Thursday, June 17, 2010

Contemplating Flannery O'Connor this summer in the Wind River Mountains

I stumbled upon the Ring Lake Ranch site today. It's a retreat center near Dubois. I looked at their summer schedule as was bowled over by some of the offerings.

Here's one I especially like:

Bishop Will Willimon presents "Haunted by God with Flannery O’Connor," August 1-7.

Some commentary by Director Carl Koch from the web site:

Flannery O'Connor may have been haunted by God. She was a devout Catholic who beleived it heaven and hell. I used to be cut from that same cloth. But now am no longer a practicing Catholic. However, I am still haunted by the remnants of my faith. Reading Flannery O'Connor pushes all my buttons.

I have sometimes wondered in recent years about how many mainline Protestants and Catholics consciously raise the issue of their redemption or salvation. I must confess that “Will I be saved?” doesn’t keep me up nights – and it isn’t because I’m all that good. Even so, my recent bout with cancer turned my attention to last things – but only until my tests after treatment came back clear.

On the other hand, one still hears people on opposite sides of many issues – abortion, the death penalty, gay rights, war – condemn their opponents to damnation, in effect claiming that folks on their side will be saved.

Like Flannery O’Connor, my family and I were Catholics raised in a pre-Vatican Council church that seemed a lot clearer about who would and wouldn’t be saved. Good Catholics would make it into heaven – that was a given.

But, there always was some doubt that I still carry with me.

In one of my previous lives I was a professor of American Literature. Naturally I taught Flannery O’Connor’s works from time to time. In virtually every story, O’Connor placed her characters in a situation in which they faced a moral decision – a decision between salvation and damnation. They were given a “moment of grace” during which they had the power to select the good. O’Connor didn’t allow wiggle room either. At the end of the story, the reader knew the fate of each character.

So, who can be saved? How do we recognize our “moment of grace?” Bring your musings about and stories around redemption. This should be a provocative session with a master preacher and teacher who has clearly tackled this subject from many perspectives.

No comments: