***Spoiler Alert*** If you have not seen this movie, watch it now then come back and read this blog post.
More simply, every Catholic must see this movie.
It has been 3 days since I watched this film and I cannot stop thinking about it. While there are many in-depth reviews about the allegory and deep insights radiating from the film (and do please read all of those thoughts after you watch it), I wanted to focus in on something more precise, Fr. James' ministry.
The thing that struck me the most is the disconnect between a priest trying to run his parish in a post-Christian country that has a growing distrust in men of the cloth. Each of the lay characters, save one, outright do not believe or struggle with their faith in God.
Two things appeal to me about Fr. James:
1) He is truly a pastor of souls. One character presents his growing problems with sin and how it is leading him to very dark things. The conversation is truly awkward, and the priests suggestions convey the awkwardness of it all as well. Fr. James' advice is probably not what I would expect a priest to offer- yet that is the beauty of it, because...
2) He is a real man in the midst of the nitty gritty. There is no facade with Fr. James. Some characters go too far antagonizing him and that causes things to occur. His advice in the previously mentioned conversation is not what one expects from a priest. He is not going out everyday to speak in holiness parabolic language. He is not trying to keep from offending anyone- in fact he mocks a priest who suggest he try not to be offend anybody (HALLELUJAH!). He is real in every aspect of his life, which is why it so appealing when you can see he clearly cares for these people. These people spit in his face daily (and he may spit back), but these are the souls under his care and he cares about them.
In the Catholic Church, a pastor of a parish is not just a pastor of all the members of his parish. A Pastor of a parish is a shepherd to all the souls in his local parish jurisdiction. You truly see how this comes out in the heart of Fr. James. I have had the great privilege of meeting priests who are similar to Fr. James. They are truly the best priests in my opinion. While it is nice that priests care about being sensitive and tactful in their approach to others, I appreciate when I can tell a priest is not hiding behind the collar with me. I find comfort and ease in a "what you see is what you get" vicar. Nobody likes a scumbag, and that is not what I am talking about. We are all called to better ourselves and develop in holiness. Yet, if I know you are real, then knowing whether you truly care or not isn't just a mind game.