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Washington D.C., May 30, 2015 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Award-winning American author and devout Roman Catholic Flannery O’Connor will appear on a new postage stamp this summer, the U.S. postal service announced last week. The stamp is decorated with peacock feathers, a tribute to the family peacock farm in Georgia where O’Connor did much of her writing.

Famous for her Southern Gothic fiction style, O’Connor’s best-known works include her first novel, "Wise Blood", and many short stories such as “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” A collection of her works, "The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor," won the 1972 National Book Award for fiction and was named the Best of the National Book Awards, 1950-2008 by a public vote.

The author was born in 1925, the only child to devout Roman Catholic parents living in the heart of the Protestant “Bible Belt” in Savannah, Georgia.  O’Connor went to school at Georgia State College for Women, then to the Iowa Writers Workshop, and finally to New York to study and work on her writing.

However, at the age of 25, a diagnosis of lupus forced O’Connor to return home to her family’s farm in Andalusia, Georgia, where she lived out her days caring for animals, going to church, and writing.  

Her inclusion on U.S. postage stamps is a triumph for both American authors and American Catholics, said Ralph Wood, professor of literature and theology at Baylor University and author of the 2005 book “Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South.”  

“More than 50 years after her early death in 1964 (at age 39), her fiction continues to command worldwide attention, and so the USPS rightly adds her to its roll-call of writers who have been thus honored,” Wood told CNA in an e-mail interview.

“Yet it would be tempting on such a public occasion to ignore the religious nature of Flannery O’Connor’s achievement,” Wood added.

But this can hardly be done. O’Connor never kept her faith a secret, and despite her frail health would travel to speak about faith and literature.

The recent release of her college prayer journal, which she kept while attending the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in her early 20s, provides even more evidence that the author’s deep interior life and relationship with God drove her passion for writing.

“Dear God please help me to be an artist, please let it lead to You," she wrote.  

“In those years O'Connor came to recognize her own significant talent, but also came to worry that her powerful desire for literary success – a success that seemed to be within her reach – might threaten her relationship with God,” said Professor John Grammar, director of the Sewanee School of Letters.  

“How to harmonize her desire to write well with her desire to love God completely? Writing had to become an avenue to God, not an end in itself,” he added. Throughout the journal, O’Connor increasingly writes about seeing her talent as a vocation, rather than a career path to success.

What further makes O’Connor stand out from other writers, and particularly other writers of faith, is her willingness to write about the dark and grotesque: her constant use of unsavory characters and horrific plots is almost unheard of in other Christian writings.

“The distinctive thing about O’Connor as a Christian artist is that she has little interest in making us feel good,” Grammar said.  “In her work the love of God is always present, but far from being comforting, it is guaranteed to disrupt comfort and shake up complacent certainties, in her characters and her readers.”

Indeed, O’Connor herself said she was uninterested in making people feel comfortable and happy, as Brad Gooch explains in his biography "Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor."

"O'Connor said that modern writers must often tell 'perverse' stories to 'shock' a morally blind world. 'It requires considerable courage,' she concluded, 'not to turn away from the story-teller,'" he wrote.

American Catholics can learn something from O’Connor, whose relevance continues today despite her unwillingness to compromise or water down her beliefs in her work.

“Beset with its own failings, the Church is also besieged with demands for accommodation of its basic doctrines and practices to the secular spirit of the age,” Wood said.

“Flannery O’Connor rejected all such compromises. Her fiction endures because it provides a living artistic alternative to the twin evils of modernity: the omni-competent nation-state and the all-pervasive Culture of Death. Whatever the motives prompting it, this commemorative stamp contains the image of the nation’s most redemptive writer: Flannery O’Connor.”

The Flannery O'Connor stamp is a "forever" stamp for 3-ounce packages and will be available June 5.

 

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Vatican City, May 29, 2015 / 05:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The third annual report of the Financial Intelligence Authority shows that the Vatican's anti-money laundering legal system has been consolidated, journalists were told on Friday.

The May 29 report regards the 2014 annual report, and the AIF noted that the year “saw a continous strengthening of the legal and institutional framework of the Holy See and Vatican City State to regulate supervised entities.”

René Bruelhart, president of the authority, highlighted that “with the introduction of Regulation No.1, we have completed the prudential supervisory framework of the Holy See and Vatican City State.”

The AIF also concluded its first ordinary on-site inspection of the Institute for Religious Works, informally known as the 'Vatican bank,’ and – though the inspection did not find any fundamental shortcomings – the authority provided an action plan for the full and systematic adjustment of existing procedures to the required standards in accordance with Law No. XVIII.

Coming into effect of October 2013, Law XVIII is a comprehensive text that outlines the design and functions of the Vatican financial system. The law was the last step in the path of implementation of the first Vatican anti-money laundering law, which was amended and then substantially rewritten with Law XVIII.

According to Tommaso Di Ruzza, director of the AIF, “the first on site inspection of the IOR is an important consequence and a concrete sign of the effectiveness of the AML/CFT (anti-money laundering / counter financing of terrorism) system adopted by the Holy See and by Vatican City State.”

The new framework marks the third phase of Vatican financial reform. Initially, there was an assumption of responsibility made under Benedict XVI, who issued the first Vatican anti-money laundering law. Then there was a season of adjustments and improvements, the law was amended and the Vatican strengthened its international cooperation. This is the season when the system settles down, and starts working in effect.

As a result, the Vatican now complies with international standards because of the effectiveness of its domestic system.

The reporting system data is a proof of the consolidation of the vigilance system. In 2012, the AIF had received six suspicious transactions reports; in 2013, it received 202; and in 2014, 147.

“Such development is a consequence both of the full implementation of the legal framework and of the substantial improvement in the operational performance of the supervised entitites with the regard to the prevention of the financial crime,” the AIF release reads.

It is necessary to clarify that a transactions report does not necessarily mean a crime, and that the AIF does not charge anyone over crimes. “As we receive a suspected transactions report, we analyze it, and, if we find something that may be considered a crime, we forward it to the Vatican prosecutor,” Di Ruzza explained.

From that point on, the issue is handled by prosecutors, and not the AIF, he emphasized.

In 2014, seven reports were passed on to the Vatican promoter of justice for further investigation by judicial authorities.

The AIF also strengthened bilateral cooperation between itself and its foreign counterparts, which passed from four in 2012 to 81 in 2013, to 113 in 2014.

International cooperation was also strengthened through the signing of memoranda of understanding with the Financial Intelligence Units of country such as Australia, France, and the UK, and also with regulators of Germany, Luxembourg, and the United States.

In additional Vatican financial news, Pope Francis signed on May 28 a motu proprio, Il Fondo Pensioni, revising the statute of the Vatican Pension Fund.

The motu proprio changed the statues of the pension fund, but does not affect the regulations governing the pensions themselves. The president of the Fund's board of directors will now be directly appointed by the Pope, on the advisement of the Council for the Economy; previously, the president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See assumed the post automatically.

The revisions follow from the establishment of the Council and the Secretariat for the Economy.

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St. Joan of Arc
5/30/2015 12:00:00 AM
Today is the feast of St. Joan of Arc, the patroness of France. Joan was born to a peasant family near Lorraine, France in the 15th century. From a young age she heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret speaking to her. Then, in 1428, when she was 13 years old, she received a vision telling her to go to the King of France and help him reconquer his kingdom from the invading forces of England and Burgundy. Overcoming opposition and convincing members of the court and of the Church, she was given a small army. She charged into battle bearing a banner which bore the names “Jesus� and “Mary� as well as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Due to her leadership and trust in God, she was able to raise the siege of Orleans in 1429. Joan and her army went on to win a series of battles. Because of her efforts, the king was able to enter Rheims. He was crowned with Joan at his side. Eventually, Joan was captured by the forces of Burgundy in May of 1430. When her own king and army did nothing to save her, she was sold to the English. She was imprisoned for a time and then put on trial. Bishop Peter Cauchon of Beauvais presided over her trial. His hope was that in being harsh with Joan, the English would help him become archbishop. Joan was condemned to death on counts of heresy, witchcraft, and adultery. On May 30, 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, France. She was 19 years old. Thirty years after her death, her case was retried and she was exonerated. In 1920, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. She is the patroness of France, captives, soldiers, and those ridiculed for their piety.
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