Reading for a piece of research on religious education , I encountered the name of an old priest who was always an inspiration.
The priest appears in one of my favourite books of all time which is one that is translated from Italian and which appeared in a weekly column in Candido, an Italian newspaper, in the late 1940s, The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi.
Don Camillo is the parish priest of a little Italian village in the years after World War II and is in continual conflict with Peppone, the Communist mayor of the village.The stories are filled with humour, but the thing I most like about the stories is the conversations Don Camillo has with God.
Don Camillo will go into the church to pray and will tell God all about what has happened and God answers him.In the Don Camillo books and in the television and radio dramatisations of the stories there are wonderful conversations between the priest and the Lord.
In one story Don Camillo has been given money for a church bell, but decides it would be better spent on a summer camp for the children of the village. He has a huge quarrel about this and in the evening tells the Lord all about it.
“What happened?” Christ asked. “You seem upset.”
“Naturally,” replied Don Camillo, “when an unhappy priest has had to argue for two hours with a Communist Mayor in order to make him understand the necessity for founding a seaside camp and for another two hours with a miserly woman capitalist to get her to fork out the money for that same camp, he’s entitled to feel a bit gloomy.”
Don Camillo hesitated. “Lord,” he said at last, “You must forgive me if I even dragged You into this business of the money.”
“Yes, Lord. In order to compel that usurer to part with her cash, I had to tell her that I saw You in a dream last night and that You told me that You would rather her money went for a work of charity than for the buying of the new bell.”
“Don Camillo! And after that you have the courage to look Me in the eye?”
“Yes,” replied Don Camillo calmly. “The end justifies the means.”
“Machiavelli doesn’t strike me as sacred Scripture,” Christ exclaimed.
“Lord,” replied Don Camillo, “it may be blasphemy to say so, but even he can sometimes have his uses.”
“And that is true enough,” agreed Christ.
Ten days later when a procession of singing children passed by the church on their way to camp, Don Camillo hurried out to say good-bye. . .
. . . That night he dreamed that the Lord appeared to him and said that He would sooner the Signora Carolina’s money were used for charity than for the purchase of a bell.
“It is already done,” murmured Don Camillo in his sleep.
The Jesus with whom Don Camillo talks seems to step from the pages of Scripture. Even when I disagree with Don Camillo, there is something of the Gospel in him.