Thursday, August 4, 2011

Grace to Change

Flannery O'Connor
This summer I have been doing more diverse reading than usual—a mix of biographies, mysteries, science fiction and history books.

While relaxing, reading can be hard work at times, especially if one tries to grapple with "heavy" issues. For example, I recently finished reading Unbroken, by Lauren Hillenbrand, most of the story set in the days of WWII. The main character is Louis Zamperini who turns out to be unexpectedly heroic. He "rises to the occasion," as the old saying goes. And, from what I have read, he exhibited unusual courage and will power. That, in turn, reminds me of one of my all-time favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor, since I have also been re-reading several of her short stories.
Flannery has been dead for 47 years, dying in 1964, a year before the closing of Vatican II. I regret that she did not live long enough to write some reflections about the Vatican II impact on the Church and, in particular, on the laity. Pithy as she was, Flannery would have had some truly insightful observations, I am sure. As it is, she remains one of the best writers in describing how ordinary people (though admittedly some truly odd characters!) react to unordinary or, at least, unexpected situations. She is quoted as having said, "Grace changes us and change is painful." Her characters show this through her inimitable style. Flannery knows her Gospels and she nails the paradox of suffering as an evil but also a stepping-stone to salvation. It seems to me we would not be amiss in using some of Flannery's stories as spiritual reading and perhaps even for lectio divina.

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