Fifty years after famed writer and Savannah, Ga., native Flannery O’Connor died, a memorial mass was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the same church she attended as a child.
The Memorial Remembrance, which took place Sunday, was held in one of the South’s most spectacular houses of worship, a downtown Savannah church that O’Connor once viewed as a child from the window of her parents’ bedroom.
“In the great scheme of things 50 years is not a long period of time, however in the life of Flannery it takes on significant meaning,” said the Most Rev. J. Kevin Boland, bishop emeritus of Savannah, who led the Memorial Remembrance and delivered the homily. “Last year her prayer journal was published: What a beautiful treasure. Praying is the lifeblood of our relationship with the loving God.
“Fifty years after her death Flannery still speaks to us,” he added.
Mary Flannery O’Connor, born March 25, 1925, wrote two novels – Wise Blood and The Violent Bear it Away – and dozens of short stories before she died at age 39 of lupus.
She is said to have practically defined the genre known as Southern Gothic, a form that accentuates the grotesque, horrifying and, for lack of a better phrase, that which just isn’t right.
O’Connor’s writing was noted for its flawed characters and disturbing events, much of which was set in the South.
Her own mother is said to have asked her why she couldn’t just “write about nice people.”
O’Connor, who first gained a measure of fame at age 5 when she trained a pet chicken to walk backward, which caught the attention a newsreel company, moved to Milledgeville, Ga., in 1941 at age 15 after her father died of the same condition that would take her life 23 years later.
There, she lived with her mother and other relatives in an 1838 columned Federal clapboard house, which was not only the family home, but was briefly used as the governor’s mansion when Milledgeville served as the antebellum capital of Georgia.
After O’Connor graduated from today’s Georgia College & State University she enrolled in graduate school at today’s University of Iowa in 1945, with the goal of becoming a political cartoonist.
However, within a few weeks she had discovered the Iowa Writers Workshop, run by noted poet, playwright and novelist Paul Engle and switched to the school’s Master of Fine Arts program.
Discovering her vocation as a writer, she dropped ‘Mary’ from her name; had her first story, ‘The Geranium,’ published in Accent magazine, and received a Rinehart fellowship to work on a novel, according to The New York Times.