When I suggested a literary pilgrimage to Flannery's homes in Savannah and Milledgeville, Michael was completely on board. Just the previous year he'd read some of her stories and discussed them in the Friday morning Men's group Msgr. McInerny runs. What a joy for us to be in her home, see her things, go to hear Mass where she did (every day). I am quite sure she is a saint in heaven now and asked her to pray for us.
Georgia Military College and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church were two of my favorite places. The roof of the church is like an upside-down boat and the remains of some are interred in the church itself (very much an ancient Catholic tradition)--note the coffin below the pipes!
After the history lesson, we were finally ready to visit Andalusia, the farm where Flannery wrote most of her stories. She thought she'd have to leave to write, but her illness--lupus--forced her back home, where she arranged her routine thusly: upon waking, reading from her breviary, having coffee with her mother, then heading to Sacred Heart Catholic Church for daily Mass. Breakfast upon their return and writing from nine to noon. She'd be tired and so retired for a nap, but she'd receive visitors in the afternoon. And if not visiting, she'd be writing letters, painting, or tending to her birds. In the evening, reading again. You can see how much of her life and observations are in her stories when you visit M'ville. Her characters too :)
I cannot express to you how moving it was to be in the room where she spent much of her time--reading, writing, sleeping, suffering. Michael and I both instinctively clasped our hands to offer a prayer for her. She's taught me so much, especially Romans 5:20 Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.
Her stories are violent and most people have a strong reaction to them--you'll either love them or hate them. I first discovered her writing when someone said my short story, Driving Lessons, was like hers. Not knowing her work I decided to read a couple of stories. I thought them strange and unsettling. I returned the book to the library. Fast forward a few years--after our conversion I remembered her stories (they are unforgettable!) and a lightbulb went on in my head. Grace! It's all about grace. Since then I've read many of her stories, her letters, her essays, my favorite being Mystery and Manners. I'm really enjoying the book of her cartoons right now. Each is a witty gem. Did you know she thought she might be a political cartoonist before she shifted to stories? I wonder what she'd say about our times. I'm sure the people whom she'd satirize would squirm.
It was so lovely to hear Mass at Sacred Heart on Friday afternoon along with a couple dozen young people. A young lady on crutches clomped up to the first pew on the left and I wondered then where Flannery and her mother sat--perhaps on the same pew where we did? The priest offered a beautiful Mass and preached on Christian marriage (the Gospel was about divorce and why Moses allowed it, but from the beginning it was not so, begins our Lord). I felt so complete right there with Michael, both of us in love with each other and with Jesus. It really does take Three to Get Married! On our way home we stopped by the beautiful and peaceful cemetery. Requiescat in pace, dear Mary Flannery.