The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O'Connor
by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Paraclete Press has a lot of nice, innovative products coming out of their publishing house. An ecumenical organization rooted in the Catholic tradition, what I appreciate about Paraclete is that they create a number of texts to guide the Christian spiritual formation and development of their constituents. The latest text I have been given to review is The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O'Connor.
The Province of Joy is a prayer book that weds morning and evening prayers for a week with the writings and spiritual influence of Flannery O'Connor. This "book of hours" is similar to other prayer books in a series published by Paraclete. I also have one based around St. Francis of Assisi.
Ms. O'Donnell has collected an excellent group of prayers and has organized it well. The morning prayers include a brief passage to meditate on, a sentence prayer, followed by a psalm, and a thought from O'Connor to meditate on. After that, a canticle, a guide to intercessory prayer, the Lord's Prayer, a time for reflection, prayer to St. Raphael, and a dismissal are included. Finally, there is a guide for further reading and reflection based upon the writings and spirituality of Flannery O'Connor.
The evening prayers have a similar format, but are much shorter than the morning prayers, excluding the prayer to St. Raphael, the Lord's Prayer, and some other prayers.
Each day also has a theme. These themes parallel some of the spiritual themes that appeared in O'Connor's writing. They are very contemporary as well, and address common struggles, concerns and issues in everyday life.
At the end of Province of Joy also has several prayers and poem/prayers for occasional use at the end of the book. I loved this. Included were poems by Hopkins, writings from de Chardin, Prayers from Ignatius of Loyola and Catherine of Sienna are also included. It is a fine collection of quotes, and very appropriate.
For me, The Province of Joy is an excellent guide to formal prayer times. I appreciate the structure of the prayers. I appreciate the influence of O'Connor's work in this book. Most of the writings in this book are from her letters and prose. I am primarily familiar with her fiction work, so with this book I get a fuller picture of O'Connor and her spirituality while praying and growing myself.
For a person who is deeply fed by study as a spiritual discipline, and who appreciates structure in my prayer time, this resource is a godsend. My prayers become informed by Scripture, tradition, and the insight of a Christian leader of the caliber of Flannery O'Connor.
I am not necessarily a big fan of praying to saints, and many of the readers of this blog are not either. But I tend to treat this prayer as something to meditate on instead of something to outright reject.