Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  


In the News

Join our mailing list
Join our mailing list
Send this page to a friend

Support explorefaith.org

Give us your feedback

Questions of faith and doubt


Signpost: Daily Devotions

Oasis: Take a Moment to Meditate

Reflections for Your Journey
Register for a
weekly reflection

Send a card from explorefaith.org


independent Web site offering study guides, downloads and a listing of news articles about the show


May 16, 2006

God or the Girl: TV's Higher Calling
by Kevan Breitinger

The A&E documentary series God or the Girl could so easily have gone horribly wrong. The compelling 5-hour program follows four young men through the final gut-wrenching month of their decision process before entering the priesthood. In a season when the most puerile voyeurism and smarmy innuendo are rewarded with high ratings, producer Darryl Silver shows surprising sensitivity, the titillating title notwithstanding. The result is nuanced and incisive coverage of the faith process of four achingly sincere Catholic men.

Each man’s story is fascinating. Adair, 28, a student counselor at a Jesuit university, has been wrestling with the question of ordination for years, in and out of seminary twice already. Steve, 25, already left a high-paying job in the financial sector to become a college missionary. Dan, 21, a zealous college student, lives in a celibate frat house as he considers his next step of faith.

Mike, 24, is the only one with a serious girlfriend, as well as a fairly serious relationship with his parish priest. This second relationship is worth mentioning as it plays a large role in Mike’s struggle; actually most of these men deal with considerable outside influences. Silver’s treatment of these pressures shows remarkable restraint, but because of their intensely personal nature, each man’s conflict, both within and with those around him, is at times difficult to watch.

Both the program and the process are distinctly Catholic. The title alone begs the question for non-Catholic believers: why choose? But for these young men, the question of their lifetime commitment of service to God contains a celibacy clause, making their decision significantly more excruciating.

The weight of that decision comes increasingly apparent as parents and priests bring substantial pressure to bear, each in their own way. Adair’s mother wants a son in the priesthood. Mike’s priest vehemently and verbally disapproves of Mike’s girlfriend, who, blissfully unaware of the charges against her, prays for Mike throughout his process.

Dan’s priest, too, has a few tricks up his own vestment sleeve. He suggests to Dan, seemingly off the top of his head, that he construct a wooden cross and carry it to the next town, 22 miles away. No explanation is offered and at first Dan laughs off the idea. But by next scene, Dan is buying wood and nails and then shouldering an 80-pound cross to begin an arduous and painful 3-day journey. When Dan shares after the first frightening day, “I like the suffering and the sacrifice,” you know he means it. While difficult to comprehend, it is a hard heart that will not be touched by his sincere devotion.

Steve’s story is slightly different. A bit of a loner, he had no one pushing him. It is his own inner yearnings that send him to Guatemala, in spite of his obvious fears and ambivalence. The trip brings him face to face with the disparity between what it takes to be a missionary and what he has inside. His honest reactions are stunning and profound. Not many of us are gutsy enough to look that close, let alone articulate our findings.

The series never addresses what motivated the men to expose such stripped-down soul intimacy. Perhaps it is one more example of our self-revelatory culture, where viewer and subject alike are conditioned to expect an open window on our lives. Regardless, this is a welcome change from most tell-all television, one that affirms our finer qualities rather than focusing on our weaknesses. I, for one, appreciate the opportunity to respectfully consider the journey of these four brave men.

It’s a bright new day indeed when television can enter into the discussion of faith without its usual baggage of intentional misconception, disdain, or judgment. You don’t have to comprehend every aspect of the turmoil in these men to appreciate their sincerity and their passion.

The Barna Group’s most recent survey, taken just this past March, found that 62 percent of American adults consider themselves to be not merely “religious,” but “deeply spiritual.” If that is the case, television producers and writers would be wise to embrace the reality of our spirituality and all of its accoutrements. It is part and parcel of our human condition, showing itself in myriad expressions and forms. In this tender and profound exploration of the faith life, A&E shows us the true potential of “must-see TV”.

The five-part God or the Girl documentary series aired on A&E in April. DVDs of the season can be purchased through A&E.

(Return to Top)


Send this article to a friend.

Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org