In February, I read a novel for a men’s book club (back then, we still had the good fortune to be able to meet for normal social interactions; March’s meeting got canceled). The novel was Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, which I had never read, and had always reproached myself for not having read. It’s the kind of “modern Catholic novel” that every literate person ought to have read.
To be honest, I found it both fascinating and repellent. Fascinating, because Greene writes a mesmerizing prose, full of breathtaking metaphors, elevating pessimism into poetry. Repellent, because, well, reading about a priest who prefers whisky to his breviary, continually says Mass in a state of mortal sin, and longs for some sign of affection from his former mistress and his illegitimate daughter is depressing stuff.
But there was something in the novel that struck me when I was reading it, and that I find even more striking now when we are in the midst of an unprecedented shutdown of the Church’s sacramental life.