The car was buffeted on the road from Tewkesbury to Cheltenham. The storm was blowing itself out. It being March and the trees being bare of leaves, the damage was along the road was limited: a few branches down, a few bins up ended, nothing of note. The aftermath of the storm was a breezy March morning, the students were unaffected as they lined up to come into school.
Thinking about storm damage recalled 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.
Don Camillo will go into the church to pray and will tell God all about what has happened and God answers him. One morning, Don Camillo after a thunderstorm, Don Camillo told the Lord about the damage.
“At midnight the storm died down, but at three o’clock in the morning it came back more fiercely than before, and an unearthly noise awakened Don Camillo. He had never heard a crash so loud and so close, and when he reached the window and looked out he was left gaping. The spire of the church tower had been struck by lightning, and cleft with jagged rents. It was just as simple as all that, but to Don Camillo it was so incredible that he rushed to tell the Lord about it.
“Lord,” he said in a voice shaky with emotion, “the church spire has been struck by lightning.”
“I understand, Don Camillo,” the Lord answered calmly.
“Buildings are often struck that way in the course of a storm.”
“But this was the church!” Don Camillo insisted.
“I heard you, Don Camillo.”
Don Camillo looked up at the crucified Christ and threw out his arms in dismay.
“Why did it have to happen?” he asked bitterly.
“A church spire has been struck by lightning in the course of a storm,” said the Lord. “Does God have to justify Himself for this in your sight? A short time ago you thanked Him for sending a storm that damaged your neighbour, and now you reproach Him because the same storm has damaged you.”
“It hasn’t damaged me,” said Don Camillo. “It has damaged the house of God.”
“The house of God is infinite and eternal. Even if every planet in the universe were to be reduced to dust, the house of God would still stand. A church spire has been struck by lightning; that is all anyone is entitled to think or say. The lightning had to strike somewhere.”
Don Camillo was talking to the Lord, but during the conversation the thought of the mutilated tower was uppermost in his mind.
“Surely that particular strike could have stayed away,” he said.
And the Lord took pity on his sorrow and continued to reason gently with him.”
Such conversations with God would be a delight, even if they were about storm damage.