How times have changed

Sir Alec Guinness, writing of the beginnings of his conversion in his autobiography, tells of an experience he had walking around the streets of France, still dressed in the cassock he wore to play Father Brown:

A room had been put at my disposal in the little station hotel three kilometres away. By the time dusk fell I was bored and, dressed in my priestly black, I climbed the gritty winding road to the village. In the square children were squealing, having mock battles with sticks for swords and dustbin lids for shields; and in a cafe Peter Finch, Bernard Lee and Robert Hamer were sampling their first Pernod of the evening. I joined them for a modest Kir, then discovering I wouldn’t be needed for at least four hours turned back towards the station. By now it was dark. I hadn’t gone far when I heard scampering footsteps and a piping voice calling, “Mon pare!” My hand was seized by a boy of seven or eight, who clutched it tightly, swung it and kept up a non-stop prattle. He was full of excitement, hops, skips and jumps, but never let go of me. I didn’t dare speak in case my excruciating French should scare him. Although I was a total stranger he obviously took me for a priest and so to be trusted. Suddenly with a “Bonsoir, mon pere,” and a hurried sideways sort of bow, he disappeared through a hole in a hedge. He had had a happy, reassuring walk home, and I was left with an odd calm sense of elation. Continuing my walk I reflected that a Church which could inspire such confidence in a child, making its priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable could not be as scheming and creepy as so often made out. I began to shake off my long-taught, long– absorbed prejudices.

I couldn’t help but note the utter opposite reaction many folks have to priests today, when they shield their children from them, lest they be molested. How very sad.

(source of Guinness quote: Scot McKnight)

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