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Diary of a Country Priest, Directed by Robert Bresson

Journal d’un curé du campagne, Brandon Films Inc., February 7, 1951 (France)

Screenplay: Robert Bresson based on the novel by Georges Bernanos

Starring: Claude Laydu, Jean Riveyre, André Guibert, Rachel Bérendt, Nicole Maurey, and Nicole Ladmiral

Life and death battles. A mother hates God for taking her beloved young son. Her husband is an adulterer. His mistress, feeling neither guilt nor sorrow for her indiscretions, sits alone at the head of an empty church during daily service. And front and center, a sickly young country priest, unsure of himself and the depths of his faith, is forced to come to terms with his lot in life as outsider in a parish, absorbing the pain and sins of all those who come into his path.

An old master attempts to impart his wisdom on his young protégé before it is too late.

Priest of Torcy (André Guibert): Besides exterminating the devil your other dream is to be loved for who you are. A true priest is never loved. The church doesn’t care whether you’re loved my son. Be respected, obeyed. Keep order all day long, knowing full well disorder will win out tomorrow, because in this sorry world, the night undoes the work of the day.

I did some research after returning from this spiritual trek into the black hole of human nature and was somewhat surprised (although not deeply so) to discover that director Robert Bresson was agnostic.

The realization that “all is grace”—good and evil—may seem to undermine the eloquence of the almighty struggle. But within this difficult if not blasphemous discovery that there is good in evil and evil in good lies the ultimate secret of salvation: that perhaps it is not the outcome at all but indeed the mere struggle itself in which we may find the way to cleanse the stains.