Friday, August 31, 2012

Monastic Guests

Of all the rotten luck!  I was out of town last Friday when two monks from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit visited Andalusia: Rt. Rev. Francis Michael Stiteler, abbot of the monastery, and Br. Cassian Russell.  As many of you who read this blog already know, Flannery O'Connor and her mother had a close relationship with the monastery in Conyers and occasionally would visit Our Lady of the Holy Spirit.  On occasion, Dom Augustine Moore, Fr. Paul Bourne, and other monks would also come to Andalusia.  However, the visit by Fr. Francis Michael and Br. Cassian last week marks the first time in about a half century that the Cistercians have set foot in the O'Connor farm house.  According to Craig, the monks from Holy Spirit spent about an hour here before heading off to visit the O'Connor Room at GCSU.  Speaking of the school, before becoming a monk, Br. Cassian was an associate professor of early childhood education at GCSU and is thus familiar with Milledgeville and the college.  Fr. Francis Michael is a committed naturalist/conservationist who has identified many, many species of butterflies and dragonflies during his 38 years at the monastery.  It's not surprising, therefore, that he came equipped with binoculars and camera to see what he could find amongst the fields and trees of Andalusia.  I was so disappointed that I couldn't be here but hope our monastic guests will consider visiting us again.
- Mark

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary to the Review!

Posting early this week because I'm off again for a short vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The same cannot be said for Bruce Gentry and his team of editors at the Flannery O'Connor Review.  They have been quite busy of late putting the finishing touches on the 2012 issue, which is due to be released in early September.  This is a special edition of the journal, which is marking its tenth anniversary as the Flannery O'Connor Review and the 40th anniversary of its inception as The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin.  Copies of the Review will be available at the Andalusia Gift Shop for $15 each.  In the mean time, we have another item in the gift shop that is sure to interest visitors of all ages: colorful peacock feathers courtesy of our resident bird, Manley Pointer, who has been molting this past week.  These feathers make a wonderful souvenir of a visit to Andalusia, but hurry, supplies are limited.
- Mark

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Child's Book?

In the early fall of 1960, Flannery O'Connor received a copy of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird from her friend Caroline Ivey who insisted O'Connor read it.  She did, and afterwards shared her thoughts with Betty Hester:  "I think I see what it really is - a child's book.  When I was fifteen I would have loved it.  Take out the rape and you've got something like Miss Minerva and William Green Hill.  I think for a child's book it does all right.  It's interesting that all the folks that are buying it don't know they're reading a child's book.  Somebody ought to say what it is..." (The Habit of Being, p. 411).  Just because O'Connor felt Lee's novel lacked sophistication, does that make it a bad book?  I don't think so.  In looking back over the literature I was assigned to read in high school, I would have done a lot better with To Kill a Mockingbird than with some of the stuff that was foisted on us.  I don't think a teenager is necessarily ready for Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or even Flannery.  I know I wasn't.  The Great Gatsby was totally beyond me.  Had we, instead, been assigned  To Kill a Mockingbird, I would have been drawn into this story narrated by a child like me who didn't exactly fit in.  Granted Lee's novel is not likely going to be part of an English major's curriculum in college, but that doesn't mean that it isn't suitable for older readers.  I think the best "children's" literature operates on two different levels, and appeals to both children and adults.  Think of a book like The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  Even the best cartoons (e.g. Bugs Bunny, Rocky & Bullwinkle) are not geared solely for children.  The same goes for To Kill a Mockingbird.  Its themes are timeless, and it's a delight to read - at whatever age.  Just because a book is popular does not necessarily mean it's bad. Maybe Flannery was just a little bit jealous.
- Mark

Friday, August 10, 2012

Daring Devotional

Last Friday marked the 48th anniversary of Flannery O'Connor's death.  To commemorate the occasion the little devotional magazine I subscribe to, Give Us This Day, included a brief essay about her in the readings for August 3rd.  I was surprised to see this since the subjects of the "Blessed Among Us" reflections are usually canonized saints.  The editors of this journal must consider Flannery to be among the blessed in heaven since her name also appears in their calendar for August 2012, sandwiched between St. Lydia (Aug. 2) and St. John Vianney (Aug. 4).  There are other surprises on the calendar, too - Black Elk (Aug. 17) and Simone Weil (Aug. 25).  And these two were not even Catholic!  I applaud the editors for the breadth of their vision.  Give Us This Day is a truly Catholic journal in the best and broadest sense of that word.  Who knows?  In six months maybe we'll see Martin Luther's name (Feb. 18). 
- Mark