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