Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Words, Words... God or the Girl? Take Two

I begin this second post on A&E's new docu-drama with a shout-out to the Bard for two reasons. First, the show isn't Shakespeare, and I think people need to have their expectations set realistically before approaching it. Second, I've been parusing the online discussions of the show throughout the day, and find the debate to be tedious and overblown. I want to avoid the same kind of empty speculation and stick to discussing the actual, portrayed content of the show's third and fourth hours.

In my last post, I cut the show up into categorical topics and approached each uniquely. My assessment stands in pretty much the same spot on the editing and formatting issues. The editors have done their best to make this a real drama, with hack-jobs of certain quotes to make it more intense (like the scene last night between Dan and the Fundy Prot) and the arbitrary deadline that they flash in front of the cloud scheme. One editorial thing I love is the chant vocals they keep using, particularly the high-voice one of what sounds like an Agnus Dei, of which I would like to identify the source.

Anyhow. The last two episodes definately strengthened the show over the opening night. Steve's story remains the strongest, most compelling, and most comforting. I think he's an awesome candidate and could make a great priest one day. He seems like an earnest guy: his emotions didn't seem forced. And no one else online has pointed it out, so I will - he is never seen without his Breviary. That says something, to me. He seems the most attached to the Church. I identify more with Steve over Joe, who can't handle magisterial thought on celibacy, and Dan, who seems a little too charismatically feeling-based for my liking. I admire his fervor, but if I had to pick between a "nice guy" and a solidly theologically grounded guy with a miserable attitude, I'd choose the latter any day of the week. We know where goes the road paved with good intentions...

But I digress. The story of Steve was phenomenal, and I commented to my mother during the fourth episode that if all the show had portrayed was the mission of Father Jorge in Guatemala, it would have been a great publicity event for Mother Church. What an awesome witness his priesthood is!

Dan's carrying the cross was beat for me by halfway through the third episode, but the kid has spirit, and I give him that. I didn't feel satisfied with his explanation to the Protestant he met on the way of why he was carrying the cross. But I won't make cheap shots about his spiritual director's intentions, as other critics on St. Blog's have seen fit to do. Dan's encounter with the Fundamentalist was embarrassingly painful to watch, and I pray at least that he was humbled by it. I would have liked to see and learn more about his reaction, but I give him the benefit of the doubt that he will grow by the experience. A lot of commenters that I read today said that we should "give him a break" because who of us wuold have been able to engage such a discussion at the age of 21. Well... at the risk of sounding arrogant, I could. And my hope is that most of us could, although I know enough of the state of Catholic catechesis to fear otherwise. But Dan lives in a house with other Catholic guys who center their whole lives around their faith. And they were handing out pamphlets for a BIBLE STUDY when they met the fundamentalist, to begin with. Well, from the conversation, neither of the Catholic boys seemed well-studied in the Bible. So, what gives? Luckily, this seems to be Dan's biggest shortcoming: that he doesn't know quite enough about what he obviously loves in Christ and the Church. And that problem is a great problem to work out in a seminary, so I hope he makes his way into one some day.

As for Joe... my mind is quick to run down the road of speculation with this fellow, I must say. In a partial interview on last night's shows, he said that an emotional encounter with a Catholic laywoman made he realize that "People put priests on a pedestal. This shows a lot of respect for the Church. And that's appealing to me." The editors later cut out the second sentence, making it sound like what really appealed to him was being put on a pedestal. But, certain other comments and actions make me wonder if the editors didn't capture the spirit of his vocational pursuits with their little hack-job.

However, that having been said... so what? This might sound strange. But a lot of people on the net are talking about how Joe seems to be into this pursuit for himself. That his issues with celibacy are very "me-centered," that he seems to be seeking his happiness above all things. I think that might be a fair assessment. And my question still stands: so what? Can a seminary not form such a man in the virtues of sacrifice and humility to be a wonderful priest? Is seeking personal fulfillment not very often a way that God calls people to his service? Didn't Saint Augustine's heart, too, come to God due to restlessness felt elsewhere?

I've read all the comments about Joe, and have the some musings as to his character, his motives, and yes, maybe even his sexual security. But I'm not going to be more Catholic than the Pope in setting standards for seminary candidates. Jesus chose twelve of the least likely guys to carry the torch in the first leg of the race: why should we be so much pickier? I don't mean we shouldn't demand great quality from the men entering the priesthood. But let's not look for perfect products entering the seminary. Formation is the whole purpose of seminary anyway.

And... Joe studied with the Jesuits, so cut him some slack.

DANGER: SPOILERS (conclusion below - scroll past red text)

And Mike... made the right choice. Hah. Based on the comments made on-screen, and nothing else, I can say that his spiritual director doesn't have the best perspective. But I'm sure the momentousness of the decision was a bit imposed by the format of the show. I highly doubt that Mike, in choosing a teaching job right now, really thought he was saying no to the priesthood forever. At least, I hope he didn't feel that way. God leads along crooked paths. For right now, based on what we were able to see, I think Mike made the right choice.

Now scroll down for my conclusion...


In conclusion: I like the show. I'm psyched about the finale. I hope all three remaning guys make it into a program somewhere. I hope a lot of people tune in and are touched by this program, esp. the portrayal of Catholic missionary work in the life of a priest. Sure, it has it's shortcomings. But it's worth praying for, and all in all can be a valuable weapon in engaging the culture war.


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