I do enjoy watching “Father Brown” on PBS. Embedded in every Father Brown mystery is an opportunity for pastoral care. Each episode isn’t so much a murder to be solved as it is a series of relationships to be healed. Someone has died, a family is grieving, old wounds are dredged up from the distant past, veterans with untreated PTSD are identified, and emotional pains are discovered. Father Brown is there to offer more than “thoughts and prayers” in these difficult moments. He’s the embodiment of the church community, not the state or the landed gentry. Father Brown is there for his flock. What have I learned from watching Father Brown?
1. Be cautious with words. Listening and looking reveals much about the human soul.
2. Sacraments are vital to the life of the church. Look closely, the community is formed by the sacramental life of the church.
3. Forgiveness is a divine prerogative. We know what we know from our experiences. We also understand what scripture teaches. Common sense, love, and compassion are the best we can share.
4. Ministry involves taking risks. They are there and must be embraced, case by case.
5. Some people just aren’t going to like you. That’s OK. You pray and care for them too.
6. “Father Brown Mysteries”, much like Ash Wednesday, calls us to remember our own mortality. We are all going to die. Regardless of what you do or don’t believe about an afterlife, a basic recognition of our mortality is the defining feature of a Holy Lent.
7. Father Brown understands that physical, mental, and spiritual professionals need to work together. Medicine can be useful, therapy is helpful, and so is prayer in assisting people who’ve been traumatized.
8. Jumping to conclusions is never good.
9. Talk to the whole family. Especially the ones with a shady past. They have the best stories.
10. Never turn down cake.
Richard Lowell Bryant