Friday, March 25, 2016

Flannery O'Connor: Struggling 'With The Stinking Mad Shadow Of Jesus'

Today is the birthday of the American writer and leading 20th century Catholic apologist, Flannery O'Connor. She was born in Savannah in 1925 and spent her early childhood there. She lived on Lafayette Square with its moss-draped live oaks, colorful azaleas, abundance of birds, and towering spires of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Things haven't changed much on this beautiful square. I'm sure it still has a interesting spectrum of regular visitors. Children play on the sidewalks and lawns. And every day, the cathedral bells remind the people of God's love and their obligations as His children. I think as long as you can visit Lafayette Square, say on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, you can know O'Connor well.

The family moved to Atlanta in 1938, where her father was diagnosed with lupus. Soon after, they moved to her mother's family home in Milledgeville, about 100 miles southeast of Atlanta. After his death in 1941, O'Connor moved a few miles north of town to her uncle's farm where she lived with her mother. Eventually, the farm would be called Andalusia, and it would become a refuge following her own diagnosis with lupus in 1950. There, she would raise her beloved peacocks and weave her rural Georgia and childhood experiences into some of America's finest literature. Those titles include her novels, Wise Blood, and The Violent Bear It Away, along with scores of short stories published in two collections in her lifetime, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Her Complete Stories appeared posthumously in 1971.

Lupus took Flannery O'Connor from us in 1964 when she was in her 39th year. You can visit both her childhood home and Andalusia thanks to foundations that preserve the landscapes and memories she cherished. And, thanks to her, you can visit the South anytime by simply opening one of her books.


Photos and Illustrations:
Adult portrait,

title quote, from The Violent Bear It Away
O'Connor entry, Sarah Gordon, et al,

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