Friday, May 10, 2013

Mystery & Manners, the Flannery O'Connor QoTW: We Are All Converts

"When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced labor camps and in fumes of the gas chamber." A Memoir of Mary Ann, p. 19.

Frank, my friend Rita's husband, suffers from advanced-stage neuroendicrine cancer. Last week he posted a video (see below) about his experience of pain.

The strange thing is, I started out this post with the desire to write of my adventures in babysitting. O'Connor provided the perfect jumping off point at the beginning of her introduction to the memoir:

"Stories of pious children tend to be false." p. 3

There was no need to continue reading;  I'd had my sound bite, my "money quote," but curiosity set in and I continued. The prose piece starts out with a plea from the Sister Superior of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Free Cancer Home in Atlanta. They implore her to write a book about one of their residents, twelve-year-old Mary Ann.

She pawned it off, putting it back on their shoulders.

Being gracious, she offered to help them clean it up, rendering it more readable. They sent her the manuscript. She had had her doubts about the saintliness of the child, even as she read their story. She thought it was easy for Mary Ann to be good because her environment fostered such behavior--it was a convent! But an afternoon with the sisters dispelled that.

A-hah, I thought, here is O'Connor's conversion. Here we see her change her mind about the girl. But what really happened was my own conversion. The focus of my post changed into something more about accepting imperfections as a means of accepting grace, which is conversion.

These little conversions are the essence of faith. A man who previously did time for domestic violence can make a simple phone call that liberates 3 captive women and a child because of the ability for grace to enter and change us.

We forget that pain and trials have meaning; they are not superfluous to our existence, even as we desire to rid ourselves of them. In our constant search for perfection we eliminate that which makes us human. I fought the good fight of my addiction, and have the battle-scars to prove it. Society tells me a little bit of surgery can remove them, but if I do, it eliminates real and tangible evidence of my story. People who love me, have a real desire to see me look my best, and for them, looking my best means without blemish. And it means that for me sometimes, too. I forget that every rose has it's thorns; that beauty is rendered more beautiful when there's some craggy darkness below. Christ is more beautiful to me not despite his wounds, but because of them.