My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As I get older, I am finding the value of re-reading books that are worth re-reading an enriching experience. "The Diary of a Country Priest" is one of those volumes. I had seen it quoted and referenced in other writings in the past, obtained a copy and worked through it ten years ago. So it was quite the pleasure to pick it up again at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 to get reacquainted. Bernanos covers several significant subjects - politics, religion, humility, and social justice - through the venue of a young country priest's journal. There are early indications that all is not well with the young priest's health, and those indications grow in intensity until his final diagnosis and demise. And yet the unknown health issues lurk in the background, subtly shaping and governing the cleric's actions, insights, and epiphanies.
This is the tale of a young clergyman who grapples with his own insignificance in the world scheme, but whose contentment and humility makes him a beautiful instrument in the Redeemer's hands. Though he can never see the effects of his pastoral care on the lives of others, many grasp it and are truly affected. There are O'Connor-esque conversion scenes in various places in the story-line that beautifully display what C.S. Lewis might have called a severe mercy. Hope thrives in the most dismal places; life rises where death had long held sway; love sprouts up where it had only been winter and never Christmas.
"The Diary of a Country Priest" is a delightful, subtly inspiring story. The Protestant reader may find some of the pictures troublesome, but when read within their own milieu, they are brilliant. Catholic readers will be confronted with the reality that "Grace is everywhere" (298). And for those who are simply looking for a good read, they will not be disappointed. I highly recommend the book.
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