Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory

Graham GreenePenguin Classics 2003
Pages: 240
Formato eBook

When I read the final page of Graham Greene’s, The Power and the Glory, I knew with greater certainty the purpose of my life. Not a small thing. It was worth my time! Ranking as one of Greene’s best works, The Power and the Glory explores a priest who clings to the Faith while at the same time tries to make sense of his brokenness, sin, and his relationships with others and with God.
In the late 1930’s, the Mexican people were under attack by the revolutionary, social government of President Plutarco Calles. In this anti-Catholic environment, the Church was being intensely persecuted. People suffered in deplorable conditions. Priests were shot. Greene knew the situation first hand because he was commissioned by his publisher, Longmans’ to visit the area with the purpose of investigating these tensions between the Church and state.
From Greene’s travels he heard a story about a fugitive priest who, in spite of his alcohol struggles, continued to serve the people. He also heard about Fr. Miguel Pro, the newly ordained Jesuit who came back to his native country in 1926 to secretly serve the people for a year before he was captured and executed for treason in 1927. By intertwining both of these stories, Greene formed the basis of his masterpiece, The Power and the Glory.
The time in Mexico proved to be a time of growth for Greene as well. He wrote, “I began to examine more closely the effect of faith on action. Catholicism was no longer primarily symbolic; a ceremony at an altar….It was close now to death in the afternoon.” (Ways of Escape, Graham Green pg. 79) After witnessing those who suffered for the faith, his own understanding of Christianity was enlivened by the paradoxical truth that faith thrives on persecution.
The novel’s protagonist, known at times as ‘the whiskey priest’ is on the run from the police during a time of persecution. Woven throughout his hiding are episodic encounters with others. There is an emphasis on the power and glory of God’s grace working through everything, even weak, broken individuals who long to do His will yet do so in ways that seem hopelessly inadequate. The priest, aware of his sinfulness, thinks he does not love, but he does. He clings to the faith. He perseveres in his vocation in spite of his honest brokenness and that of others.
“How often the priest had heard the same confession. Man was so limited he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died; the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater glory lay around the death. It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.”
In this passage from The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene reveals a clue to the meaning of his book’s title, but it is the ending of this book that those who read it seem to be most changed by. It is the ending where readers are faced with the true horror of life, which is not sin or weakness or even violence. The real horror is not waking up to the true purpose of life.
(Marcie Stokman)