When Things That Someday Converged First Arose

 |  NCR Today

A sampling of prayers from the emerging Flannery O'Connor graces the New Yorker magazine's Sept. 19 issue with bitter-sweet poignancy.

The free style supplications, entered into a notebook during her time at the Iowa Writers' Worship starting when she was 20, largely reflect the public image of O'Connor as a solitary artist of immense talent and ardent faith. But they also glimpse a fragility of self and conviction that mirror the unsteady gait of a girl entering upon the struggles that she will share with adult believers whether they show it or not.

"I dread, oh Lord, losing my faith," she confesses. "My mind isn't strong. It is prey to all sorts of intellectual quackery. It do not want it to be fear which keeps me in the Church."

She wants "very much to succeed" but censures herself for selfishness. Her ambition intertwines with a belief that authorship belongs to God rather than herself. "Don't let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story -- just like the typewriter was mine."

But the inexorable struggle between Self and Ultimate Selflessness, which occupies artists of faith often to the point of distraction, weaves through O'Connor's prayers.

Like what you're reading? Get free emails from NCR.

Her extraordinary sensibility and precociousness are also on view. Even as a young, relatively isolated Southerner, she felt the encroaching secularism that challenged her faith. Of the bedrock Faith, Hope and Charity elements, faith "gives me the most mental pain" because "At every point in this educational process, we are told that it is ridiculous and the arguments sound so good it is hard not to fall into them.

Even this limited selection of her early life reveal the tenacity that would keep her within the fold as a Catholic who isn't easily categorized. From the prayers, the image is one of a Catholic aesthete without community and an uncritical communicant (though she deftly corrects a monsignor's homily); her personal life shows a tough critic who faults herself for among other things badmouthing other people because it makes her "feel clever"; her fiction portrays her as richly absorbed in the real and surreal worlds. Her life was brief and her art brilliant. These prayers only add to the rich mosaic she left behind.   

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg


NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.



NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017