Mostly the little world. The Little World of Don Camillo, to be specific. I’m working my way through this book again, after not having read it in something like twenty-odd years or more. The Little World was written by Giovannino Guareschi in 1948, and follows the titular Italian country priest in his on-going battles with the local Communist mayor Peppone.
But first, a bit more on The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Gomes. It appears he is some sort of universalist.
As I understand it, there are lots (and lots) of flavors of universalist. The essential claim is that everyone, all of creation, will be reconciled to God. Yet even that formulation is probably problematic. “Reconciled”? What if all of creation isn’t estranged from God? And it’s the piling on of “what ifs” that lead to all the flavors of universalism. In fact, it’s probably the piling on of what ifs that make for all the flavors of Christianity.
But back to Gomes for a moment. He presents a hard Christianity. Not one of fire and brimstone, sin and redemption. No. It’s a much more difficult path he shows that Christians must follow. The question is not “What would Jesus do?” but rather “What would Jesus have me do?” The answers involve the love of God being greater than we can comfortably stand, expanding our humanity to all of humanity, and reconciliation of all of creation (I’ll stick with “reconciliation” since I’m too lazy to come up with another word).
And now back to Don Camillo. This novel is a collection of short chapters, like short stories loosely connected. The stories are full of good humor.
Don Camillo is typically in the wrong, though local communist leader (and town mayor) Peppone is usually just as wrong. The two characters need each other, and know they need each other to keep the town running smoothly. So they suffer each other, and allow their relationship to carry many of the small grievances which need to vent so they don’t fester and tear the town apart. Peppone has his band of fellow travellers, being Communists. But Don Camillo has Christ.
Don Camillo talks with the crucified Christ in his church in order to find the perspective he needs in his dealings with Peppone. Just because he needs the Mayor doesn’t mean he’s fully aware of the fact all the time. Christ talks with Don Camillo, gives him guidance, and gently reminds him that His concerns don’t always coincide with Don Camillo’s or with what Don Camillo thinks are those of the Church, or even himself.
Christ’s advice is generally along the lines of, “stay calm.” And, “don’t punch Peppone.” And, “don’t shoot Peppone.” And, “don’t embarrass Peppone.” (However, Peppone gets punched pretty regularly, as does Don Camillo.) And the tone seems to be one of, “these are all my children, and they are already saved–don’t mess it up for them, OK?”