The day seemed not so much grey as black. A CD is kept in the car for such moments, Bruce Springsteen live in Dublin in 2006. One track, “Further On Up the Road”, is played repeatedly.
One sunny mornin’ we’ll rise I know
And I’ll meet you further on up the road
Sometimes, looking back, there seem days and weeks that would have been difficult to have contemplated, when the mystery is how one got to the end; it is not the external reality that is the problem, it is the internal attitude. Saint Paul expresses God’s view of such moments in succinct terms, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
My old friend Don Camillo, who has sometimes come to the rescue, has more experiences of such moments than I could ever imagine. Here’s Don Camillo deep inside Communist Poland, with his friend and adversary Peppone:
“’But there are priests of a sort, who are free to visit you, aren’t there?’ asked Don Camillo.
She shook her head.
‘They seem like priests,’ she explained, ‘but they are emissaries not of God but of the Party. What good are they to us Poles?’
The rain was still coming down in buckets. Don Camillo took off his jacket, pulled the hinged crucifix out of the false fountain pen, stuck it into the neck of a bottle and set it up on the bedside table. Then he took out the aluminium cup which served for a chalice.
A quarter of an hour later, Peppone and Bordonny, alarmed by the long silence, came upstairs and looked in the door. Before their startled eyes Don Camillo was celebrating Mass and the old woman, her hands folded and her eyes filled with tears, was following his every motion. After she had received communion it seemed as if new strength were flowing through her veins.
‘Ite, missa est….’
The old woman whispered breathlessly into her daughter’s ear and the latter went to stand beside her husband.
‘Father,’ she said excitedly, ‘will you marry us before God? Until now we’ve been married only in the sight of man.’
Outside the rain was still coming down as hard as if clouds from all Russia had converged upon Grevinec. There was no wedding ring, but the old woman slipped a worn gold band off her fourth finger.
‘Lord,’ said Don Camillo, ‘don’t take it amiss if I skip a few words or even a few sentences….’
Peppone stood there like a stone until Don Camillo pushed him down the stairs.
‘Go and bring them up here, the whole lot of them!’ he ordered.
The rain had begun to diminish, but Don Camillo was so wound up that he could not stop. In the twinkling of an eye he baptized all the children. And yet he did not, as he had threatened, skip a single word, much less a sentence. Only God could have given him the wind to get through it.”
“Comrade Don Camillo” – Giovanni Guareschi