Today’s post is going to be a bit meta.
Tonight, we are starting our Lenten series at Heavenly Rest. This year, the series is called “The Immediacy of Grace: Literature and the Catholic Imagination.” We are exploring the work of several Roman Catholic authors, including Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sigrid Undset, Flannery O’Connor, and Walker Percy. The goal of the series is to explore how these authors are shaped by their Catholic identity.
One of the most conspicuous elements of Roman Catholic practice is the central importance of the sacraments, the outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. The most extraordinary thing about these sacraments is that the Church affirms that those who participate in them have access to the grace of God. Anyone who participates in Holy Communion, the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) or any of the other sacraments has the opportunity to experience God’s abundant grace; it is theirs for the asking.
How does this understanding of the immediate accessibility of grace shape the way a Catholic author looks at the world? If one looks at the work of Flannery O’Connor, one will be struck and perhaps horrified by how brutal her depiction of the world can be. Stories like “A Good Man is Hard to Find” chill one to the bone, and make one wonder if there is even a possibility of redemption. I believe that part of the reason that O’Connor can present reality in such an unvarnished way is that she is shaped by the knowledge that God’s grace is available to us. O’Connor’s wrote her stories in light of what she calls “the central Christian mystery,” that the world, “for all its horror,” has “been found by God to be worth dying for.” To put it another way, Catholic authors try to view the world through the lens of the Cross, the ultimate source of grace that has been made known to us through the brutality of this world.
I hope that this is the perspective that has shaped and will shape this series of devotional readings (this is where the post gets meta, in case you were wondering). Too often, we get bogged down with the drudgery of the world and forget that God’s grace is available to us in the sacraments and revealed to us in surprising ways. During this season of Lent, I pray that you will strive to see the world through the eyes of God: a place that is, for all its warts, worth loving to the point of death.