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Saluting woman

"In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered." Hebrews 2.10

International Woman's Day seems like an appropriate occasion on which to consider the American novelist Flannery O' Connor. She epitomises what Teilhard de Chardin expresses as passive diminishment, "the serene acceptance of suffering beyond our ability to change". After losing her father prematurely, to the degenerative disease lupus, O' Connor herself succumbed to the same condition and died young. Yet not before establishing herself as a formidable story-teller.

O' Connor was raised a devout Catholic in a predominantly Protestant community in the southern US during the middle years of the 20th century. The cultural atmosphere was changing, internalising its purpose while rejecting transcendence: art for art's sake, rather than for God's. This reflects wider social and philosophical shifts: from Christendom to Modernism, with science replacing faith as the arbiter of taste and aspiration and worldview. The resulting direction of travel has swept us, inexorably, towards Post-Modernism, with its relativisation of moral standards and its abandonment of ultimate truth and consequently also those sacred reference points we used to share.

Against the flow of the world around and in spite of her personal suffering, yet fortified by her faith in God, O' Connor pursued her art as both a gift and a calling. She was realistic about the reception she should expect from her writing, yet remained undaunted in her determination to keep her nerve and remain faithful to her vocation. Abair deagh eisimpleir san latha an-diugh!



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