CALVARY: Virtue in Persecution | FCC 62

Retaining virtue during persecution is a major theme in Calvary. In this episode of Finding Christ In Cinema, we use those themes to share the Gospel.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:02:55 Calvary Discussion
  • 01:16:45 – Listener Feedback and Challenge
  • 01:29:45 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:32:00 – Lightning Round
  • 01:33:40 – Upcoming

The narrative world of Calvary is perfectly represented by the Irish countryside that hosts it: haunted by the dark mountains of depravity, but only enough so as to highlight the beauty of righteousness and virtue. Father James is the angled mirror that reflects God’s love out to his parishioners; unfortunately, he also has to reflect his parishioners’ collective corruption – bear their sins, as it were – back up to God. Even though we as the audience only spend a week with him, we can tell that Father James has been bearing these sins for a while. So when he receives the death threat, it is expected that, because he is human after all, he will forsake his piety and go on the manhunt to find his would-be killer. Instead, he continues to go about his sacred business and holy duty until the end.

This image from CALVARY shows Brendan Gleeson as Father James talking to Chris O'Dowd as Jack Brennan in the meat cooler.

This sets him apart from everyone else in the film, who all seem to be ungrounded in their faith (if they have any faith at all). It even sets him apart from the other priest, Father Leary, who contrasts Father James in practically every way. When someone calls upon the priesthood for whatever reason, they request Father James over Father Leary every single time because the latter doesn’t have the care and compassion. Father Leary is more concerned with the organizational part of “organized religion,” whereas Father James is more concerned with the actual religion: physically caring for widows and orphans and others who need (or at least ask for) him.

This image from CALVARY shows Brendan Gleeson as Father James as he watches is church burn to the ground.

It’s a lifetime of these small decisions of unselfish love that have culminated within Father James and have produced virtue within him. Virtue may be a classical and maybe even an archaic notion, but we use it interchangeably with terms like “character” and “integrity.” Theologian N.T. Wright best describes virtue as follows:

Virtue is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices requiring effort and concentration to do something which is good and right, but which doesn’t come naturally. And then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required automatically. Virtue is what happens when wise and courageous choices become second nature. ( from After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)

Father James has spent his life making these small and seemingly unnatural choices and actions. So on what could be the last week of his life, he is still able to retain that virtue and continue unselfishly loving his neighbors as if it were his second nature.

Key Text: 1 Peter 4:14

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you.

It’s easy to think of Father James a Christ figure; he does, in a way, sacrifice himself so that his parishioners could live (no matter how wicked those lives are). He is, however, something else. He is instead the perfect image and example of how a Christian is supposed to live in the present time – the time after the resurrection but before the end of all things – with our heads held up in virtue, just like Jesus, all the way to the end.

Key Text: Matthew 24:13

But the person who endures to the end will be saved.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

Use the audio player at the top of this article to listen to the podcast, or use the links below for other convenient ways to hear FCC.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people's hearts.
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  • Philip Heard

    This episode is right there with Forrest Gump in it’s rich spiritual content. I thought this was probably your first indie film, and I hope y’all do more in the future. Another of my favorite podcasts is called A Good Story is Hard to Find, their tag line is “Two Catholics talking about books, movies and traces of the One Reality they find below the surface” Here’s a link to their episode on Calvary. Julie, one of the hosts, attended a Q & A with John Michael McDonagh and got to interview him as well. She shares some cool stuff about it all. When asked if he was Catholic, McDonagh said no, but you could call him a Christian. FYI- his brother wrote and directed “In Bruges”, starring Brendan Gleeson, Colin Ferrell, and Ralph Fiennes. It’s another dark, gritty film with much to think about- and it’s streaming on Netflix.

    Okay, here’s some things I get from Calvary: The subject of death and how faith for many is simply their fear of it. That relates to something that’s been on my mind for a long time, and that is how the world often seems to see death as the worst thing that can happen to us, while we Christians place hope and belief in death being a door to eternity with our God. The lady who lost her husband was such a powerful character. She was real and genuine while being strong and faithful. And I love how she showed that those being ministered to can have a greater impact than those doing the ministering. We’re all in this together, whether we are in a position of authority and leadership, or a layman. It was awesome how she encouraged Brendan Gleeson with her dignity and grace. She placed courage into him with her strength and perseverance.

    Also, your point that the serial killer was the only one who showed any sort of regret for his sins was very poignant. That led me to think that maybe the director was drawing a contrast with the other characters. His sin was more egregious than those of the parishioners, but he expressed remorse. Can God not save the worst of us? Is Jesus’ atonement not sufficient to cover the most terrible of sins we commit? 1 John 1:9 (ASV) states “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    Lastly, I have indeed listened to Hank Hanegraaff. Not lately, though- he was on a local Christian station when I lived in Southern California.
    Pacific Rim going on The List(echo, echo, echo) is great, I loved that film and look forward to hearing you guys talk about it.
    And Ron’s feedback was powerful stuff, that guy choked me up a bit there! #muhweeladgimli

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