We have a discussion group at St Mary's in the Isle of Man in which we focus on the following Sunday's readings. For a change, a few weeks ago, I passed around a terracotta crucifix from my time in Peru and asked each person to hold it for a moment before passing it on to their neighbour.
We then shared our reactions. This crucifix is almost grotesque in its depiction of the sufferings of Jesus. The hands and feet, grossly out of proportion with the rest of Christ's body, are clenched in spasms of pain as they are penetrated by the nails. There are copious drops of blood. Jesus's face is contorted in agony.
The same week of our meeting had seen the conclusion of the BBC drama series Broken in which Sean Bean, unexpectedly but amazingly convincingly, played the part of an inner-city parish priest. Some of the group had watched it. Each episode told a story of human suffering among the parishioners as they struggled with the tragedies, cruelties and absurdities of modern urban living. This was not light entertainment.
Every episode presented the parish priest with challenges to his own faith as he attempted to sustain the faith of his people. And he too had his demons. However, central to each story was the celebration of daily Mass in the parish church attended by characters featured in the series.
In an interview in the Tablet, the author Jimmy McGovern was asked why the series was called Broken. Peter Stanford, the interviewer, confessed that he had expected the answer to lie in broken lives, broken Britain, broken church or even broken priesthood. No, said Jimmy McGovern. The Broken of the title referred to the broken bread of the Eucharist, the broken Body of Christ.