Diary of a Country Priest


Near the end of Georges Bernanos’ “Diary of a Country Priest,” are these words:

How easy it is to hate oneself! True grace is to forget. Yet if pride could die in us, the supreme grace would be to love oneself in all simplicity…

The “diary” is an occasionally bucolic, sometimes strange and often tragic journey of a young priest who finally falls into this “supreme grace,” and discovers,

I am reconciled to myself, to the poor, poor shell of me.

And that is the magic of the book. It reminded me, yet again, that a thousand messages, benevolent and conflicting, have formed a “me” that regards “me” with a mix of disdain and loathing, mercy and affection. To which side of this inner bearing I move–to self-hate, or to self-reconciliation–determines the health of “me” and the health of every one of my relationships. (Which is essentially the same thing, because, far more than I know, I am my relationships.)

The novel ends with these words. “Does it matter? Grace is everywhere…” Of course, if grace is everywhere, my fragile and occasionally desperate project of seeking approval from all the right quarters doesn’t matter at all. I can simply (simple is not easy), in all simplicity, resign myself to the grace that is here.  


A friend told me that this was Brennan Manning’s favorite book. And in fact, in the novel, the young priest is often called a ‘ragamuffin priest’ by his superior. No doubt this inspired Manning’s popular, “Ragamuffin Gospel.” A book that was vilified by Fundamentalists.


  1. “far more than I know, I am my relationships”….my morning brain is thinking that this must be why, though we try so hard to shed the past, and though we aspire to strong independence, we still respond so quickly and so persistently to others…..when relationships are empty or sterile or judgmental or draining or pitying or abusive or condescending, I take that in more than I think I will, and it can, literally, stay, and stay, and stay…..which is why I like the idea of grace, and have had to reject the idea of atonement theology, and no longer believe one hinges on the other. Grace, I have to believe, just is, like air just is, and lives in the spaces between us — or not, depending on the spaces we find ourselves in.

  2. Connie, I love the idea of grace in the spaces. And…it’s a necessary idea.

    Rose, Thought for a moment you meant George Bernanos…now that would have been a YouTube curiosity. I think he died in the 40’s.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *