The Diary of a Country Priest
Ever wonder about what a priest does outside of his visible duties of
celebrating Mass and administering the Sacraments? Ever thought about the
challenges he faces spiritually and even physically in dealing with the
behind-the-scenes challenges of parish life?
The summer novel selection for our One Book, One Diocese program is Georges
Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest, a fictional, but rather realistic,
story of a zealous young priest in his first parish assignment as a rural
pastor. He attempts to overcome a serious health issue, which proves to be
not only a formidable cross to carry while trying to perform his parish
duties, but also one that ultimately abbreviates his days of priestly
service to God and His Church.
The even more significant challenge presented in this novel is the burden of
trying to be at once a holy spiritual father, a faithful shepherd, a
compassionate counselor, a passionate preacher, an effective teacher, a
conscientious administrator and a confident leader—all of which were
expectations of the parish priest in France a century ago (the setting for
the story) and are also today in our own place and time. This make-believe
diary provides insight into how difficult it is for priests to be, as St.
Paul wrote, “all things to all people.”
As the Year for Priests has come officially to its end, it behooves all of
us to continue to provide spiritual support for the clergy who bear a much
heavier burden than most parishioners realize—a theme that is accentuated in
The Diary of a Country Priest. Fortunately, our parishes typically are
endowed with those who offer many additional forms of support for their
parish priests, preserving for them the time, energy and other resources
needed to perform their many priestly tasks effectively, and with
significantly less stress.
The main character of this novel may not resemble our own parish priests,
nor perhaps any whom we actually know. But he struggles through some of the
same trials that many parish priests face, albeit in his own way and with
the particular graces granted to him by the Lord. While never portrayed as a
saint, this parish priest is presented as zealous, dutiful, selfless and
Christ-like—qualities we wish to see in every priest.
Whereas biographies on saints, including those who were priests, are quite
plentiful, this novel offers a different sort of look at priestly life.
Keeping in mind that it is fictional and, as such, is meant to be a literary
piece of entertainment, we can derive from it a renewed appreciation for the
fact that each priest is called to serve God perhaps more in light of than
in spite of his own particular weaknesses, personality quirks and personal
failures. As Scripture reminds us, “With God, all things are possible.” And,
as the final words in the life of the main character confirmed—for himself
as well as for others—“Grace is everywhere…”
2013 Southern Nebraska Register Publication Dates
(Resume Jan 4, 2014)
November 27 (Wed.)