Monday, January 13, 2014

Wisdom from Flannery O'Connor

 
One of my favorite reads from 2013 was the recently-published Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor. (Thank you, Rosemary, for sharing it with me!) So far I've only read her essays and about 3 pages of a short story, but I have to say that I've rarely read anything that made me feel more connected with a writer than this journal. (The other time, incidentally, that I felt that "kindred spirit-ness" was when I read Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water.)

I can't review this in the traditional manner, as it's not fiction--it's a journal, so it is what it is. What it is, however, is gorgeous writing, wise insights, and heartfelt prayers. Allow me to share a few sentences with you, some that most resonated with me as a writer:

"I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do. I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, 'oh God please,' and 'I must,' and 'please, please.' I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way. Let me henceforth ask you with resignation--that not being or meant to be a slacking in prayer but a less frenzied kind--realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust. I do not wish to presume. I want to love.
"Oh God please make my mind clear.
"Please make it clean.
"I ask You for a greater love for my holy Mother and I ask her for a greater love for You.
"Please help me to get down under things and find where You are."

"Dear God, tonight is not disappointing because you have given me a story. Don't let me think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story--just like the typewriter was mine."

"I want to be a fine writer... If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me. Right at present this does not seem to be His policy. I can't write a thing. But I'll continue to try--that is the point."

11 comments:

  1. Some great thoughts. Thank you for sharing these.

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    1. You're welcome--I hope you can get your hands on the whole book!

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  2. Thank you very much for sharing this….very inspiring in a very humble way….

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  3. Flannery O'Connor's short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" has always fascinated me. But I never read anything else by her. So this is most interesting, especially that last part ("I can't write a thing").

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    1. As I said, I'm just beginning to read her short stories. They are...different! But having read her journal and essays helps a great deal in understanding where she was coming from.

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  4. Oh, such heartfelt excerpts. I completely get that frenzied prayer vs. resignation. I remember that in her letter to A, she says that when she went to Lourdes, she prayed for her book, not for healing from the lupus.

    Flannery has adopted me along with St. Alphonsus :) I am enjoying Mystery and Manners right now along with her shorts, and loving every minute with her.

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    1. I've been told that her stories are best understood by those who live/have lived in the south--perhaps you have even more of a connection just due to proximity now!
      As with Alphonsus, it's hard to imagine how Flannery accomplished so much while dealing with so much pain. Truly inspiring.

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  5. I remember loving Flannery O'Connor's writings in high school and college. I can't remember why now, too long ago, but now I need to reacquaint myself with her.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this! I need to explore more of her writing :)

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