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Private Prayers: Flannery O'Connor's Faith Journal

Photo: AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Years before her novels and short stories earned her recognition as one of midcentury America’s greatest writers, Flannery O’Connor poured her faith—and doubts—into one slim notebook.In 1946, Flannery O’Connor began filling the pages of a simple composition book with impassioned prayers. She was 20. “I do not mean to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life,” she writes in the first, undated entry, “but I have been saying them and not feeling them.”Until September 1947, when A Prayer Journal comes to a close, O’Connor prayed nothing less than pure feeling. The journal—found among O’Connor’s papers by her authorized biographer,W. A. Sessions—reveals spiritual yearning, tough-minded intelligence, self-doubt, and humor. Pure O’Connor in their honed craft as well as their disgust at “the boils & blisters & warts of sick romanticism,” the entries blaze with an honesty and intimacy so intense that, at times, the reader has to look away. At others, we can’t, compelled by her contemplation. “No one can be an atheist,” she writes on January 2, 1947, “who does not know all things. Only God is …

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