It’s the smiling face that is so disarming about the book, Tears at Night, Joy at Dawn. Not simply the smiling face on the front cover of Andrew Robinson’s ‘journal of a dying seminarian,’ although that is arresting enough. Rather the smiling face of his character, beaming through his last days as he tries to impress upon you, the reader, that despite everything, despite suffering and loss, he is at peace with himself, with his family and friends, and with God. ‘This peace . . . is the pearl of great price,’ he writes in his diary, ‘which, in hindsight, is worth selling everything for.’
In 1997, aged 26 and with a house, a girlfriend, and a good job with good prospects, Andrew Robinson changed his life’s direction and entered St. Mary’s College, Oscott to begin training for the priesthood. Just three years later, half way through that training, his life changed again, this time with the diagnosis of an advanced case of cancer of the colon. The prognosis was not good.
Tears at Night chronicles the last four months of Andrew’s life, including a trip to Rome and to the shrine of Padre Pio at Giovanni Rotundo. Being the diary of a dying man, this book is raw in its writing rather than a polished portrayal but it is all the better for it.
Here, you realise pretty quickly, is a book filled not with pious sentiment but with the relationship of divine grace and human freedom: a relationship rooted in what might be considered unutterable tragedy and waste and yet is actually discovered to be the real stuff of genuine Christian hope.
The smiling face of Andrew’s character is nothing but a reflection of God’s own smiling face. The pearl of great price has been discovered not despite his illness but because of it. This book is a compelling testimony to the redemptive power of suffering and to the true holiness of one young man.
Tears at Night, Joy at Dawn has recently been published in a second edition with an accompanying CD. It is available from the Archdiocese of Birmingham website.