THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST

Church Leadership and Pastoralia

This is a novel written around 1930 by a French author and first published in 1937 being almost immediately translated into English because of its value. Bernanos was born 1988 and as a devout Roman Catholic his books explored political, social and religious aspects of life. He died in Paris in 1948 having written various novels of which this is probably the most well known. As the title suggests it is the diary of a young priest laboring in a small provincial parish in rural France. His calling, commitment and faithfulness to God are beautifully brought out in the narrative making this a thought -provoking book for those who are engaged in Christian ministry. Some have described it as the greatest spiritual book of the twentieth century. Maybe this is so. Certainly it unfolds the world-weariness of souls who have an acquaintance with God but who battle with all sorts of tragedy and embittering sadness. Meanwhile the young priest continues his ministry in this diverse community with growing compassion and against the background of his many personal introspections. He is suffering physically all the while, in fact, dying from a stomach cancer of which he is unaware. There is a poignancy about the book, some sections are profound and plumb something of the depths of human need and the skill with which, almost without realizing it, this compassionate priest is enabled to bring one noblewoman to peace with God before her death is particularly beautiful. He is unable to help others and this facing of evil in human souls is a vital part of the narrative. A book of this nature requires thoughtful reading coupled with times for reflection. For instance, one phrase in which the young priest speaks of the existence of the communion of sinners in contrast to the communion of saints demands much pondering. He brings this out in the context of a conversation with a fellow priest who is older in years as they muse on theological issues undergirding issues of life. So, here is a book for pastors and leaders maybe, something to read and reflect upon, remembering it is from the pen of a Roman Catholic. I have read somewhere that one godly writer of today regards this as the best book ever written on the pastoral ministry. Certainly there is much to provoke in the reading of it.

Last modified: May 14, 2012

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