Saturday, November 9, 2013

The beautiful prayers of Flannery O'Connor

From early 1946 to the fall of 1947—from the ages of 20 to 22—[Flannery] O’Connor wrote in a hardbound, marbled Sterling notebook, which was found by writer, scholar, and O’Connor friend William A. Sessions during a visit to her archives in 2002. ...

“I cannot love Thee the way I want to,” she writes. “You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see, and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon ... what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon.”

Her ambition is plain but something she tries to accommodate to God’s will. “Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted,” she implores, but then adding, aware of the sin of pride, “That is so far from what I deserve, of course, that I am naturally struck with the nerve of it.” She questions her motives, her honesty, and worries over her presumption: “I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way. Let me henceforth ask you with resignation . . . Oh God please make my mind clear. Please make it clean.” ...

She worries her mind is not strong, she describes it as being “in a little box, dear God, down inside other boxes inside other boxes and on and on. There is very little air in my box.” She worries that she may be, artistically, merely mediocre. “If I ever do get to be a fine writer,” she says, “it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things he kindly wrote for me.” But “right at present this does not seem to be His policy. I can’t write a thing.”
--Marian Ryan, Slate, on the prayers of a great writer