Friday, 16 November 2012

Claiming Sinners

Tennessee Williams

I've recently been preparing to teach Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie to my lower sixth (16-17 year olds), and this has caused me to meditate on Williams' life. Williams, a very public sinner, was baptised into the Catholic Church in 1969, having been raised as an Episcopalian (his grandfather was an Episcopalian minister). This was some years after his long-term lover Frank Merlo had died of cancer, and he had entered a period of depression that would haunt him until he choked on the cap of a pill bottle at the age of 71.

Williams' conversion doesn't get a mention in his Wikipedia article. Nor is it mentioned in the potted biography at the front of my student edition of The Glass Menagerie. But of course there is plenty about his homosexuality and his struggles with alcohol and drug dependence. So often, in the life of a publicly known person, we hear about their falls from grace, but how often do we hear about their search for grace?

From an eternal perspective, Williams' baptism was the most important event in his life, and yet it is often overlooked. Another example of this tendency is Oscar Wilde, whose wild living and wit are frequently mentioned, but whose conversion is often conveniently forgotten.

We can never presume to know the state of another's soul, and yet writers often seem deliberately to expose it, using their own inner life as artistic raw material. This makes it difficult not to speculate about what was happening in the silence of their communion with their Maker, away from the noise and glare of publicity.

We cannot know the immortal destiny of Williams' tortured soul, which endured so much suffering in this life. But as I ponder on his struggles, I am filled with an overwhelming feeling of compassion, rather like the sense I have when I pray for the repose of my grandparents' souls, none of whom were Catholics. As Fr Hugh Thwaites once observed, it's no joke going through life without the Sacraments.

May they rest in peace.

[Posted by A Tiny Son of Mary]

1 comment:

  1. Quite right we cannot comment on the eternal destiny of another human being.


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