Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hold the Icing

Having recently finished Heather King's fine book on St. Therese of Lisieux, I wondered what Flannery thought of the "Little Flower."  Given O'Connor's aversion to the cloying and the sentimental, I wouldn't have been at all surprised if she dismissed Therese simply because most biographies of the saint, who died in 1897 at the age of 24, are unbearably saccharine.   Fortunately, there are exceptions, such as a book on Therese that Flannery had the good fortune to read in 1956.  In a letter to her spiritual director and confessor, Fr. John McCown, she writes "I have just read a very funny book by a priest named Fr. Robo - on St. Theresa Lisieux [sic].  It's called Two Portraits of St. Theresa.  He has managed (by some not entirely crooked means) to get hold of a photograph of her that the Carmelites have not 'touched up' which shows her to be a round-faced, determined, rather comical-looking girl.  He does away with all the roses, little flowers, and other icing.  The book has greatly increased my devotion to her." (The Habit of Being p. 135).  Thanks to the work of people like Fr. Robo and more recent studies by folks such as Heather King, we now have a truer picture of the saint, so different from the idealized statues one sees of her in many Catholic churches.
- Mark

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