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The Intro Course – Asking The Big Questions Of Life (Through The Film Calvary)

5 May 2014

On Saturday Night I watched the film Calvary with a brilliant performance from Brendan Gleeson. He plays a priest in Sligo who is trying to fulfil his pastoral duties to a parish full of people with questions, needs, hurts and doubts. It is a stunning film though not always an easy watch. The different people that Father James Lavelle has to deal with each, in their very person, ask some of the biggest questions of life. Here are a few:


(1) Justice – The film opens with a parishioner telling the priest in confession that he first tasted semen when he was 7 years old and was repeatedly, regularly raped by his local priest for many years and who has since died. Where can justice be found?

(2) Fulfilment – There is a rich man who has all that life has to offer but it has all become meaningless to him – his wife, his family and his fortune. So he spends everyday drinking the finest alcohol to numb the emptiness he feels and offers to make atonement for his mistakes by giving to the church, hoping that this gesture might make him feel happier. Where can fulfilment be found?

(3) Forgiveness
– There is the story of Father James’ daughter who keeps giving herself to different men who leave her hurt and desperate to the point where she tries to commit suicide but fails. However she feels let down by her dad who left her after her mum died but as the two of them spend a week together they are able to forgive one another. Where can forgiveness be found?

(4) Hope – One of the characters in the story loses her husband in a car crash. As Father James consoles her we discover the only character with courage and bravery, apart from the priest himself, in the entire film. How can she rebuild her life after such an atrocity? Where can hope be found?

(5) The Evil in the Church – The whole film is a powerful retelling of some of the atrocities and evil done within the church in Ireland, both in terms of sexual abuse and financial exploitation. Plus there is a hypocritical priest who is so detached from reality it’s painful. The film vividly portrays people disillusionment with the church today. What is the role of the church today?

(6) The Evil outside the Church – Father James is one of the ‘good guys’ trying to make a difference in the world but in nearly every character he meets he finds spite, malicious, cynicism and confrontation. He also has to deal with a couple that are flagrantly committing adultery in full view of the whole town. The film shows the depravity, deceitfulfulness and hardness of the human heart in many guises…including father James when he is pushed over the limits. Where can internal and spiritual transformation be found?

(7) Jesus – Apart from as a swear word on the lips of Father James, Jesus is never raised as an answer to any of these questions. To the young man struggling with lust, pornography is suggested as a solution. To the suicidal young woman, ‘professional help’ is the answer and so on and so forth. Whilst some of the answers aren’t necessarily bad answers and may be helpful, the key thing is that Father James never points anyone to Jesus as a solution to their trials. Why not? Other than a swear word, where is Jesus to be found today?





The Intro Course is a 6 week course which offers guests a chance to ask the big questions of life and see whether Jesus can provide any of the answers. Over the 6 weeks we are going to examine (1) meaning (2) truth (3) love (4) hope (5) suffering and (6) religion. Everyone is welcome, whether you’re a believer (from any religion), an agnostic, an atheist or something in between. The only rule we have is that no question is too feisty and no question is too simple. However we do expect everyone to listen to others and respect their position, even if radically opposed to their own.

The next course starts this Wednesday (7th May), 6.30-8pm, at the Harbour Master Pub at the top of the IFSC. It is free of charge and there will be light refreshments for everyone.

To sign up please go to the facebook event. I hope we’ll see you there.


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