I have asked the seminarians I am teaching at NDS to read Georges Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest. As I re-read this book, I was re-convinced that it is yet another must-read for a Catholics (to be read before seeing the movie version).
I envisioned it as a way for them to think through a narrative lens about the theology of priesthood in a pastoral mode, and to think of priestly holiness as quintessentially about suffering in love the daily rigors of pastoral life in service to the lay faithful after the manner of Jesus himself in his public ministry.
In the story, the Curé, who is the pastor of a sleepy country parish in early 20th century Ambricourt, France, finds himself, among his many trials, ridiculed relentlessly by a certain girl in his Catechism class. There’s a particular scene of dialogue between the Curé and this girl that really captured my heart:
“You’re sad,” she said. “You’re sad even when you smile. I think if only I knew why you was sad—I shouldn’t be wicked no more.”
I replied, “I’m sad…because God isn’t loved enough.”
Would that this were, for men and women of faith, life’s greatest sorrow. And would that it were a new impetus for the new evangelization — to invite others to justly love the Lover of Mankind.
On this feast of St. Thérèse, whose spirit animated this country priest’s hidden holiness, I will allow her the last word…
“Oh, how little God is loved on this earth…No, God isn’t loved very much…It is my life’s mission to return love for love”