Occasionally our visitors are surprised to learn that there are actually Catholics in Milledgeville. We tell them that indeed there are and, while still very much a religious minority, their presence can be traced to the first part of the nineteenth century. Indeed, Flannery O'Connor's great-grandfather Hugh Donnelly Treanor, who emigrated from Ireland in 1824 and became a prosperous grist mill operator, was one of the founding members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church
. In fact, as O'Connor later reported, "Mass was first said here in my great-grandfather's hotel room, later in his home on the piano." (The Habit of Being
, p. 520). After Treanor died, his widow donated the land on which Sacred Heart Catholic Church now stands. It is said that when the hotel where that first mass was celebrated was demolished in 1874, the bricks were used to build the church. Sacred Heart was, of course, a very important place for Flannery. Not only were her parents married and buried out of the church, but it was the locus of her daily communion. Every morning following coffee, Flannery and her mother would get in the car and drive down to the corner of Jefferson and Hancock for the 7:00 mass. According to one parishioner, "Flannery sat in the fifth
pew on the right side." (Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
, p. 223). Even on Sundays she and her mother liked to go to the first mass of the day. She once quipped, "I like to go to early mass so I won't have to dress up - combining the 7th Deadly Sin with the Sunday obligation." These days the first mass is celebrated a bit later - 9:00 a.m. Whether you are Catholic or not, the good people of Sacred Heart are always happy to welcome visitors and will gladly show you Flannery's spiritual home.
I suppose that they attended Mass even without drinking coffee, as it was usual then: fasting after midnight (and in the fifties, at least for three hours).
You are right, Angel. Perhaps it was only near the end of Flannery's life, as the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were being introduced in the Church, that she and her mother drank coffee before mass.
Funny, I thought the same thing about fasting, Angel! I think lots of folks went to early Mass in order to break the fast asap. As much as I love my morning coffee, I can't help but think that little extra sacrifice before Mass is a good thing. I know, I could just do it on my own, but alas, I suffer from the 7th deadly sin as well:) Thanks for the sweet post.
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