The Diary of a Country Priest might seem, at first glance, a parody of a Catholic novel. The hero of the book is a sickly and poor priest who takes care of a small provincial parish in France in the 1940s. The members of his parish are lustful, proud, envious and vain. The church itself is riddled with careerism and complacency. The protagonist constantly analyzes his flaws, his sentimentality, his emotional weakness and frequent social blunders. And yet, the vocation of the priesthood finds a way to be fulfilled through this “weak vessel” – the low, uncharismatic country priest.
The good deeds that this priest does remain hidden from the eyes of the world, and we do not know whether the seeds he plants will bear fruit. Let us not forget, however, that God himself took the form of a humble human being and became a “man of sorrow.” We will encounter much of His work under a modest, even disgusting appearance. In the eyes of the world, this country priest deserves nothing but contempt. But, imitating Christ, he actually carries, along with his own weaknesses, the infirmities and sins of his flock.
The novel is written in the form of a diary, and is full of memorable quotes. Although the book could be described as a chronicle of suffering, on a deeper level the central theme seems to be that of joy – the joyful hope in God’s providence:
“God has entrusted the Church to keep the soul of childhood alive, to safeguard our candor and freshness … Joy is the gift of the Church, whatever joy is possible for this sad world to share … What would it profit you even to create life itself, when you have lost all sense of what life really is?”
The novel was awarded the Grand Prix for Literature by the Academie Francaise.
- Author: Louis Émile Clément Georges Bernanos (1888-1948)
- Original title: Journal d’un curé de campagne
- Original language: French
- Genre: Novel
- Publication year: 1936
- Public: Adults
|The Diary of a Country Priest|