Did you see “Without a Trace” last night? I thought it was extraordinary – about a weeping statue in a pub, the people who find it, and an authentic and touching look at sadness, faith, lack of faith, doubt, hope, love and mercy.
Using the statue (character) of St. Therese, a French Carmelite nun (1873 – 1897) was so appropriate because she had her own dark night of the soul and is known for this (see below for links to some books about this spiritual and mystical phenomenon that Mother Teresa also lived with for many years.) This “Without a Trace” episode, entitled “Miracle Worker”, was a story with layers of dark nights for some of the usual characters (especially Jack played by Anthony La Paglia and Samantha played by Poppy Montgomery) and a teenage girl, her uncle and her father. The mercy and rays of light that come from faith and wanting to believe play out in very believable ways. It is a complex episode that was deftly written and rendered. I think this long-running show, now in its 7th season (CBS, Tuesdays, 10pm) deserves thoughtful attention because of its consistently human and catholic themes (little “c” and sometimes big “C”). This episode offers much to talk about around the water cooler – and in sermons and homilies, too.
“Miracle Worker” is a perfect example of the sacramentality of television and cinema stories: the outward expression of inner realities.
A friend of mine who is a spiritual director told me back in 2002 that she thought “Without a Trace” is a Good Shepherd show: the FBI characters, despite their flaws, go in search of the lost, often at great personal cost. As they search for others, they search for their own core self, for meaning that transcends their lives.
There’s one episode that I saved for a couple of years on my DVR: “Revelations” (Season 2, episode 2) , the one with Hector Elizondo as a dying priest who had been a drug addict before entering the seminary. He disappeared just when the organ he was waiting became available. He went to find a family to apologize for his role in the death of their son when they were both on the streets. The delay meant the organ went to someone else – his way of making restitution. You know the writing is excellent when a story like this can be told in 43 minutes – and remembered for years. There is so much mercy in this series. (This episode is available from iTunes (http://www.casttv.com/shows/without-a-trace/revelations/w3kuzy1)
Last night’s “Without a Trace” was Episode 12: “Miracle Worker” . I couldn’t find the entire episode online but there are clips. It may run again on Saturday: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/without_a_trace/“Miracle Worker”:
Jack Malone: Anthony LaPaglia
Samantha Spade: Poppy Montgomery
Vivian Johnson: Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Danny Taylor: Enrique Murciano
Martin Fitzgerald: Eric Close
Elena Delgado: Roselyn Sanchez
Eddie Gilroy: Thomas Calabro
Amy Gilroy: Hayley McFarland
Angelo DiBenedetto: Tony Cicchetti
Nick: Chris Nelson Norris
Josh Gilroy: Myk Watford
Audrey Salke: Jackie Geary
Luis Ochoa: Christian Barillas
Tommy Nealon: Patrick Gallagher
Paul Shepard: Jeffrey Hutchinson
Remy: Steven M. Gagnon
STORY BY: Tom Donaghy
TELEPLAY BY: Jan Nash, one of the series’ executive producers and Bruce Rasmussen
Here are some classics about “the dark night of the soul”. You can order them from Amazon or the Pauline Book & Media Center nearest you: http://www.daughtersofstpaul.com/bookcenters/index.html
Story of a Soul: the Autobiography of St. Therese
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta
The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross