By Dr. Michael W. Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Marks at UBC
Most of us get our catechesis, theological updates, ecclesiastical gossip, etc. not from religious publications, weekly homilies, papal tracts, or local episcopal missives.
But from popular culture, which can, and does, often get it wrong. The media too frequently opt for stereotypes, poorly nuanced portraits, reductive sound bites, mind-numbingly simplistic “breaking news,” and POV documentaries with attitude. This is also the case with various television series, films, and multi-episode mini-epics that now dominate our viewing horizon.
So, it is a relief to come across a few exceptions to the above. Call the Midwife is now a decade-long BBC series set in East End London following the Second World War and moving inexorably through the following years highlighting the lives of a convent of Anglican nuns committed to a ministry of midwifery with an expanding pool of lay nurses as their companions. Although inclined to melodrama, and sometimes given to hyper sentimentalizing, it is never less than authentic, deeply human, sensitive to faith, probing when necessary—it speaks unabashedly from, and to, the heart.
Mare of Easttown is a U.S. drama series set in a gutted Pennsylvania town with its protagonist, Mare, a much-suffering detective enmeshed in familial upheavals, community angst, and a labyrinth of lethal deception and murder. But she has a moral compass shaped by her Catholicism (the priest and deacon of the local church are genuine and not cookie-cutter cinematic clichés) and her own aching into moral clarity, of always in the end opting to do the “right” thing, makes her a model of human survival and wounded rectitude.
Nice to move beyond the anodyne simplicities of the Father Brown series; nice to have an alternative to the mad extremities of Midnight Mass.