Monday, July 31, 2017

“Don Camillo and His Flock” by Giovanni Guareschi

I was all of 14 when I first met Don Camillo. A good friend (and rather devout Catholic) recommended the stories to me. I found a paperback edition of The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi in English translation. It didn’t take long to become a fan of the battling priest in the small village in northern Italy who engaged in a war of words, and sometimes fists, with the village’s communist mayor Peppone.

The stories were hilarious. Both Don Camillo and Peppone continually get themselves in issues, problems, and impending disasters. And while sometimes it’s the priest who triumphs, and sometimes it’s the mayor, neither one is down for long.

As it turns out, that English language edition was first published in the United States, and then used for the British edition. What few knew at the time was that the American publisher had left out some 19 stories deemed unsuitable for American readers (likely because many of them showed a communist mayor who also had a heart). Many of those stories are included in Don Camillo and His Flock, published in 2015 and based on the Italian edition published in 1952.

The stories are still hilarious. This edition includes a total of 27 of them and a map of the fictional town. In some, Don Camillo and Peppone are dealing with the aftermath of World War II. Others concern basic human relationships. All contain at least a hint of the famous rivalry between the two, and the occasional times they’re forced to cooperate and work together.

And there’s a story about a hunting dog named Thunder, and one about the ugly Madonna, that are priceless.

Giovanni Guareschi
What these stories reminded me of was the third main character – and that is the figure of Christ. Don Camillo often has an extended discussion with the figure of Christ on the cross that hangs above the church’s altar. And the figure tries to keep Don Camillo to the straight and narrow, but he also knows his priest well.

Guareschi (1908-1968) was an Italian journalist who joined the Italian army in 1943, just in time for Mussolini’s government to be overthrown, the German army to invade and take over, and himself to be arrested and sent to a prison camp in Poland. Guareschi returned to Italy at war’s end and helped start a pro-monarchist newspaper. 

The character of Don Camillo was based on a real person and priest, Don Camillo Valota (1912-1998), who was a partisan fighting the Germans and sent to the Dachau and Mauthausen concentration camps. And the political battles involving the monarchists (and later the Christian Democrats) and the communists were very real in postwar Italy. The stories were first published in Guafreschi’s newspapers.

Don Camillo and His Flock is funny and moving, and has some rather subtle suggestions for the kind of divided times we live in today.

Illustration: The almost childlike illustrations of Don Camillo (the angel) and communist Mayor Peppone (the devil) accompany every Don Camillo story.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I pick my way

After Isaiah 34-35

I pick my way
among the ruins
the cracked stones
the smashed columns
the streets overgrown
with grass
and I wonder what
did this city, these people
do to earn the broken pavement,
the wind filled with dust.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday Good Reads almost went under financially this past week, saved by a GoFundMe effort that raised more than $500,000. It’s gotten caught up in a messy divorce and an unrelated legal issue with a supplier. Snopes isn’t perfect – it tilted Democrat a few times in the last election and got caught (but it did make the corrections). But it is one of the very few places you can check everything from fake news and urban myths to the subject of the latest chain email you just received. Jane Elizabeth at the American Press Institute has the story.

In everything I’ve seen about the tragic Charlie Gard situation, the baby in London who has debilitating physical problems, the one thing I hadn’t seen was about the attorney appointed to represent the parents in the dispute with the hospital. The attorney helps run a euthanasia clinic. Rod Dreher has the story. And Giles Fraser at The Guardian shows more insight, and certainly more love, on this story than most writers (Hat Tip: J of India).

Last weekend, my wife and I saw the movie “Dunkirk” and truly enjoyed it. Marshall Segal at Desiring God saw it, too, and didn’t write a review of it. But he did write something else.

Timothy Dalrymple at Orbiter Magazine talks about why changing minds is so hard. Thomas Kidd has a brief history of the altar call. Jack Baumgartner burns a piece of artwork. Clancy Tucker shows some of the photographs discovered in a long-hidden treasure trove of photos of England. Good poetry. And if you haven’t seen it, you need to watch the recitation of Paul Revere’s famous ride.

British Stuff

Hidden Photographs of England – Clancy Tucker.

Art and Photography

Black-line – David Warren at Essays in Idleness.

Different View – Tim Good.

The Benthic Vessel – Jack Baumgartner at The School of the Transfer of Energy


Corners – Brendan MacOdrum at Oran’s Well.

Madeline Defrees – D.S. Martin at Kingdom Poets.

Campcraft – Jared Gilbert at Frivolous Quill.

Writing Poems Kids Will Read – Mary Harwell Sayler at Inspire Writers.

Before Moving Day – Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.


A Brief History of the Altar Call – Thomas Kidd at Evangelical History.

As Petals Fall – Cathy Warner at Image Journal.

Our Cultural Waterloo – Carl Trueman at First Things Magazine.

Life and Culture

Why Snopes matters – Jane Elizabeth at the American Press Institute.

College, Failure and the Civil War – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Why Changing Minds is So Hard – Timothy Dalrymple at Orbiter Magazine.

The Power of Story: Why Our Post-Christian Culture Needs One Now – Hugh Whelchel at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics.

Can Only a God Save Us Now? – Pedro Gonzalez at The Imaginative Conservative.

Charlie Gard is Going to Die – Rod Dreher at American Conservative and Charlie Gard's parents show the strength of human love - Giles Fraser at The Guardian.

The War We Need – Not a Review of Dunkirk – Marshall Segal at Desiring God.

Writing and Literature

Henry James and American Painting – Daniel Ross Goodman at The Imaginative Conservative.

Recitation of ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’ by the 4th Grade at Providence Christian School of Texas

Painting: Woman Reading, oil on canvas by Henri Matisse (1894).

Friday, July 28, 2017

The nations hear

After Isaiah 34-35

The nations hear, and listen;
the nations are called, and gather;
the nations come together to learn
that no one is righteous, not even one.
Judgment is pealed across and among;
judgment is arriving, a sword.
The sky rolls up, the stars all fall.
Judgment, a retribution for what
is done and what is not done,
judgment arrives on the back
of a donkey, sailing through
a sea of palms.

Photograph by Bobby Mikul via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.