What has given the South her identity are those beliefs and qualities which she has absorbed from the Scriptures and from her own history of defeat and violation: a distrust of the abstract, a sense of human dependence on the grace of God, and a knowledge that evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.
Anyone who knows me for any length of time will tell you of my literary love affair with Flannery O'Connor. My first encounter with O'Connor was in my senior year of high school when I read "Good Country People." It made a deep impression on me at the time as a Protestant evangelical. I would go on to read everything O'Connor wrote in the realm of fiction and take a class devoted to her work while attending the University of South Carolina. Flannery's mix of Catholicism and Southern sensibilities took a deep hold of me, and I never forgot her even when I became a Calvinist and an atheist. As a Catholic, I have returned to O'Connor and now understand the woman who has mystified me for decades. When a friend recommended this video, I ordered it immediately. It did not disappoint.
Uncommon Grace fills in the details of this Catholic Southern writer, and I discovered things I had not known about O'Connor. Her life was tragic and heroic because of her genius, her faith, and also her suffering and untimely death from the ravages of lupus, the disease that took her father's life. I was not aware that Flannery had aspirations of being a successful writer living in New York, and lupus took this from her. But her Catholic faith allowed her to accept this disappointment as she went to live with her mother on the Andalusia farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. This turn of events may have been a calamity, but I suspect that it was for the greater good as it made O'Connor into the finest writer of short stories that I have ever known. I suspect New York and success would have ruined her as a writer.
O'Connor only lived to be 39, and her entire opus can be read in a month. But those stories cover a great deal of spiritual and intellectual territory. I find O'Connor to be a soulmate because I am a Southerner, a Catholic, and retain a deep suspicion and antipathy for abstract theories and the Enlightenment. Modern life has done much to alleviate many problems, but the problem of evil is not one of them. To be Catholic and Southern is to have a darker view of the world but one that is ultimately realistic and hopeful. Humanity may be fallen, but it can and will be redeemed. We just can't save ourselves. This is the crucial knowledge many of O'Connor's characters discover in her stories.
I highly recommend this video for any fan of Flannery O'Connor. It will deepen your appreciation for this remarkable woman and her uncompromising literary vision. May she rest in the peace and love of God.