Flannery O’Connor And The Cross She Carried — “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it.”
One who knew the meaning of Jesus’ words so well was Flannery O’Connor, the distinguished Catholic novelist who died in 1964 at the age of 39. From the age of 25 she lived with the knowledge she had a terminal disease, Lupus, not to mention her sufferings from bone disintegration, shingles, anemia and a tumor.
Yet it was during 14 years of sickness and suffering that she produced her greatest works of literary art. Her strong faith enabled her to say: “I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies . . .”
Those are strong words! How could a young woman call sickness one of God’s mercies? Yet Jesus’ words in the Gospel are just as strong: If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and follow in my steps.
In some way, Flannery O’Connor was able to accept the cross of her sickness and follow in the Lord’s footsteps. But she didn’t do it with a nice sweet smile on her face. She did it with strong courage and conviction. She realized that her own sickness was the very thing that helped her to look at life around her with eyes of faith; and to translate that life into literary pages that would win her international fame as a writer.
Each one of us is called upon to carry a cross in our life at some time. For some it may be the cross of emotional or spiritual suffering, rather than physical suffering. Sometings there are big crosses, sometimes small.
Whatever their size, Jesus calls upon us to carry them.
Flannery O’Connor And The Cross She Carried