I recently finished – all in one evening – the BBC’s six-part drama Broken (please note – link is to Wikipedia entry that contains a fair few spoilers!), in which Sean Bean plays Catholic Fr Michael Kerrigan (left), pastor in a northern parish. I very, very rarely cry at the telly, but Broken left me, literally, broken (pun very much intended). The series lets us follow Fr Kerrigan throughout a time in his ministry when many in his congregation are suffering, and his own mother is on her deathbed.
For a popular series, it actually describes the day-to-day life of a Parish Priest reasonably well, as far as I can judge with almost none of the traditional stereotypes or misconceptions. I especially likes the portrait of Fr Kerrigan, who seems to be an honest, caring and devout Parish Priest, and the portrait is refreshingly free from clichés. It is well worth watching and is (at least at the point of writing this) available on BBC iPlayer, and it is going to be released as a DVD box set some time in July (might already have happened…).
When reflecting on it yesterday, I realised that it was, in certain aspects, quite similar to the movie Priest from 1994, in which Fr Greg Pilkington (played by Linus Roache – on the right in the photo above) struggles with both his own sexuality (he’s gay and trying to stick to his vow of chastity) as well as how to handle receiving news under the Seal of Confession about a girl in the parish being sexually abused by her father. Priest is also a movie well worth seeing, even if it is slightly “sleazier” than Broken, and it wasn’t until I discovered that they were both written by the same man – Liverpudlian Jimmy McGovern that the penny dropped.
I enjoyed both Broken and Priest, and while Priest was poignant for me at the time as I was in the process of coming out of the closet, these days I do prefer Broken. The reasons for this might be worth a visit to a shrink, but I think that one of the main things that attracted me to Broken was that it at least aims to portrait (with certain exaggerations, hopefully none of my Priest friends have had that many pastoral challenges during such a short time) the day to day life of a Parish Priest, a life I am trying to see if I have a vocation to live myself.