Thursday, November 5, 2015

Courage, Sacrifice, Compassion, and Laughter: The Little World of Dom Camillo

The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi

Don Camillo is a giant of a priest in a small town in Italy. Engaged in a semblance of open warfare with the local Communist leader, he finds solace and wisdom in conversations with Jesus on the crucifix in his church, a Jesus with a sense of humor.
"And wasn't I a greater minister of God than you are? And didn't I forgive those who nailed me to the Cross?"
"There's no use arguing with You!" Don Camillo exclaimed. "You are always right. May Your will be done. I will forgive, but don't forget those if these ruffians, encouraged by my silence, crack my skull open, it will be Your responsibility. I could quote You several passages from the Old Testament..."
Peppone, the Communist leader, antagonizes Don Camillo (really, it goes both ways). Once, when bemoaning a public speaker's voice blasted through a loudspeaker aimed directly at the church, Don Camillo asks, "Lord, why don't You drop a thunderbolt on all that rabble?"
"Don Camillo, let us remain within the law. If your method of driving the truth into the head of one who is in error is to shoot him down, what was the use of My crucifixion?"
More than once, Don Camillo's courageous faith places his life in danger but he always seems to escape fatal harm. Miraculously? His physical strength and courage often attract others to the faith.
Don Camillo set out on the return journey and when he reached the doorway of the church and turned around so that Christ might bestow a final blessing upon the distant river, he found standing before him: the small dog, Peppone, Peppone's men and every inhabitant of the village, not excluding the druggist, who was an atheist, but how felt that never in his life had he dreamed of a priest like Don Camillo, who could make even the Eternal Father quite tolerable.
Humorous stories of Don Camillo's antics are interspersed with more serious confrontations with sin and corruption. Through it all, Christ grounds Don Camillo, reminding him of his faith and responsibilities.
"The world has not come to an end yet," replied Christ serenely. "It has just begun and up There time is measured in millions of centuries. Don't lose your faith, Don Camillo. There is still plenty of time."
Near the end of the book, perched on a ladder as he repaired the cross, Don Camillo confesses his fear to Jesus. Christ asks, "Have you lost faith in your God, Don Camillo?"
"No, Lord, the soul belongs to God, but the body is of the earth. Faith is a great thing but my fear is physical. I may have faith, but if I go for ten days without drinking I'll be thirsty. Faith consists in enduring that thirst as a trial sent by God. Lord, I am willing to suffer a thousand fears like this one for love for You. But still I am afraid."
"Do You despise me, Lord?"
Christ responds:
"No, Don Camillo; if you were not afraid, what value would there be in your courage?"
Courage in the face of threats, sacrifice for the needs of the young and innocent, respect and compassion for enemies, all woven together with humor. 

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