I just finished reading The Power and the Glory for my Theology of Priesthood class. I must say that I enjoyed the novel, and found it to be a quick read.
Quick as it was, though, there was a lot in there, of course. It was about failure, and how that failure can impact a community. It was about the dignity of priesthood, and how that can be lost or won, and what it really means. It was about pain and suffering, and how we need to fearlessly enter into it and move through it to redemption.
The story is of a priest in early 20th century Mexico, a time when in Mexico priests and the Church were forbidden. Priests were forced to marry, or were shot. The protaganist of this story is a priest who did not marry, and is now on the run from the law.
Was the priest a sinner or a saint? Well, probably the answer is the “Catholic Yes:” he was both/and … both a sinner and a saint. Throughout the story, he had a sense of his duty as a priest, and a concern for the souls entrusted to him. In the end, he gave up what he saw as his only salvation — a chance to confess his own sins — in order to possibly save someone else. Most of all, though, he looked back on the days when he wasn’t a wanted man to see that those were the days of corruption for him, and his journey to eventual martyrdom in his last days was the one that brought about his true conversion.
I still haven’t figured out why, but the theme of pain really stood out for me, especially at the end of the book. The pain of Mrs. Fellowes’s sick headache, the pain of the jefe in the dentist chair, and the pain which the priest himself feared as he went to his execution. Maybe there’s been enough pain and sadness in my own life lately, with all that’s happened this quarter at the seminary, that this theme really grabbed me. As I learned on CPE, the pain doesn’t go away — and it is largely unresolved in the book — but you cannot be afraid to enter into it and be in it. Redemption happens for those who enter into the pain; we just have to enter it fearlessly and trust the grace of the God who loves us and calls us; the God who lived and died for us; the God who offers us everlasting life.