A Good Woman???

Posted: February 19, 2018 in World On The Edge

She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.–from the mouth of the character, The Misfit, in a short story collection by Flannery O’Connor, entitled “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

I have had the above framed words for many years, long before I launched my 2014 short story collection, Birds of a Feather, at Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor’s Milledgeville Georgia home. I believe the drawing was done by one of Flannery’s relatives. Take a moment to consider the words and how much they encapsulate! What was it about the woman in the story that causes The Misfit to say such about her?

Yet, these words are remarkably true for everyone–man or woman–at a point of real crisis, especially if possible death is staring us in the face. This is a mental moment when we understand that everything is going to be different, or that maybe even our life will be been taken from us.  Moments like that mean something BIG. They show exactly who we are–our true identity– as well as what we strive for, which is usually the world we live in.

As a Southern writer, I take Flannery’s words to heart. My identity is wrapped in the wonderfully changeable, material world around me—the world I live in. But as a Catholic writer, as Flannery was, my identity is also wrapped in the mystery of mercy and grace in the immaterial world that lies deeply behind this one—because that is the world that is unchangeable and enduring.

Flannery’s words reveal that mystery of grace and mercy–what we pray for in any dire life-situation when, sometimes in complete despair, we face our inevitable ‘brick walls.’  But how can this be ‘good’ for us? How could a loving God intend this for us?

Oddly, O’Connor uses an unlikeable, bad-tempered old woman; a self-absorbed, manipulative grandmother to depict the truth of what God’s love is for each of us: that when we are ‘less than good,’ less than we were created to be,  we still have the capability (the sanctifying grace) within us to see and act more clearly. And even to BECOME GOOD people. It is in such a shattering moment that we are at the same time most human, and yet, most participatory in the divine–the closest we have been in this life to God.

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