‘The Sister Boniface Mysteries’: the rare show that proves the Catholic Church (and the nuns) right

I’m always skeptical when I hear about a new show featuring a Catholic nun or priest. Skeptical and fearful: These are probably the bad guys, and they will definitely wear a habit or a cassock, no matter the decade or the circumstances. (I get it looks fancy, Hollywood, but it’s just not what most of us wear these days.) Beyond all that, you can pretty much count on a theology built around hellfire or sentimentality.

Then I caught BritBox’s new show, “The Mysteries of Sister Boniface.” A spin-off of the long »Brown Father(itself a reboot of a 1974 TV series based on short stories written by GK Chesterton), “Boniface” stars British comedian Lorna Watson as a member of St. Vincent’s Convent in the well-known rural English town. named from Great Slaughter. And while she is indeed decked out in a wimple (like “Father Brown,” the show is set in the 1960s), what’s thrilling about this new show is how it captures not the squeaky stereotypes of Catholicism, but the inspiring richness of women’s religion. the life.

“The Sister Boniface Mysteries” gives a sense of the rich diversity of life in a female religious community.

When we meet her, Sister Boniface has a doctorate in chemistry. who was employed as a code breaker with Bletchley Circle during World War II before entering the convent. She now works at Great Slaughter as a winemaker for the convent cellar and as a science advisor to the local police. Thanks to her studies, she is light years ahead of things like fingerprints, blood lividity and crime scene contamination, and she is deeply respected by her partner, Detective Inspector Sam Gillespie. , and other members of the force.

It’s a unique pleasure to watch a strong female character not only be tolerated but actively celebrated by the men she works with. It’s also wonderful to see a crime show centered around such a hopeful character. Like Ted Lasso or Leslie Knope of “Parks & Recreation”, Boniface looks at the world with openness and happy curiosity. The crimes she faces never outweigh her; instead, she seems to see them as an invitation to better understand humanity.

And with his knowledge comes a compassion that you also don’t normally see on a crime show. As she and Sam race to stop the killer in the pilot, she reflects on what they learned about the murderer’s upbringing, the horrors the murderer faced, and what those must have done to him. (no spoilers here!), and successfully begs mercy for the killer’s accomplice, who went through the same thing. The show wears his Catholicism lightly, but at unexpected moments, it’s so clear how deeply invested he is in the life of Jesus.

The show also gives a sense of the rich variety of life in a female religious community. There’s the young nun who loves spy shows; the belligerent superior who is afraid of the modern world; and sturdy Sister Reggie, who is Boniface’s good friend and clearly the pragmatic head and strong shoulders of the convent community.

I think for many Catholics, watching the show will be like hearing a litany of saints, reminiscing about the great women of the church that we have each known.

Each of these sisters has their own unique moments to shine. As someone who finds myself of great spiritual value in pop culture, I was completely taken by the young nun fervorino on the value of popular entertainment. The same episode shows a group of nuns refusing to leave Sister Boniface and Sam behind when a bomb is discovered in their chapel, insisting that they believe their prayers can help. “Kept Me Alive in the Blitz,” Nun Shares Her Own Prayer Experiences. The moment provides a unique insight into who these women are and what they’ve been through.

The show is beautifully shot and includes many original rural characters and scenarios. If you like vintage British crime shows like ‘Grantchester’ or ‘Father Brown’, you won’t be disappointed.

But what excites me most about “Boniface” is that it offers a vision of the Church that is both recognizable and stimulating. In my life as a Jesuit, I have had the great good fortune to work with many talented nuns. And while each of them has had their own unique set of skills and commitments, they all share the same essential hope and dedication that Ms. Watson and series creator Jude Tindall gave to Sister Boniface and the other Sisters of Saint Vincent.

I think for many Catholics, watching the show will be like hearing a litany of saints, reminiscing about the great women of the church that we have each known. Even though it’s a series about murders in a town called Great Slaughter, “Sister Boniface” is fundamentally a show and a character that reminds us of all that is good in the world, in life. church and in us.

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