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  • Gail Wilson Kenna

Everything That Rises Must Converge

This is the title of a short story collection by Flannery O’Connor. It is also the title of one story in the book; and students in my current RILL-RCC class will discuss “Everything That Rises Must Converge” this week.

From whom did O’Connor borrow this phrase, translated from the French? The words are from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Who was he? A Jesuit priest and a famous paleontologist known for his discovery of Peking Man.

I just forwarded to my nineteen students, this week’s Brain Pickings. This brilliant site, long in existence, is written each week by Marie Popova in New York City. This Sunday’s is titled, “The Heart of Matter: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on Bridging the Scientific and the Sacred.” The site is free, but its author deeply appreciates donations. And I note it is time for me to send Maria a second one for her devotion to artistic truth each week.

Earlier I went through two collections of O’Connor’s letters: the 1979, Habit of Being, and the 2019, Good Things Out of Nazareth. In the two books are thirty letters which refer to Teilhard de Chardin. He died on Easter Sunday in 1955, nine years before O’Connor’s death on August 3 in 1964 at age 39.

O’Connor inherited the same lupus that had taken her father’s life. She referred to this disease as the wolf in her existence. She drew strength from Teilhard’s belief in “passive diminishments”: of an acceptance of that which cannot be changed. This photo of Flannery was taken prior to the first attack of lupus, an auto-immune disease. The medicine used in the 1950s, a cortisone derivative (ACTH), resulted in the deterioration of her hip bones and a reliance on crutches. In Flannery’s short life, she wrote only two collections of short stories and two novellas. And yet she is considered one of the most remarkable writers of the 20th century, both in our country and abroad.

Since 1979, Flannery has been a force in my life, and next week I will explain why and how…

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