Sunday, July 4, 2010
PILGRIMAGE TO THE SHRINE OF SAINT FLANNERY
The BAD CATHOLIC recently had occasion to be in Milledgeville, Georgia. As you may know, Gentle Reader, Milledgeville was the antebellum capital of the State of Georgia. Along with visiting the Old Governor's Mansion and the Old Statehouse and riding by the famous Central State Hospital, which at one time was the largest mental hospital in the world, I also made the pilgrimage to Andalusia Farm, the home of Flannery O'Connor.
The people who have opened the house and farm to the public are doing the best they can, but many of the outbuildings of the dairy farm run by the O'Connors are in very bad shape. Much work needs to be done in the main house and on the grounds as well. I am sure that donations would be appreciated.
I very much enjoyed my visit. Like other visitors, I was struck by the fact that whereas 50 years ago Andalusia Farm, which is located five miles outside of Milledgeville on the road to Eatonton, was out in the middle of nowhere, now it is surrounded by Walmart, fast food restaurants, strip malls, car dealerships and motels. (As an aside, Eatonton is the home of another famous Georgia author, Joel Chandler Harris of Uncle Remus fame). The curator at Andalusia, Mr. Craig Amason, is very friendly and an expert on all things Flannery.
Miss Mary Flannery's bedroom on the first floor, which needs a paint job, shows the spartan conditions under which the stricken young writer lived and worked. There is a simple bed, a crucifix, some bookcases, a typewriter, and a pair of crutches. Flannery would write for several hours every morning and then in the afternoon she would read, write letters and enjoy the menagerie of animals including her famous peacocks. As I walked up to the house, I was delighted to see a peacock in a pen displaying his fabulous tail feathers.
I also went to the Saturday vigil mass at Flannery's Church, Sacred Heart Parish. This small 19th century structure is much unchanged from its original appearance. I was delighted to see what I presume are the pre-Vatican II statutes of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph flanking the altar and the intact marble altar rail. When I visited, there were young people standing outside waiting for the priest to open the doors to the Church to go to confession before mass, and the exposition of the blessed sacrament and recitation of the rosary were well attended. The Church was packed for mass. I can report that Catholic Christianity is alive and well in Middle Georgia.
Even though it's summer, there seemed to be plenty of students from Flannery O'Connor's alma mater, Georgia College and State University (formerly Georgia Women's College) still in Milledgeville. My tour guides at the Governor's Mansion and the Old Capitol Building were both history majors at Georgia College.
If anyone out there goes to Milledgeville, the place where the locals hang out downtown is a bar and grill across from the Georgia College campus called The Brick. The food is excellent, the beer is on tap, and the service from some very attractive young waitresses is outstanding. (Like Andy Griffith said "My wife told me I could look at the pretty girls so long as I never touched nary a one of 'em. So I've had to do an awful lot of lookin' to make up for that one disability.")
Flannery, history, worship and girl watching all in one trip. Can't do any better than that. It might make a good short story, don't you think?