The old priest

His biretta made him look ridiculous, like Don Camillo, when I first met him, at the age of 12: I was his new organist, a tiny boy at the time, not to be taken seriously. The old priest by contrast, dressed all in black, looked impressive and powerful, his age didn’t show, he commanded respect. During the Third Reich he was a resistance fighter, they say, and God alone knows how many black sheep he bled to death, apparently riding a magnificent two cylinder motorbike at the time.

After Sunday mass he and his sister would often invited me for lunch. We had a ritual of debating before going for lunch, with me simultaneously counting the coins collected during “Offertorium”. One of my favourite topics to challenge him with: the adequacy of the Church as an institution. He would listen, then react, and always win, defending HIS Church: I didn’t get it: the Church had not always treated him kindly, him, the rebel priest. So I kept pestering him, and I think deep in his heart he liked me for it, and one day he stands up, goes to his library and asks me to climb up on a ladder and grab two books on the top shelf, one on the history of cardinals and popes in the Catholic Church, the other one an encyclopedia of angels. Then he says to me: read them both, and decide whom YOU will follow: Mi-cha-el.