Flannery O’Connor—Catholic writer

Flannery O’Connor died fifty years ago today. She was, and remains, an American writer of great talent. I say “remains,” because she lives on in her work; she has achieved immortality and her work is alive and vibrant to this day. If you are an American Catholic with writing aspirations, or even writing accomplishments, please become acquainted with her stories if you are not already. You will learn quite a lot about the writing craft and what it means to be a Catholic writer.

Miss O’Connor said, “The Catholic novel is not necessarily about a Christianized or Catholicized world, but one in which the truth as Christians know it has been used as a light to see the world by.”

More on that here: Flannery O’Connor’s Religion and Literature: Dogma and its Implications for Art, by Tami England Flaum.

Her fiction is collected in three volumes, her two novels ‘Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear It Away.” Her short stories are all collected now in one volume, titled appropriately, “The Complete Stories.” There are several collections of her non-fiction, most notably, “The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor.”

I have only recently become familiar with her. Despite having the above four books in my library for several years, I only just read “Wise Blood” this past week, and am now happily making my way through her “Complete Stories.” I won’t be doing reviews any time soon, I doubt I’m qualified. ;-)

The point of this post is this: if one is a Catholic writer and is interested in building up and developing an authentic American Catholic culture, and follows Pope St. John Paul II’s suggestions that Christian art should infuse contemporary culture with the message of the Gospel, then one should study Miss O’Connor’s writings. She’s a good teacher.

If Catholic writers do participate in culture-building, we must look to what those who have gone before us have done. We learn from them, offer to the body of culture what we can uniquely contribute and in turn hope that our work survives on to enrich another generation. The living body of American Catholicism adds to the wonderful breath of diversity that is global Catholicism, offering people an alternative to the sterile materialistic secular order.

Posted in Books, Catholic Writing, Flannery O'Connor, Novel, Short stories, Writing | Comments Off

I, Blog

For a blog that’s supposed to be my “main” online journal, this place doesn’t get a whole lotta love. I’m a writer, and writers are “supposed to” have a website or blog or some sort of online presence. Granted, as a writer I only have two books published and those are selfies, but there’s more to come! I always figured that with the passage of time and writing success (or effort), this place will see more activity.

Or maybe not. Whatever, I decided to do some geeking around with the site (notice that I haven’t called it by name, yet).

For starters, the “name.” I figured I’ll simplify matters and just call it “Paul Sofranko’s Blog.” It’s short, and to the point. I’m Paul Sofranko, and this is my blog. Of course, I have others, but those are specialized, “niche” blogs. (Links are in the Page tabs up top, below the title of this place.)

“Paul Sofranko’s Blog” isn’t very imaginative, but it’s less pretentious than previous names: “Writer for God,” “In the Land of My Exile I Praise Him.” “Paul Sofranko Dot Net” might have served again, but it’s just a notch higher than a minimalist, simplistic title I was looking for. ;-)

The purpose, such as there is one, of “Paul Sofranko’s Blog” will not change; still a place for me to post stuff on writing, reading and whatever miscellaneous ramblings that serve as my interests and that won’t fit into my two niche blogs.

Don’t come here looking for profound, insightful commentary on current events, Catholic or secular. There are plenty of blogs for that written by people who have the time to work out such posts for online publication. Such writings, for me, take time away from the fiction efforts I am trying to work with, as well as other writing and blogging work. I know my strengths and limitations, and I prefer to focus my thoughtful efforts where they’re best capable of being useful. Although I do reserve the right to do that here when the impulse occurs. But I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with writing or blogging for a living, and other personal responsibilities and commitments. In other words there’s a nice life that’s mine and it happens!

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The gardening season is finally here!

Spent a good part of yesterday and today digging in the field off our driveway to put in a vegetable garden. Much nicer soil than where the garden used to be. Nice, dark, rich-looking with plenty of wigglies in it. Wet, too. Veggies should do well.

The old garden had too much clay soil and things didn’t grow well. After 3 seasons, it was time for a change.

As it was still snowing just a few weeks ago, and there was a frost advisory early last week, this weekend’s developments are welcome. Long-term weather shows NO danger of frost. Finally! Going outside is safe! ;-)

I found cheap fencing today, so the original 15′ x 25′ will be expanded to be 25′ x 25′ . Some old fencing may be employed to expand on that, or may be for a smaller garden for other stuff.

I may just be tempted, for “accountability” sake, to post photos and updates throught the year. I had planned on doing that these past few years, but the results weren’t impressive.

Posted in Gardening, Outside | 2 Comments

Peter and John rushing to the Tomb

I saw a beautiful painting in an article yesterday while perusing the news online. “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection” by Swiss painter Eugène Burnand, is an image that draws you into it. You are just THERE.

Peter-and-John-Running-to-the-Tomb-1898-590x320

Source is right here:

The Greatest Easter Painting Ever Made.

In my opinion, John looks like Roddy McDowell and Peter kinda looks like James Farentino, who played him in the epic TV miniseries, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Posted in Prayer, Sacred Art, Spirituality | 1 Comment

Jesus in the Ashes

Ash Wednesday was two days ago, and I took this webcam picture of myself as a part of the annual #ashtag fun. You basically take pictures of yourself after recieving ashes and post them to social media.

This was mine:

 #ashtag2014

A friend of mine on Facebook sees an image of Jesus on the Cross in the ashes. Others, myself included, can see Him also. A miracle! (Just kidding.)

Please, no need to make pilgrimmages to my forehead, the ashes are long gone.

Kinda neat to see such things. I wonder what they mean?

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Strange “sightings” in Church

While at Daily Mass this morning I saw someone who from behind and to the side was a dead-ringer for a friend I knew from kindergarten through some college. Same Mr. Spock-inspired haircut and shade of black hair, same physical build. It wasn’t JJ, who passed away from leukemia in 1995. But the similarity in appearance was amazing.

This brings up something else, a phenomenon I’ve noticed at my home parish, and nowhere else: Every so often I see people who bear a striking resemblance to someone from my old, hometown parish, either a physical similarity, or “something about them” is reminiscent. Odd. It would be one thing if I experienced this at other parishes, but that has not happened, only where I attend Mass now.

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Reading and writing is cool, when you think about it in an odd way

The very idea that you can inscribe, whether scribbling by hand or banging away at a keyboard, little squiggly things called “letters” that together make things called “words” that in and of themselves stand for ideas is fascinating.

Weave these words together in some rational or artfully irrational manner and you can tell a “story.”

And that someone else can use their eyeballs and scan theses squigglies and interpret their patterns and decipher their meaning, called “reading,” is even more fascinating.

The very idea that someone else, in some far off place and time can “read” these squigglies on a page (paper or digital) and derive enjoyment or get angry just turns the fascinating into something awesome.

Writing can be quite the responsible and exciting thing, when you think about it. I mean, just ponder the wonder of it all.

I got the above idea once by just imagining “reading.” I envisioned some sort of light beam emanating from an eye to scan words on a screen or paper, and seeing the words just fly up into the eyeball and thence into the brain. And once there creating pictures and scenery and the like.

It is interesting to just think about the commonplace and wonder. I just think that the act of reading is taken for granted, and we forget its awesomeness.

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On Martyrdom, Truth and Moral Absolutes

It is the day after Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen the Protomartyr. He was the first person recorded to have died for the Faith.

Martyrdom has several connotations, mainly that of extreme belief. Either you were killed for your Faith, or you kill for your Faith (and in the process, die also). Christians in general get killed, and are not killers of others.

However, the idea is that there is something greater than yourself worth dying for. Something that you are willing to surrender your existence to.

The very notion is insane to those who hold that there is no absolute Truth, that Truth cannot be known and that morality is situational and relative to your circumstances.

I do believe that there are moral absolutes, and that Truth is a known (Jesus). This kind of certitude is a comfort, and in general renders me free from major fear and anxiety. Not that I am blissful and serene, but I roll with things a little more easily than most (except for certain small things that have a tendency to annoy the heck out of me).

I think that if you meditate on this notion, you gain a few steps in wisdom. What are you willing to die for? This assumes that you feel there is something you would trade your life for. This is a major step towards self-identification, i.e finding your true self. Once you identify your moral absolutes and discern what Truth is, you establish yourself in relation to those. How valuable are they to you? Is your life worthy of them?

Sometimes the chasm is very far to cross. That means that your instinct for self-preservation overrides your willful belief in Truth and the Absolute. The fear is too great. Faith (i.e. Trust) helps to fill in the chasm. A growing and developing Faith is necessary in finding who you really are, and in what exactly would you lay it all on the line for.

Something to ponder during the season in which we celebrate the nativity of Jesus.

Posted in Faith and Justice, Personal, Spirituality, Writing | Comments Off

The Artistic Temperament is a Disease

“The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs. It is a disease which arises from men not having sufficient power of expression to utter and get rid of the element of art in their being. It is healthful to every sane man to utter the art within him; it is essential to every sane man to get rid of the art within him at all costs. Artists of a large and wholesome vitality get rid of their art easily, as they breathe easily, or perspire easily. But in artists of less force, the thing becomes a pressure, and produces a definite pain, which is called the artistic temperament. Thus, the very great artists are able to be ordinary men – men like Shakespeare or Browning. There are many real tragedies of the artistic temperament, tragedies of vanity or violence or fear. But the great tragedy of the artistic temperament is that it cannot produce any art.” ~GK Chesterton, Heretics, 1905

A Facebook friend (and one from whom I learn much) posted this Chesterton quote in a debate thread.

It explains a lot (the quote, not the debate). I find it healthful to “utter the art from within;” however I fail to utter more often than I do utter. I aspire to write, and do so, but I don’t write more often than I do write. Such is the tired refrain of many so-called and self-referenced “aspiring writers.” We want to write, but don’t, and perhaps from that comes this “artistic temperament,” one of “vanity or violence or fear?” Vanity: the desire for the “writing life;” violence: the resulting self-loathing and esteem-reduction from failing to do what you’re supposed to; fear: fear of failure, that of discovering that you are horrible at writing, and maybe fear of success?

The funny thing is that I find writing to be therapeutic. I feel better after having done so and thus become the “sane man” when I “utter the art from within.” This partly stems from a feeling of accomplishment. “Hey, I wrote today!” Partly it comes from just the emotional and psychological release.

Perhaps this is a successor to my alcoholism. I knew I should stop drinking and why, but I feared doing so. I also lacked the strength or will to stop. I only did so because no other choice was offered. I was unable to physically go and replenish my stock and thus found myself in the hospital with DT’s. If I continued, I would die. So maybe the choice was helped along.

The parallel to writing? “No other choice but to write.” I have to develop the “sufficient power of expression to utter and get rid of the element of art in” my “being.” And I have to associate this need with sanity and survival.

I am a writer, it is what I (should) do, and to not do it is a type of death.

Interesting notion; now let’s see me put it to use.

From Isaac Asimov:

“I write for the same reason I breathe … because if I didn’t, I would die.”

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

Posted in Blogging, Catholic Writing, Me, Writing | 8 Comments

Happy New Year!!! Plus some odds and ends…

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new Liturgical Year in the Catholic Church. A day of new beginnings and preparing for the Lord’s coming! Also, with the secular New Year a month away, an opportunity to “warm up” for whatever changes in life one has planned com January.

New Years are just a artificial temporal construct, I mean, one day is much like any other along the calendar. Seasonal changes aside, when we actually start marking a new journey about the Sun is arbitrary.

But, it serves a useful psychological purpose. Like new starts and such. For example, my oft-repeated plans to “blog more.” :P

The short fiction I mentioned in For the first time in about a quarter century… was rejected. I think I got a form-letter rejection email. I will submit it elsewhere, perhaps after reviewing it again. If it gets rejected again (I am unsure as to how many more times I’l try) I may self-publish the piece through Smashwords and Amazon for $.99, even though I said in a comment to that post that I wouldn’t.

The awesome writing website, Writing-World.com! has The Writer’s Year Datebook & Planner for 2014 as well as a submission tracker. They offer free spreadsheet versions to download. Don’t let the word “spreadsheet” be intimidating, it’s easy to write in and to keep to-do lists/journals/notes and keep track of story and article submissions.

Posted in Blogging, Books, Short stories, Writing | 5 Comments