Book report by Allen Rabinovich
It is the story-teller's task to elicit sympathy and a measure of understanding for those who lie outside the boundaries of State Approval.
One day I gave The Power and the Glory to... a native of Mexico who had lived through the worst persecutions... She confessed that your descriptions were so vivid, your priest so real, that she found herself praying for him at Mass. I understand how she felt. Last year, on a trip through Mexico, I found myself peering into mud huts, through village streets, and across impassible mountain ranges, half-believing that I would glimpse a dim figure stumbling in the rain on his way to the border. There is no greater tribute possible to your creation of this character - he lives.
An excerpt from the letter of Californian Catholic teacher to Graham Greene, 1960
In a particular Mexican state the Church had been outlawed and the priests had to go underground by the threat of being shot. After several months from the governor's office appeared a news, that there was still one priest, Father Montez, who was moving from village to village working on the Church by administering the sacraments, listening confessions and saying masses. A young lieutenant of police, and ardent revolutionist and an anti-clerical, asked his chief to let him search for the priest who, as the authorities understood it, was guilty of treason.
Two photographs were pasted up together in police station. One was the picture of an American bank robber who killed several police officers in Texas; the other was that of the priest. No one noticed the irony, including the young lieutenant, who was more interested in arresting the priest. When the officer received permission to look for Father Montez, the priest was already in the village, where he came to get aboard the boat that would take him in the city Vera Cruz and safety.
In the village he met Mr. Tench, old dentist who wanted somebody to speak English with. But before Father Montez could get aboard the boat news came to him that an Indian woman was dying several miles inland. True to the call, the priest sat on the mule and went to administer the last rites to the dying woman, even though he realized that he might not find another ship to carry him to safety. There was one other priest in the region, Father Jose. But Father Jose was so coward, that he renounced the church up to the point of taking a wife, a shrewish old woman. The authorities paid no attention to him at all, for they felt, and rightly so, that the priest who had renounced his vows was a shame to the Church.
After completing his mission, Father Montez came back to the coast, where he spent the night in a banana warehouse. The English manager on the plantation allowed him to hide there.
The following day, hoping to find safety from the police and from the revolutionary party of Red Shirts, he went further. As he traveled, he thought of his own past and of himself as a poor example of the priesthood. He considered himself a "whiskey priest", a cleric who would do almost anything for a drink of spirits. Thinking himself a weak man and a poor priest, he was still determined to carry on the work for the Church as long as he could, not because he wanted to be a martyr, but because he knew nothing else to do.
After twelve hours of travel he reached the village where his one-time mistress and his child lived. The woman took him for a night, and the following morning he said a mass to the villagers. Before he could escape the police entered the village. Marcia spoke with him as her husband, and his child, a little girl of seven years old, named him as her father. In that manner he escaped. Meanwhile the police decided to use a new tactic in searching him. As they passed through each village the took a hostage. When a certain time passed without the appearance of father Montez, a hostage was shot. In that...