For the last several years, (since I began getting old) I have been enrolled in a continuing education program for seniors, sponsored by the University of South Alabama. I have enjoyed classes in Art History, Music History, and History. In addition to classes in genealogy, birding, and local aquatic life, my favorites are often those classes centered on poetry and fiction.
This quarter I’m taking a class on the Southern Gothic writer, Flannery O’Conner. I love her. Her works and books about her take up an inordinate amount of space on my bookshelves. So you might imagine that I looked forward to enjoying a chance to delve deeper with other Flannery fans. The professor, an Episcopalian priest, and I seem to be about the only people in the class who really appreciate her writing.
I’ve figured out that one of the stumbling blocks is a lack of understanding of the concepts of Grace and living out what we call a Sacramental Life. Those two elements live at the heart of my life as a Dominican sister. I do stand up in class and try not to babble about how her stories are about the pursuit of mystery. And about how mystery contains both truth and beauty and is best understood, not through reason, but often through irony, ambiguity, uncertainty, and surprise; always hidden and insistent on the discovery of what is true about suffering/joy and loss/love.
And although her stories can be startling, they are also moments of hilarity.
You might want to give Flannery O’Conner a try, or call to mind which fiction authors call you to that same kind of discovery
Annie Henkel, OP