It was a delightful coincidence to be rereading Augustine’s Confessions in preparation for a fall course when the September 16 issue of the New Yorker appeared with an excerpt from a forthcoming collection, edited by W.A. Sessions, of a prayer journal kept by Flannery O’Connor as a young writer in the University of Iowa’s MFA program. Judging from the excerpt, The Prayer Journal promises to be as engaging for those interested in practices of prayer as it will certainly be for those more interested in O’Connor as a writer and as a devout Catholic writer at that, though both certainly bear on the construction of prayer practice as presented in the journal.
Speaking toward the end of her life of the relationship of writing and belief, O’Connor insisted that the creative process for her, as it was for Augustine, was about constructing a concreteness in the ethereal experience of the divine-human encounter. “The major part of my task is to make everything,” she wrote, “even an ultimate concern, as solid, as concrete, as specific as possible. The novelist begins his work where human knowledge begins—with the senses; he works through the limitations of matter… he has to stay within the concrete possibilities of his culture.”