[percy-l] Flannery on tenderness

janet cantor janetcantor37 at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 9 05:47:31 EDT 2012

Wow. thank you for all of this.

--- On Mon, 7/9/12, Jim Forest <jhforest at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Jim Forest <jhforest at gmail.com>
Subject: [percy-l] Flannery on tenderness
To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion" <percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
Date: Monday, July 9, 2012, 5:03 AM

Re Flannery's comments, here's the text referred to... see the highlighted paragraph.

Jim Forest

* * *

Flannery O’Connor’s Introduction to A Memoir of Mary


The Death of a Child


The creative action of the Christian’s life is to prepare
his death in Christ. It is a continuous action in which this world’s goods are
utilized to the fullest, both positive gifts and what Père Teilhard de Chardin
calls 'passive diminishments.' Mary Ann’s diminishment was extreme, but she was
equipped by natural intelligence and by a suitable education, not simply to
endure it, but to build upon it. She was an extraordinarily rich little girl.


Death is the theme of much modern literature. There is Death
in Venice, Death of a Salesman, Death in the Afternoon, Death of a Man. Mary
Ann’s was the death of a child. It was simpler than any of these, yet
infinitely more knowing. When she entered the door of Our Lady of Perpetual
Help Home in Atlanta, she fell into the hands of women who were shocked at
nothing and who love life so much that they spend their own lives making
comfortable those who have been pronounced incurable of cancer. Her own
prognosis was six months, but she lived twelve years, long enough for the
Sisters to teach her what alone could have been of importance to her. Hers was
an education for death, but not one carried on obtrusively. Her days were full
of dogs and party dresses, of Sisters and sisters, of Coca-Colas and Dagwood
sandwiches, and of her many and various friends . . . ; from patients afflicted
the way she was to children who were brought to the Home to visit her and were
perhaps told when they left to think how thankful they should be that God had
made their faces straight. It is doubtful if any of them were as fortunate as
Mary Ann. . . .


Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil, to
look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections
with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that
long enough to accept the fact that its face too is grotesque, that in us the
good is something under construction. The modes of evil usually receive worthy
expression. The modes of good have to be satisfied with a cliché or a
smoothing-down that will soften their real look. When we look into the face of
good, we are liable to see a face like Mary Ann’s, full of promise.


Bishop Hyland preached Mary Ann’s funeral sermon. He said
that the world would ask why Mary Ann should die. He was thinking undoubtedly
of those who had known her and knew that she loved life, knew that her grip on
a hamburger had once been so strong that she has fallen through the back of a
chair without dropping it, or that some months before her death, she and Sister
Loretta had got a real baby to nurse. The Bishop was speaking to her family and
friends. He could not have been thinking of that world, much farther removed
yet everywhere, which would not ask why Mary Ann should die, but why she should
be born in the first place.


One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of
children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited his
goodness, you are done with him . . . . Ivan Karamazov cannot believe, as long
as one child is in torment; Camus’ hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ,
because of the massacre of the innocents. In this popular pity, we mark our
gain in sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw
more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of
acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we
govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the
person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the
source of tenderness. Its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor
camps and in the fumes of the gas chambers . . .


This action by which charity grows invisibly among us,
entwining the living and the death, is called by the Church the Communion of
Saints. It is a communion created upon human imperfection, created from what we
make of our grotesque state. Of hers Mary Ann made what, like all good things,
would have escaped notice had not the Sisters and many others been affected by
it and wished it written down. The Sisters who composed the memoir have told me
that they feel they have failed to create her as she was, that she was more
lively than they managed to make her, more gay, more gracious, but I think that
they have done enough and done it well. I think that for the reader this story
will illuminate the lines that join the most diverse lives and that hold us fast
in Christ.


* * *

On Sun, Jul 8, 2012 at 7:31 PM,  <marcus at loyno.edu> wrote:

Janet Cantor writes, "On page 128 Father Smith asks, "Do you know where

tenderness leads?" And he answers,..." to the gas chamber"."

I think Percy told somone he was paraphasing a remark by Flannery O'Connor.

I argued with Percy about this epigraph more than once.  My reply was that

tenderness (romantic secular sentimentality, kitsch, etc.) may have been

involved in the cultural roots of the Holocaust, but plain old nasty

anti-semitism burrowing through centuries of the "Christian West" was the

primary agent driving the catastrophe.  I don't recall that we ever

concluded our discussion.

By the way, the original title of Lady Chatterly's Lover was, of course,


Marcus Smith

* * *
A Canonization in Munich:http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/2012/02/10/schmorell-canonization/ 

Photos of the canonization:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/sets/72157629206699911/with/6831984485/

Article about St. Alexander Schmorell:http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/2011/02/02/alexander-schmorell-a-witness-in-dark-times/

Photos of my recent travels in Poland:

Reflections on a visit to Auschwitz: http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/2011/11/28/auschwitz/

Recent books:
All is Gracerevised and expanded biography of Dorothy Day:http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/2006/03/24/all-is-grace/ 

Saint George & the Dragona children's book:

For the Peace From Abovea resource book on war, peace and nationalism:http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/2011/09/08/for-the-peace-from-above-an-orthodox-resource-book-on-war-peace-and-nationalism/

Jim & Nancy web site: www.jimandnancyforest.comJim's books: http://www.jimandnancyforest.com/books/

Photo collections: www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/collections/
In Communion site: www.incommunion.org

Forest-Flier Editorial Services: www.forestflier.com
On Pilgrimage blog: http://jimandnancyonpilgrimage.blogspot.com/

A Tale of Two Kidneys blog: http://ataleof2kidneys.blogspot.com/

Jim & Nancy Forest
Kanisstraat 5 / 1811 GJ Alkmaar / The Netherlands 

* * *

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