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.
So, yesterday evening was spent with my friend Monika in one of Stockholm’s large parks, Rålambshovsparken, where the council-funded theatre give public outdoor performances for free throughout the summer. As their Director puts it – “It’s your cultural tax rebate”….
HOWEVER – I didn’t mean to discuss politics in this post, so let’s not digress. We went to see a favourite artist of ours, Mattias Enn. He is a Swedish stage artist who has specialised in the “Old Divas”, singing quite a lot of Zarah Leander etc., as well as other cabaret artists from the first half of the 20th century. As usual, he did a superb show, with a lot of recognisable songs, mainly focussing on Stockholm in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Something that I wasn’t so fond of, however, was his female co-host, who kept on making a lot of irrelevant political points (leftist, of course), which somehow was a bit of a “party pooper”. The director also started the show with a long and rambling speak, praising the company and their founder (who, interestingly enough was an old City Head Gardener back in 1942!).
All in all, it was a very nice evening out with an old friend, as we brought wine and a packed dinner of cold cuts and potato salad, and the weather was reasonably nice all evening. When we finished with a final glass of wine at an outdoor restaurant nearby, however, it was close to 11pm and we both felt that it was time to head home to bed. Strangely, I felt a bit nauseous once I had gone to bed, probably because I rarely drink wine these days – it doesn’t agree with my stomach now that I’m old…. 😛
I just finished Bringing in the Sheaves. Wheat and Chaff from My Years as a Priest by the Revd Richard Coles. Fr Coles is the former Communard who left, as he himself puts it “pop for the pulpit” and is now both a host on the BBC and the Parish Priest of Finedon. I follow him on twitter, and actually attended a presentation of his previous book, Fathomless Riches: or how I went from Pop to Pulpit in St Paul’s Cathedral a few years ago. Fathomless Riches I very much enjoyed, so when I realised that Bringing in the Sheaves was to be found for my trusty Kindle, I couldn’t help myself.
So – what did I think about it? It’s difficult to say. Fr Coles is a good story-teller, and he has some really good stories to tell, including how he met his partner, the Revd David Coles, in Church (surprise!) and some of the more absurd encounters during his ministry was enough to make it interesting alone. He has, however, attempted to organise the content of the book around the various highlights of the religious year, which makes it a bit unstructured, and anecdotes are mixed without any direct thought about the content.
After recent controversies in the dear old CofE, it’s very encouraging to read something written by an openly gay clergyman which isn’t just moaning from first page to the last, in fact he mentions precious little about his sexual orientation, apart from mentioning things he’s doing with his partner. After having seen (too) many social media posts lately from various people who are more “on the barricades” and controversial than Fr Coles (and myself!) this was a very welcome change!
All in all, despite the somewhat irritating structure, it was a good read, and I finished it in 2 days. Well worth a buy, in my opinion.
Even though I’m nowhere ready to go on holiday yet, we can still see certain things telling us that summer is on its way. Yesterday was the annual staff Summer Party at work, at our owners’ holiday farm, some 40 miles south-west of the Stockholm City Center. We had a lovely evening out in the country, playing games and eating (too much) barbecued meat with lovely salads. I meant to have an early night, but in the end, I didn’t get home until 1.30am. As far as work parties goes, this was a true success!
We also have another bank holiday coming up here in Sweden, Midsummer’s Eve, or St John’s Eve. Midsummer’s Eve always fall on the day before St John’s Day. St John’s Day is supposed to be the birthday of St John the Baptist, and indeed both Denmark and Norway refer to Midsummer’s Eve as St John’s Eve. While we Swedes dance around a pole decorated with flowers and blue-and-yellow ribbons, the Danes and Norwegians make huge bonfires (which most Swedes tend to reserve for Walpurgis Eve, 30th April). Midsummer’s Eve tend to be celebrated by meeting family and friends, if possible out in the archipelago or in your summer house, and eating, amongst other things, pickled herring of various kinds. Personally, I’ll probably just buy myself a jar of herring and some fresh potatoes, and maybe some cold cuts.
Another tell-tale sign of summer in Stockholm is that the City Theatre Company (Stockholms Stadsteater) start doing their “Park Theatre”, a programme of performance in the various parks here in Stockholm. I’m debating whether or not to go to a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (in English) tomorrow, but I might just head for an early night. We shall see.
Apart from this, most of my spare time is spent looking things up for my holiday in late July/early August, where I will both visit my beloved London, and to see the Blessed Virgin in Walsingham. A much awaited holiday which will hopefully help rest and recover after a full-on prime season at work.
I found this lovely prayer by the great British man of letters, Samuel Johnson:
Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose grace all wisdom is folly:
grant, I beseech Thee, that in this undertaking thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me, but that I may promote Thy glory, and the salvation of myself and others:
grant this, O Lord, for the sake of Thy son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
As someone who is trying to discern a possible vocation to Holy Orders within the Church of England, reading a diary or a memoir by someone who has gone down the same route is always interesting, and The Revd Matt Woodcock’s book Becoming Reverend.
While he is obviously of a different churchmanship than myself (fairly obvious, especially through some less-than-kind opinions about the Book of Common Prayer and more formal worship in general) I find his honesty about his struggles with both his faith and his vocation refreshing and I especially like his thoughts about trying to still be his old self/“one of the lads down at the pub” with Holy Orders. Those thoughts are surely shared by most of the people discerning a possible vocation.
Trying to survice theological college is also something that he describes well, sometimes rather funnily, including trying to cope with the baring of ones soul to a number of persons you didn’t know before you were put together in the same class at college. I feel a certain connection with him when he discusses trying to tone down being the “class clown” and not taking up too much space in conversations etc., as it is most certainly something I will need to struggle with myself over the coming years.
What I wasn’t overly keen on, however, was the incessant talking about sexual attraction and the sexual act itself. I get it, for a couple who desperately wants a child, not being able to have one is a terrible tragedy and something that affects you deeply. While the talking about sex might seem natural to a journalist, I find it (perhaps it’s just me being a prude) slightly disconcerting to come from an ordinand.
All in all, it was a good read, and I am glad I bought the book – it is very obvious that Matt Woodcock used to be a journalist! I finished the book happily in one lazy afternoon, but I am not sure it is a book I will read again.
Grade: 4 Ps of 5.
I’m not 100% sure this is the kind of poetry people are referring to when they talk about the poetic inheritance of Angicanism, but as one of them is written by a former Priest at St Mary’s, I present to you two “ultra” poems. 100 pts if you can guess what worldview I’m subscribing to…. 🙂
The Ultra Catholic by E.L. Mascall:
I am an Ultra-Catholic-No ‘Anglo-,’ I beseech you,
You’ll find no trace of heresy in anything I teach you.
The clergyman across the road has whiskers and a bowler,
But I wear buckles on my shoes and sport a feriola.
My alb is edged with deepest lace, spread over rich black satin;
The Psalms of David I recite in heaven’s own native Latin,
And, though I don’t quite understand those awkward moods and tenses,
My ordo recitandi’s strict Westmonasteriensis.
I teach the children in my school the Penny Catechism,
Explaining how the C. of E.’s in heresy and schism.
The truths of Trent and Vatican I bate not one iota.
I have not met the Rural Dean. I do not pay my quota.
The Bishop’s put me under his ‘profoundest disapproval’
And, though he cannot bring about my actual removal,
He will not come and visit me or take my confirmations.
Colonial prelates I employ from far-off mission-stations.
The music we perform at Mass is Verdi and Scarlatti.
Assorted females form the choir; I wish they weren’t so catty.
Two flutes, a fiddle and a harp assist them in the gallery.
The organist left years ago, and so we save his salary.
We’ve started a ‘Sodality of John of San Fagondez,’
Consisting of the five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;
And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,
They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven.
The Holy Father I extol in fervid perorations,
The Cardinals in Curia, the Sacred Congregations;
And, though I’ve not submitted yet, as all my friends expected,
The Ultra-Liberal, author unknown to me, I found it floating around Twitter: