“Calvary” and the meaning of sainthood

“Calvary” and the meaning of sainthood


I’d imagine many people think of saints as these incredibly pious, perfect people. They’re Dana Carvey’s obnoxious church lady writ large, tut-tutting everyone at every opportunity.

But that’s not the case. They were and are often troubled people, prone to fits of anger or sadness, and sometimes, before their conversions or reversions, they did horrible things. Consider Paul, for instance.

And if you’d like to see a modern example of a saint, you should check out the film “Calvary,” which offers perhaps the best depiction of a saintly life.

Brendan Gleeson plays Fr. James, a gruff, sincere, no-nonsense man who bestrides the Irish countryside in a cassock. He was once married, and we find out he has a daughter. At the beginning of the film, we learn a man who belongs to his parish wants to kill him.

I’m not going to say much else about the plot, because it’s a whodunit. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Also, many people have already written reviews and essays on the film. I really have nothing to add.

But I do want to focus on Fr. James. This is someone who drinks, who is not afraid to make bawdy jokes, and who, in a fit of rage, gets into a fight at a bar. Later, he rebukes another priest — presumably his parochial vicar — and says he should have been an accountant. Understandably, Fr. Leary is hurt.

Fr. James, though, is a man who knows his parishoners well. He knows their weaknesses, their strengths, their desires. He understands their pain. And he cares about them, too — and deeply, I might add. He never stops caring and praying for them, even when they screw up or when they are nasty toward him. And even when they are trying to kill him.

He is someone filled with hope and joy every single day.

This is what happens when we serve God. He doesn’t want superheroes. He wants us. And if we are generous enough to give ourselves to Him, he will make our lives extraordinary.

That is the meaning of sainthood, and it is something all of us have the potential to achieve.


Image via https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42530163.