Gretchen Rubin

What Did Flannery O’Connor Pray For?

What Did Flannery O’Connor Pray For?

Often when I read, I'm struck by something, but I'm not sure why.

I've read The Habit of Being several times -- it's a collection of Flannery O'Connor's extraordinary letters. O'Connor is one of my favorite writers, but I can hardly bear to read her fiction; it makes my head explode.

On July 1, 1964, O'Connor (who was a devout Catholic) wrote to Janet McKane:

Do you know anything about St. Raphael besides his being an archangel? He leads you to the people you are supposed to meet...It's a prayer I've said every day for many years.

A week later, she wrote McKane a follow-up letter, with the prayer, which reads in part:

O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for. May all our movements be guided by your Light and transfigured with your joy.

O'Connor died of lupus two weeks later.

I've often thought about this idea, that was clearly so  important to O'Connor -- the prayer for being led to the people you are supposed to meet. This struck me as an oddly specific domain for an angel -- and why did this matter so much to O'Connor?

But yesterday, I was at an event, and someone told the story of how at a networking event, she'd met a guy, and she told him, "You should meet this other guy I know," and she'd introduced them, and now they'd started a huge project together.

This chance meeting, and her introduction, had transformed their lives.

As I heard her tell this story, it suddenly became clear to me: for O'Connor, working on her writing, sick, weak, living with her mother in Milledgeville, Georgia, because she couldn't manage to live on her own, the hope of "meeting the ones we are looking for" would have been enormously important.

We've all waited and hoped for a "happy meeting" to occur.

It's a very important thing, to play the role of making introductions, connecting people, helping to lead them to the people they need to meet. It can be such a huge thing in a person's life. I myself set up someone I hardly knew on a blind date, and the two people ended up getting married.

As I'm thinking about O'Connor...I wonder if her prayers to meet the person she was looking for was tied, at least in part, to her art.

On March 4, 1962, she wrote to Father J. H. McCown:

I'd like to write a whole bunch of stories like ["Everything That Rises Must Converge"], but once you've said it, you've said it, and that about expresses what I have to say on That Issue. But pray that the Lord will send me some more. I've been writing for sixteen years and I have the sense of having exhausted by original potentiality and being now in need of the kind of grace that deepens perception, a new shot of life or something...

Sometimes this type of renewal comes from an encounter with another person.

Has anyone ever made an introduction for you, that transformed your life? Or have you ever played that role for someone else?

 

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