The pandemic and the death of the head priest at a large Catholic church in New York City has forced this once thriving house of worship to lock its doors. Father Andrew (Kevin Corrigan) has little to do and has decided to keep a journal about his responses to the catastrophe that has overtaken him.
Father James (Thomas Jay Ryan), a second priest within the church, is more frightened than Father Andrew about catching the virus. Just as he clings to the rigid doctrines of the Catholic Church, he rigorously follows the city's sanitation and social distancing regulations.
When Paul (Max Casella), Father Andrew's eccentric friend from college days, stops by and wants to go inside the church, the two priests are forced to think seriously about opening up so people can pray there, as long as they clean the pews between visits and nobody touches anybody else.
From this simple set-up, writer and director Onur Tukel has done a remarkable job exploring the substantive spiritual issues growing out of the pandemic and its impact upon us. Here are some of them.
A poll conducted in March 2020 by the Pew Research Center showed that the pandemic was having a significant impact by bringing more people to the practice of prayer. When the priests open the church, even limited to 10 minutes per visitor, people line up to be able to pray in the sanctuary.
Father James finds himself questioning the sincerity of the gratitude expressed in the nightly ritual of New Yorkers going to their windows or balconies to clap and cheer for the health care workers. But when he asks Sarah (Natalie Carter), a member of the church who is a nurse, how this makes her feel, she tells him it lifts her spirits and inspires her.
It is during times of great suffering, loss, and grief that we need to open our hearts and our minds to those who are different from us, even those exhibiting strange behaviors. At first, Father James and Father Andrew try to discourage Jimmy (Edward Carnevale) when he asks to be baptized; they are not convinced this seeker is genuine. But they give him what he wants after he makes a large contribution to the church. They are less open to a woman who claims to be able to project her soul out of her body. Other events give the priests opportunities to deepen and enrich their faith.
Director Unur Tukel draws out three impressive performances from Kevin Corrigan, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Max Casella as Paul. The drama's sobering treatment of forgiveness is very powerful. It brings to mind Harold Bloomfield's definition of it:
"Every day you don't forgive, it's as if you are ingesting tiny bits of poison This poison slowly robs us of our desired future. Whether we need forgiveness for ourselves or for others, it is imperative to give ourselves permission to participate in this sacred process."