It is the 3rd of August 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
It was on this, the 3rd of August in 1964 that America and the Church lost one of their most unique Christian literary talents. At only 39 Flannery O’Connor, a woman who had taken the literary establishment by storm with her grim tales of faith, doubt, and death in the American South had succumbed to Lupus.
Her story is short but remarkable- let’s break it down and look at 2 of her stories that illuminate her faith for us.
1. Born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia, the only child of two devout Catholic parents. They Moved to Milledgeville when she was 13 to a rural farm on account of her father contracting Lupus.
2. Flannery would graduate from the Georgia State College For Women in 1945 and headed to the University of Iowa to study Journalism.
3. Frustrated with her “lack of fit” with journalism, she was invited to join the famed U of Iowa writers workshop.
4. Her first novel, Wiseblood, was published in 1952. A compilation of earlier stories and characters, the novel was praised by Marilyn Robinson as “a tale in which pathos tips into pathology and violence, answered by a penance of self-mutilation and suffering. Yet the prose is absolutely brilliant, sentence by sentence, simile by simile, and so relentlessly inventive it feels comic.”
5. She would write one more novel, The Violent Bear it Away and two collections of short stories “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge”
My favorite story is the enigmatic eponymous tale from her first collection of short stories. A Good Man is Hard to Find is the story of a vain old grandmother who inadvertently causes a car crash on a family vacation. Spoiler alert: an escaped convict murders the whole family, finally killing the grandmother. End of story.
But it also ends with an epiphany about who she is, the vanity of cheap belief, and the hammer of the law.
Let me share just one more favorite line and anecdote from a short story.
In “Greenleaf” O’Connor paints the picture of a vapid cultural Christianity in the character of Mrs. May. She comes across a woman praying fervently, repeating “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
“Mrs. May winced. She thought the word Jesus should be kept inside the church building like other words inside the bedroom. She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true.”
O'Connor's faith abhorred hypocrisy but she still saw herself as imperfect and desperately in need of Christ and his Church.
Born in 1925, Flannery O’Connor died on the 3rd of August in 1964 at the age of 39.
The last word for today comes from Ms. O’Connor
What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can't believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 3rd of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite O’Connors include Flannery, Sandra Day, and Sinead. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.