I do not know when I first heard about the very famous novel Diary of a Country Priest. But it has been years. I do not think that I started looking for the book until it was listed in Eugene Peterson’s book about books he recommends to read. Until recently, the 1936 novel has not been available for a price I was willing to pay. But it looks like there has been a copyright change, and now there is a $0.99 Kindle version. There is also a free PDF that just scanned and not a very high-quality version.
Part of what I enjoyed was the look at the strain of being a country priest in an era before the widespread use of phones or cars. There is one scene where the priest is given a ride on a motorcycle. But as unusual as it is to read about this earlier era, and while cars and phones matter to pastoring today, the reality of how people act does not feel too distant. With the culture of the earlier era, a rural French setting is different, but not so different that it is unimaginable.
The book is framed as a diary, with pages ripped out or lines or words obscured. The internal thoughts, at least those that that that priest is willing to share, lead to a psychological look at ministry vocation. Part of why Eugene Peterson recommended the book is because it matched a similar understanding of the pastor’s role as what Peterson advocated. The country priest is not perfect, although he is good and tries hard. He is not so perfect as to become an unattainable model.
I did not love the ending, although it made sense with the rest of the book. Overall, the book was a little on the slow side. But that I think was to be expected based on the setup and characters. I would have liked fewer examples of pages being torn out, and lines crossed out. It just was used too often. I appreciate the deep love (although not for every person) that the priest showed to those in his care. He did want to serve them well to the best of his ability. That love was not always understood or perfect, but it was a goal that I think was empowered by the Holy Spirit.