One of my very favorite writers is Flannery O’Connor. It’s hard for me to read her fiction because it makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. I get so overwhelmed I can’t quite bear it, even though I love it. Wise Blood! I love it, and I can only read one page at a time.
I also love O’Connor’s non-fiction, which I find much less overwhelming, and I particularly love her letters. I’ve re-read the collection The Habit of Being several times, and I’m getting ready to re-read it again. I find new things in it every time.
One thing that has always struck me is a theme that emerges very late in the collection, in 1964. At this point, O’Connor’s health is worsening – she had lupus – and as readers, we know that she’s in the last months of her life.
O’Connor was a deeply religious person, a devout Catholic, and I’ve always been intrigued that at this point, O’Connor writes to a friend about a prayer that she describes as a “prayer I’ve said every day for many years.”
It’s to Saint Raphael, and it begins:
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.
Because I’ve studied O’Connor’s life, I think I understand for myself why this prayer, in particular, was so important to her. And because it was so important to her, I’ve thought a lot about it.
In life, so often things seem to be a matter of…are we in the right place at the right time, to grasp some opportunity, or to meet the person who can play a pivotal role in our fate? We think, “There’s someone there for me, if only I could be led to meet that person I’m looking for.”
We long for that “happy meeting.”
If you’d like to hear Flannery O’Connor’s own voice, you can hear her read the opening lines from one of her most famous stories, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Her book of letters is The Habit of Being.