Friday, January 21, 2011
It's a clear, crisp morning here in Milledgeville. Quite a contrast to the drizzly, gray days earlier in the week when my wife, Judy, and I attended a four day Flannery O'Connor retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit near Conyers, Georgia. The retreat, led by Victor Kramer, professor emeritus at Georgia State, focused on how O'Connor's fiction allows contemporary readers to perceive the presence of God's grace in their lives and in the world. With charm and wit, Prof. Kramer demonstrated how O'Connor's characters are offered the freedom to accept or reject God's gifts. There are some who do (e.g. Harry/Bevel in The River) and others who don't (e.g. Tom T. Shiftlet in The Life You Save May Be Your Own). Yet, even in the bleakest of her stories where the characters reject grace, there still remains a glimmer of hope for redemption. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Victor Kramer, I would encourage you to do so. He is absolutely delightful. It is highly appropriate that this retreat was held at the monastery since Flannery and her mother were good friends with some of the monks there, most notably Fr. Paul Bourne and the abbot at the time, Dom Augustine Moore (who also administered last rites to Flannery just before she died). The O'Connors visited the monastery many times between 1961 and 1964. As a sign of the affection Flannery had for the monks, she gave them several of her peacocks which remained at the monastery for about fifteen years until finally their noise created so much of a disturbance that they disappeared mysteriously one night.