature is a sufficient way of knowing Christ and the fruitfulness of the Gospel. For many, myself included, Mary Flannery O’Connor is wonderful entree into the Mystery of God. Watch the story, I think you’d surprised by what you’d learn.

Flannery O’Connor’s stories were instrumental in at least one conversion to Catholicism that I am aware of. And she seems to have introduced him to Saint Thomas Aquinas who then led him eventually to the acceptance of a vocation in the Catholic priesthood. Dominican Father Thomas Joseph White talks about O’Connor’s influence in his life.
Be sure to read the extended interviews of the people interviewed in the centerpiece.
An interview on this topic will be broadcast on PBS’s “Religion and Ethics Weekly” on Sunday, 22 November (look for local listings).
The New Georgia Encyclopedia entry for Flannery O’Connor

Reason, Fiction and Faith: a conference on Flannery O’Connor



An International Flannery O’Connor Conference

flannery o'connor.jpg

The April 20-22,
2009 conference
was sponsored by the Poetics & Christianity
which is “an international forum for studying the intersection of artistic
culture and expressions of religious faith, with a special emphasis on
narrative and dramatic arts. It offers a meeting place for scholars and artists
of diverse fields of expertise.”

The O’Connor Conference was the 4th gathering
of scholars and other interested parties matters pertaining to art and faith.
Since Flannery O’Connor is relatively unknown in Europe, Father Wauck felt it was time
to introduce the world to writer who lived her Catholic faith and wrote fiction
using Catholic sacramentality. Father Wauck said,

“Flannery O’Connor’s fiction offers an example of what
Catholic art can achieve when it’s fully informed by a sophisticated
theological understanding, a rigorous philosophical background, and also the
kind of dedication to craft, to the artistry of writing that she combined.”

A video clip on the conference can be seen here.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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