The Power And The Glory Essay, Research Paper
As countless people in a third world country fall to the ravages of poverty and disease, a single woman fights to make a difference. Living a spartan life, through conditions far from humane, she helps those who are poor, suffering and sick, with total disregard for her own personal comfort. One might say that this woman is a saint and for many she already is. Her selfless abandon to help those in need makes her virtuous to a heroic degree. Her name is Mother Theresa. By stark contrast, the whisky priest can hardly be classified as a saint. A saint is an individual remarkably free from human weaknesses. The whisky priest however, is the incarnate of human failings: a sinner.
Priests are respected members of their communities and should exemplify what it is to be a Christian. They are model citizens who practice the teachings of Christ and take on the responsibilities of their title. Under the circumstances of an anti-clerical purge in the southern states of Mexico, it is understandable that the whiskey priest is unable to perform all of his priestly duties for fear of his life. To survive, he must lie, cheat and steal to avoid the law. These tactics however, are not new to him. Even before the purge, he is a priest that is hardly good and honest. By requiring a fee for services such as baptism, at a price of two pesos a head, he is no better that the common thief. Families that can hardly put food on the table are asked to pay for a service that should be given, not sold. The fees for his services are most often directed to luxuries such as brandy, his personal favorite.
As a man whose calling is to serve the people, the whisky priest does nothing but serve himself. When the villagers ask the priest to hear their confessions, he unwillingly complies. He is compelled only by his sense of duty and angrily responds, “Oh let them come. Let them all come, I am your servant.” (p. 45) He begins to weep not for their sins, but in pity for himself. He does not perform his tasks graciously but feels that they are a chore imposed on him. A priest’s duties are not to himself but to God and his neighbours. When the whisky priest prays, it is only for his daughter and no one else. The love that he should feel for every soul in the world is selfishly concentrated on the one child.
The service of a priest is not only to the people but to all living things. As the whisky priest returns to the plantation of Captain Fellows, he discovers the abandoned house and the crippled dog. Filled with hunger, the whiskey priest greedily devours the meat, leaving the clean bone for the poor dog. Surely a servant of God will not let the poor beast go hungry? His lack of pity and compassion is quite disturbing to the reader. The whisky priest is only concerned about his own hunger and ignores that of the dog. Man was put on earth to care for the creatures that God had created but the whiskey priest disregards God’s creation.
Sins are considered the frailties of man. One might believe that a priest, a holy man, has few weaknesses. In the case of the whisky priest, it is the opposite; he lives a life in mortal sin.
Firstly, he is as the name implies a man who drinks in excess. It is not a sin in itself to drink, but the means by which he obtains it is wrong. The whisky priest takes the money of his followers to pay for his habit. He lacks the self-control to stop.
Secondly, he commits one of the deadly sins; lust. He lusts for the woman named Maria. In his desire, the whisky priest breaks an integral law of the priesthood and commits the sin of fornication. To make matters worse, his action brings a child into the world for whom he cannot care for. The priest has less worth than that of the half-caste. The half-caste betrays the priest for money to survive where the whisky priest betrays God for lust.
Thirdly, the whisky priest succumbs to the sin of despair – the unforgivable sin. He falls into despair even with the knowledge that God forgives. The priest is, as a character in the novel states, ‘human’, and as a human shares in its weakness.
From a certain perspective, one could call the whiskey priest a martyr. Refusing to renounce his calling, lives as a fugitive performing his priestly services wherever needed. This is only what it appears to be. At the conclusion of the novel, the villagers believe the whisky priest to be worthy of the title of martyr. Unfortunately they only see the surface of his actions. As the reader reads deeper into the thoughts of the priest, the reality of the situation becomes clear. The people see a priest risking his life for his beliefs and the well being of the people. The fact of the matter is that he is doing it form himself. It is pride at work, not the love of God. The whisky priest believes himself a fine fellow to have stayed when the others had gone. He believes that a man carrying God at the risk of his own life is guaranteed a divine reward. It is the priests feeling of superiority and pride that he remains in Mexico. He is a fugitive for all the wrong reasons and fails to recall that it was pride that made the angels fall.
The whisky priest is a man who does not fit the mould of a saint. He is human and has weaknesses as all do. He is a disgrace to his vocation and has forgotten what it means to be a priest. A saint is free of human weakness. The whisky priest however, epitomizes the weaknesses of man. He is a sinner who can only be redeemed by God.