Saturday, January 06, 2007
The Letters Of Flannery O'Connor
On a recommendation from a friend I picked up a copy of "The Habit Of Being". Al selection of Flannery O'Connors letters from 1948-1964.
Feeling as if I have backed into my own Catholicism, this book is becoming something like sacred. As I described to Alex St. Onge the other night, it is not that I am seeking to return to Catholicism, more that I am finding that while I tried in many ways to empty my heart, it remained full and that hurt....all along I was Catholic with my eyes lowered to the horizon, but knew the horizon for what it was only because I knew what was above.
This all goes over like a lead balloon at parties. A fitting quote from the book mentioned above:
"I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She wrote that book, A Charmed Life) She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequecy had forgotten them. Well, toward morning the conversation turned to the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said that when she was a child and received the Host she thought of it as the Holy Ghost. He being the "most portable" person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, "Well, if it is a symbol, to hell with it." That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of my existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable."
It is that final sentence. Qualified by "outside of a story" that sets my head on fire.