Converging on grace

May 31, 2016

by Eric Sponheim, former board member

Memorial Day began in the aftermath of the Civil War, in local observances and in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery called Decoration Day.

In 1971, Congress made it a national holiday, to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Honoring those who have lost their lives in military service to our country remains a solemn and sobering responsibility. As President Obama said at the Tomb of the Unknowns yesterday, we must continue to remember.

I wasn't thinking of the Civil War origins of Memorial Day when I picked up a Flannery O'Connor book at the public library last Saturday. I picked it up merely because I wanted to tackle some of her challenging short stories again.

But as I waited for my son, I began to read Robert Fitzgerald's introduction to Everything That Rises Must Converge. Fitzgerald was a fellow writer who had known O'Connor and her family.

He clearly traced her Georgia roots, from her birth in Savannah to the farm outside Milledgeville where she spent most of her short life.

Flannery O'Connor's life was short (39 years) because, like her father before her, she suffered from lupus – at a time when effective treatments were not available.

But the stories she has left us shimmer with spirit. They concern the struggle of souls for redemption. Or, as O'Connor once put it, "the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it."

This grace is often not pretty. In fact, the unfolding of events in the stories is often violent or bizarre. But the grace is for all, including all sorts of social misfits.

And on some level, we are all misfits.

For those in prison, the presence of other believers in grasping God's grace is a great support. This is why, at Prison Congregations of America, our mission is to help birth such communities of believers into being.

Category: mission

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