Happy Birthday, Flannery O’Connor!

Southern author Flannery O’Connor was born this day in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. She was an orthodox Catholic who used the grotesque to reveal the grace and love of Christ. If you have read a short story by O’Connor, you were probably appalled, at first glance, with the way she communicates this grace — actually, you probably couldn’t recognize it through the images of one legged woman being deceived, a young boy drowning himself in a river as a way of purification, and a man, seemingly out of spite, tattooing a picture of God, “not Christ” on his back. Her images haunt you, they disgust you, but the brutality of them force you to stop….and examine the seed of Truth rooted in each and every one of her stories.

She explains her purpose in communicating truth in this particular manner as such:

An author must “know how far he can distort without destroying, and in order not to destroy, he will have to descend far enough into himself to reach those underground springs that give life to big work. This descent into himself will, at the same time, be a descent into his region. It will be a descent through the darkness of the familiar into a world where, like the blind man cured in the gospels, he sees men as if they were trees, but walking.”

As we (and she) descend into the darkness of the life external and the life internal, our brokenness, “The Freckled and Flawed“, don’t consume us, but instead, bring for the springs of life. But, you must confront this darkness to experience the life promised through the death and resurrection of the Christ. O’Connor, in her wit and vulgarity, accomplishes this very thing. She leads us into the darkness, for the sake of light itself. It seems counter-intuitive, but in reality, the reality we all know and experience, it is the way to union with our God.

In honor of her work here on earth, here is one of my favorite passages from her short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

“Jesus!” the old lady cried. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”….

“Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead.” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him…”

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