Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Only a Priest

I recently had the privilege of reading a marvelous novel sent to me by my friend John Porteous in New Zealand. While Only a Priest by M.O. Chamberlain is an often light-hearted tale, it fearlessly plumbs the depths of both the gloom and glory of being an ordained and celibate Catholic minister of God. Penned in an easy, descriptive prose, this particular book stands out because of the Down Under setting. We in America tend to forget that on the other side of the world there are those who share our Faith as well as the vicissitudes of living the Christian life in the modern world. I am reminded of my own pilgrimage to New Zealand in 2009 and how blessed I felt to be so warmly welcomed by my brethren in the Faith so far away.

According to Only a Priest's Amazon page:

A young parish priest calls for help in dealing with a problem beyond his experience and capability. A veteran priest comes out of unwanted retirement to answer the call. Father Gilbert, a former missionary, has served in one of the world’s toughest missions, before a breakdown and fall from grace saw him hand over his stole. Overcoming a profound sense of unworthiness, he has returned to the priesthood. Not wearing the disgrace of his former life lightly, he is driven to make amends. He forms an unlikely alliance with the young Father Ward, and together they fight an ancient Enemy, wearied not by time.
Only a Priest is poignant, funny and thought-provoking, as it looks at today’s Catholicism and reflects back on both the weaknesses and strengths. The book gives an understanding inside-look at a church trying to navigate through our rapidly changing times, without compromising the core of its own faith, with the sympathetic characters of both the old and the young priest giving this story warmth, even as it asks the hard questions.
Dr. Lyn Wytenbroeck.

A very compelling story within a contemporary setting. I had difficulty putting the book down and that hasn’t happened in a long time. This story, while fictional, is grounded in reality. The writer’s literary experience, plus his rich life history, has enabled him to deliver a persuasive tale. This is done via the medium of conversation pieces, mainly between the two colourful characters who dominate the book. This rich technique gives it fluency and makes the book easy to follow. Well worth a read.
Sir Patrick J. Lynch. KNZM, QSO.

This book really resonates with many aspects of what it is to be priest. It would make good reading for seminarians and a copy should be in the seminary library. Father Larry Rustia. 

 Only a Priest is one of the best novels on the sacred power of the priesthood that I have read since I read The Exorcist. The older priest Father Gilbert is the diocesan exorcist which is why he is called to assist at Father Ward's parish. Amid all the usual ups and downs of parish life in a country village, there is a bizarre case of a possessed young man. I read Only a Priest at night and I have to say that it often had me scared and reaching for the holy water. The possessed man comes from a devout family but finds his way into the occult through porn, drugs and sex, all of which he eagerly seeks out to spite his parents. Both priests have had their own trails and failings through which they have come to humility, and it is then that God works through them to cast out the demon. It is when we acknowledge our weakness and powerlessness before God that we are able to become His instruments.


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