Priest On The Run
Before I start, the title of today’s post should be sung to the tune of Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run.”
Now on to business: I love books that explore the complexity of religion and spirituality.
In The Power And The Glory, Graham Greene just nailed it. Greene tells the story of a “whiskey priest” who has fathered a girl out of wedlock–which is a Catholic “no no” in or out of wedlock–has obvious drinking problems, and is burdened by the guilt of his sin.
Set in the 1930s, the unnamed priest is on the run from Mexican authorities during a time in which the Catholic church is being persecuted by the Mexican government.
What I love about the book is that, even though the priest is fully aware of the depths of his “mortal sin,” as he calls it, he still has moments of selflessness. He shows a deep affection for the little girl he fathered, even though, as he puts it, she is a reminder of his sin.
Greene really explores the grey area of Christianity with this novel. Some of my favorite quotes to this point:
When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity–that was a quality God’s image carried with it. When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.
When you know meet someone face to face, when you get to know them, isn’t hate always much more difficult?
How often the priest had heard the same confession–Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater the glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.
Oh, that’s good. All of it. Makes me wonder how the priests do it, knowing that they hear the same sins over and over and over again. How do you do that without growing callous?
What an unbearable creature he must have been in those days–and yet in those days he had been comparatively innocent. That was another mystery: it sometimes seemed to him that venial sins–impatience, an unimportant lie, pride, a neglected opportunity–cut you off from grace more completely than the worst sins of all. Then, in his innocence, he had felt no love for anyone; now in his corruption he had learnt.
Love that paragraph. There’s a sort of hidden redemption that you won’t discover until after you’ve made mistakes or gone through a tragic experience. A lot of wisdom there.
If you’re into theology, spirituality, religion–anything of that nature–you’ll probably find The Power and the Glory
to be a worthwhile read. I am, and to this point, I’m a fan.
Any thoughts on these passages?
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