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Author Topic: Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal  (Read 257 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: March 21, 2014, 03:59:55 AM »

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal:

   “Dear Lord, please make me want You. It would be the greatest bliss. Not just to want You when I think about You but to want You all the time, to think about You all the time, to have the want driving me, to have it like a cancer in me. It would kill me like a cancer and that would be fulfillment.”   

   “Dear God, please let me be an artist. Please let it lead to You.”

   “It takes no supernatural grace to ask for what one wants, and I have asked You bountifully, oh Lord. I believe it is right to ask You too and to ask our Mother to ask You, but I don’t want to overemphasize this angle of my prayers. Help me to ask You, oh Lord, for what is good for me to have, for what I can have and do Your service by having.”

   “It will be a life struggle with no consummation. When something is finished, it cannot be possessed. Nothing can be possessed but the struggle. All our lives are consumed in possessing struggle, but only when the struggle is cherished and directed to a final consummation outside of this life is it of any value. I want to be the best artist possible for me to be, under God.”

   “My mind is a most insecure thing, not to be depended on. It gives me scruples at one minute and leaves me lax the next.”

   “Every virtue must be vigorous. Virtue must be the only vigorous thing in our lives. Sin is large and stale. You can never finish eating it or digesting it. It has to be vomited.”

   “Dear God, about hope, I am somewhat at a loss. It is so easy to say I hope – the tongue slides over it. I think perhaps hope can only be realized by contrasting it with despair. And I am too lazy to despair. Please don’t visit me with it, dear Lord. I would be so miserable.”

   “Is there no getting around that dear God? No escape from ourselves? Into something bigger? Oh dear God I want to write a novel, a good novel. I want to do this for a good feeling and for a bad one. The bad one is uppermost. The psychologists say it is a natural one. Let me get away dear God from all things thus “natural.” Help me to get what is more than natural into my work. Help me to love and bear with my work on that account. If I have to sweat for it, dear God, let it be as in Your service. I would like to be intelligently holy. I am a presumptuous fool, but maybe the vague thing in me that preserves me is hope.”

   “Dear Lord, please let my mind be vigilant about charity. I say many many too many uncharitable things about people every day. I say them because they make me look clever. Please help me to realize how cheap this is. I have nothing to be proud of yet myself. I am stupid, quite as stupid as the people I ridicule. Please help me to stop this selfishness because I love you, dear God.”

   “It does not take much to make us realize what fools we are, but the little it takes is long in coming. I see my ridiculous self in degrees.”

   “Dear God, tonight is not disappointing because You have given me a story. Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story – just like the typewriter was mine. Please let the story, dear God, in its revisions, be made too clear for any false and low interpretation because in it, I am not trying to disparage anybody’s religion. Although when it was coming out I didn’t know exactly what I was trying to do or what it was going to mean. Please don’t let me have to scrap the story because it turns out to mean more wrong than right – or any wrong.”

   “When I think of all I have to be thankful for I wonder that You don’t just kill me now because You’ve done so much for me already and I haven’t been particularly grateful. My thanksgiving is never in the form of self sacrifice – a few memorized prayers babbled once over lightly.”

   “I don’t know if I’ve ever been sorry for a sin because it hurt You. That kind of contrition is better than none, but it is selfish. To have the other kind, it is necessary to have knowledge, faith extraordinary. All boils down to grace, I suppose. Again asking God to help us be sorry for having hurt Him. I am afraid of pain and I suppose that is what we have to have to get grace. Give me the courage to stand the pain to get the grace, Oh Lord.”

   “I have a right I believe to show such interest in myself as long as my interest is in my immortal soul and what keeps it pure. Start with the soul and perhaps the temporal gifts I want to exercise will have their chance; and if they do not then I have the best in my hands already, the only thing really needed. God must be in all my work.”
   
   “Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all that someone like I am should or could see. But what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”

   “I do not wish to presume. I want to love. Oh God, please make my mind clear. Please make it clean. I ask you for a greater love for my holy Mother and I ask her for a greater love for You. Please help me to get down under things and find where You are. I do not mean to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life; but I have been saying them and not feeling them. My attention is always very furtive. This way I have it every instant. I can feel a warmth of love heating me when I think and write this to You. Please do not let the explanations of the psychologists about this make it turn suddenly cold. My intellect is so limited, Lord, that I can only trust in You to preserve me as I should be. Please help all the ones I love to be free from their suffering. Please forgive me.”

   “Please let Christian principles permeate my writing and please let there be enough of my writing (published) for Christian principles to permeate.”

   “If we could accurately map heaven, some of our up-and-coming scientists would begin drawing blueprints for its improvement, and the bourgeois would sell guides 10 cents the copy to all over 65.”

   “Even in praying it is You who have to pray in us.”

   “Dear Lord, please give people like me who don’t have the brains to cope with that, please give us some kind of weapon, not to defend us from the glib psychologists but to defend us from ourselves after they have got through with us. Dear God, I don’t want to have invented my faith to satisfy my weakness. I don’t want to have created God in my own image as they’re so fond of saying. Please give me the necessary grace, oh Lord, and please don’t let it be as hard to get as Kafka made it.”

   “I want so to love God all the way. At the same time I want all the things that seem opposed to it – I want to be a fine writer. Any success will tend to swell my head – unconsciously even. If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me.”

   “The desires of the flesh – excluding the stomach – have been taken away from me. For how long I don’t know, but I hope forever. It is a great peace to be rid of them. Can’t anyone teach me how to pray?”

   “All these doctrines which deny submission deny God. Hell, a literal hell, is our only hope. Take it away and we will become wholly a wasteland not a half a one. Sin is a great thing as long as it’s recognized. It leads a good many people to find God who wouldn’t get there otherwise. But cease to recognize it, or take it away from devil as devil and give it to devil as psychologists, and you also take away God. If there is no sin in this world there is no God in heaven. No heaven. There are those who would have it that way.”

   “Too weak to pray for suffering, too weak to even get out a prayer for anything much except trifles. I don’t want to be doomed to mediocrity for my feeling for Christ. I want to feel. I want to love. Take me, dear Lord, and set me in the direction I am to go. My Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for me.”

   “I want a revolution now, a mild revolution, something that will put a nice 20th century asceticism into me, at least when I pass the grocery. The intellectual and artistic delights that God give us are visions and like visions we pray for them. And the thirst for the vision doesn’t necessarily carry with it a thirst for the attendant suffering. Looking back, I have suffered; not my share, but enough to call it that. But there’s a terrific balance due. Dear God, please send me Your Grace.”

   “To maintain any thread in the novel there must be a view of the world behind it, and the most important single item under this view of the world is conception of love – divine, natural, and perverted. It is probably possible to say that when a view of love is present – a broad enough view – no more need be added to make the worldview.
   Freud, Proust, and Lawrence have located love inside the human, and there is no need to question their location. However, there is no need either to define love as they do – only as desire, since this precludes Divine Love, which, while it too may be desire, is a different kind of desire – Divine desire – and is outside of man and capable of lifting him up to itself.
   The more conscious the desire for God becomes, the more successful union with another becomes, because the intelligence realizes the relationship in its relation to a greater desire, and if this intelligence is in  both parties the motive power in the desire for God becomes double and gains in becoming God-like. The modern man who is isolated from faith, isolated from raising his desire for God into a conscious desire, is sunk into the position of seeing physical love as an end in itself. Thus his romanticizing it, wallowing in it, and then cynicizing it. Or in the case of the artist like Proust of his realizing that it is the only thing worth life but seeing it without purpose, accidental, and unsatisfying after desire has been fulfilled. Proust’s conception of desire could only be that way since he makes it the highest point of existence – which it is – but with nothing supernatural to end in. It sinks lower and lower in the unconscious, to the very pit of it, which is Hell.
   Perversion is the end result of denying or revolting against supernatural love, descending from the unconscious super-consciousness to the id. The Sex act is a religious act, and when it occurs without God it is a mock act or at best an empty act. Proust is right that only a love which does not satisfy can continue. Two people can remain “in love” – a phrase made practically useless by stinking romanticism – only if their common desire for each other unites in a greater desire for God – i.e., they do not become satisfied but more desirous together of the supernatural love in union with God. My God, take away these boils and blisters and warts of sick romanticism.”

   “It’s hard to want to suffer. I presume Grace is necessary for the want.”

   “Oh Lord, please make this dead desire living, living in life, living as it will probably have to live in suffering. I feel too mediocre now to suffer. If suffering came to me I would not even recognize it. Lord keep me. Mother help me.”

   “I am one of the weak. I am so weak that God has given me everything, all the tools, instructions for their use, even a good brain to use them with, a creative brain to make them immediate for others. God is feeding me and what I’m praying for is an appetite. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for me.”

   “Make me a mystic, immediately. But why should He do it for an ingrate, slothful and dirty creature like me? I can’t stay in the Church to even say a Thanksgiving, and as for preparing for Communion the night before – thoughts all elsewhere. The rosary for me is mere rote for me while I think of other and usually impious things. But I would like to be a mystic immediately. If I could only hold God in my mind. If I could only always think of Him.”

 


Selam
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 04:13:00 AM by Gebre Menfes Kidus » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2014, 05:08:26 AM »

A lot of those resonate particularly with those of us who enjoy writing.
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2014, 05:12:49 AM »

A lot of those resonate particularly with those of us who enjoy writing.

Indeed. Maybe we should start a writer's thread to share our works with each other and give one another critiques and encouragement. What do you think?


Selam
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2014, 05:16:15 AM »

Not sure how well that would work, as all the suitable areas are entirely public. I know that several people are leery of complete exposure... and certainly my material is not suitable for all audiences.
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2014, 06:09:26 AM »

Not sure how well that would work, as all the suitable areas are entirely public. I know that several people are leery of complete exposure... and certainly my material is not suitable for all audiences.


Yeah, I was wondering about that. Perhaps the moderators could designate a separate space to accommodate such a thread. I'll ask.


Selam
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« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2014, 11:54:14 AM »

A lot of those resonate particularly with those of us who enjoy writing.
+1
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« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2014, 01:03:52 PM »

Not sure how well that would work, as all the suitable areas are entirely public. I know that several people are leery of complete exposure... and certainly my material is not suitable for all audiences.

LOL!

The punchlines to this certainly don't need to be written.

There are other places where everyone can take their oft hinted at salacious material and not burden the mods with yet another sub-forum and not tempt those of us who really care about writing not to spend our entire time here in mockery.
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« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2014, 02:03:31 PM »

Not sure how well that would work, as all the suitable areas are entirely public. I know that several people are leery of complete exposure... and certainly my material is not suitable for all audiences.

LOL!

The punchlines to this certainly don't need to be written.

There are other places where everyone can take their oft hinted at salacious material and not burden the mods with yet another sub-forum and not tempt those of us who really care about writing not to spend our entire time here in mockery.

Irony... too thick... can't breathe...
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« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2014, 03:09:16 PM »

A lot of those resonate particularly with those of us who enjoy writing.

Or for those of us who show our tepid gratefulness to God through "a few memorized prayers babbled once over lightly."

Great stuff in there.  Thanks for posting, Gebre.
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« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2014, 09:29:47 PM »

Not sure how well that would work, as all the suitable areas are entirely public. I know that several people are leery of complete exposure... and certainly my material is not suitable for all audiences.

Flannery O'Connor does not fit certain audiences at St. Mary's in Kansas. Let's say there are certain prudes who find her frankness unfit for their delicate children. Bishop Williamson was big on pushing her, but he's not been popular there for quite a while. He's a whole other issue but I have heard that certain parents blame Bishop Williamson for pushing her.
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