Georges Bernanos, who died sixty five years ago on July 5, 1948, closes his novel Diary of a Country Priest with an account of the dying words of a priest who served God and God’s people in the midst of his doubts, limitations, and seeming failures:
Does it matter? Grace is … everywhere.
I’ve read the novel a few times and it is one of a few novels that I brought with me to Honduras.
There is a beautiful simplicity in the novel that is reflected in the first and last words of this “diary” of an unnamed priest.
“Mine is a parish like all the rest,” the novel begins.
Grace arises in the midst of the ordinary.
But it was a struggle for him to see that. But at the end, before he died in the house of priest friend who had left the priesthood and lived with a lover, he wrote in the “diary”:
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 – as one would love any of those who themselves have suffered and loved in Christ.
To love oneself as one would love the suffering.
What a challenge and what a grace.
But it’s the message that strikes me personally. In myself and in others I have seen how the grace of God helps us to love ourselves – in a healthy way – when we begin to love the poor and experience their love for us.
I think Bernanos hit the nail on the head when he wrote:
I hold that the poor will save the world and they will save it without wishing to do so, they will save it despite themselves, that they will ask it nothing in return, simply because they will not know the value of the service they have rendered.
The poor, the suffering, open to us the presence of a loving God.
Grace is everywhere – if we open our hearts to the poor.