God’s way of acting continually wrong-foots us and it is not we who establish the concrete circumstances in which we can experience the presence of the Lord in our days and in our lives. In the Gospel of John it is Jesus himself who, during his meeting with Nicodemus, exhorts us not to place limits on the action of the Spirit (Jn 3: 1-8).
During the pilgrimage in poverty which Nicholas and I undertook this summer we received more than once the grace of being able to recall this precious teaching.
We set off from La Spezia with the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe as our destination. Around the tenth day of walking we reached a small town; when the time came to look for a place to spend the night, things seemed to turn sour for us. The parish priest refused to welcome us, inviting us to ask an institute of nuns. Arriving at their convent we participated in the Eucharist and in their community prayers, but once the time came to ask for hospitality we were asked if we were affiliated with some religious institute and, after having answered in the negative so as to avoid being shown favouritism, we were denied welcome. So we knock on the door of the parish priest of a neighboring village, who – a local man tells us – is celebrating a wedding in another place.
Finally we learn that that very evening a motor-bean festival (motofagiolata), a hybrid between a village fête and a motor show, was planned in the locality; we spot an unused marquee inside the grounds hosting the big event. After finding the organizers, we ask for permission to sleep there. Not only are we welcomed with joy but we are also offered two plates of bean casserole. To top it all was a band playing covers of rock songs from the 70-80s. We were bid good night by the music of U2 and the Stones.
The Father truly surprises us all the time and does so in great style and with great irony. Truly does the Spirit blow where he wills.