I met with my reading partner(s) today to discuss our most recent read which was Georges Bernanos' "The Diary of a Country Priest." My colleague is a professor of Christian Ministry at Lincoln Christian College and we both decided that this book would be a fitting text for classes on "pastoral character" (borrowed from Marva Dawn). I would go a step further--I think this might actually be THE fitting text for Christian Ministry (other than Scripture). The reason being is that the young priest symbolizes and fleshes out what Henri Nouwen and others have tried to describe in statements like "Ministry is suffering on behalf of others." Rather than advocating some sort of professionalized, CEO-model of ministry the priest feels deeply the brokenness and pain of his people, even when they don't want him to and even when they take it out on him in the process.
The other important aspect of his life is that he is both shepherd and prophet--from within their pain he describes what Walter Brueggemann talks about in his collected essays on preaching (The Word Militant, Fortress Press 2007): the young priest "poetically articulates an alternative text or reality." In the midst of empathy, he strongly and confrontingly points the way forward to the alternative path: the path of following, suffering, and rising with Christ. In the face of a cold French social system, he lives out empathetic and Christ-like presence even when threatened by his own fate. I won't spoil the book if you plan on reading it.
I am all for the substance of Christian Ministry (which we are all called to and should be doing, right?) being to poetically articulate an alternative text that is centered around the ever-present shepherd/prophet Jesus who enters into the brokenness of others before calling them into healing, freedom and restoration. I really benefitted from the discussion of this book and would recommend it to you, esteemed friends.
I also enjoyed a cucumber sandwich on a zucchini yeast roll for lunch today. If I had been able to make my own mayonnaise the entire thing would have been home-grown. Brilliant. I'm going to get a cow.