Wednesday, January 31, 2007
God put this book, The Habit of Being, in my hands during a very difficult time in my life. It is a collection of Flannery O' Conner's letters which shows her wit and sense of humor. In the summer of 2002, I was diagnosed with Addison's disease (which ended up being an incorrect diagnosis) and O'Conner's strength of character inspired me to persevere in spite of crippling fatigue. Like many books I love, I gave it away. Now, as I attempt to discern God's will for my life, I recall the comfort I first experienced upon realizing that God works wonders through those who persevere in faith.
I have here on my nightstand a gem of a magazine, Magnificat. Part of the evening prayer is from Psalm 127 and it is one to be mindful of in any endeavor, but most particularly for us homeschoolers:
If the Lord does not build the house,
in vain do its builders labor;
if the Lord does not watch over the city,
in vain does the watchman keep vigil.
In vain is your earlier rising,
your going later to rest,
you who toil for the bread you eat:
when he pours gifts on his beloved when they slumber.
Mary Flannery O'Conner understood grace. I am no theologian, but, like her, I have experienced the laughter and joy that comes from being in full communion with our merciful Redeemer. I was seized by her short stories when I was in college. Oddly, even though I was from the South, my roommate, Sophie, from Connecticut, introduced me to FOC. Reading "Everything that Rises Must Converge" was like having a bucket of cold water dumped on my head. I had this inkling that what was wrong with man was not so much societal as it was an interior thing -- that something was broken inside of man that could not be fixed. I realized that society could never free itself from racial prejudice or murder or plain ole loneliheartedness as long as the heart of man stayed the same. At the same time, I had missed O'Conner's answer. Her answer was not just her faith, albeit a steady faith she had. Her answer was Mother Church. Her answer involved the steady and steadfast reception of all seven sacraments.
I am glad I took the time to wonder about FOC's vigorous stories. Her art planted a seed in me. FOC was a holy woman. She loved her sweet Savior and rejoiced in her salvation. She did not use such language. Why did she not? Why was she not overt in stating her confidence in Catholicism. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit were present in her daily writing and in her daily living. She was like C.S Lewis when he wrote Screwtape Letters (please see Joseph Pearce's encouraging book, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church). She wrote a defense of the Faith by demonstrating humanity in it's loss of true religious practice. Wormwood and his minions are all over FOC's characters. They are all broken with no Eucharist to fill them.
There is no substitute for the Holy Eucharist. God so yearns to fill us with His love, and it is a great mystery that He does not force Himself upon us.