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What if The Walking Dead Had a REAL Priest instead of Father Gabriel?

After reading The Walking Dead (TWD) comics by Robert Kirkman and, of course, watching the AMC series, I've come to the conclusion that Father Gabriel Stokes is a REALLY lame excuse for a priest.

Let's explore this character a bit. [SPOILERS!] The backstory for TV and comic Gabriel is pretty much the same. This is a priest who locked the church doors against his parishioners as they fled to him for sanctuary. He basically listened as they got munched and torn apart. Top notch guy, right? At the beginning of the outbreak, TV Gabriel survived by eating the results of a canned food drive. 

Gabriel148    Season six gabriel stokes

Rick Grimes' group of survivors shelter in his church for a time, though wary of Gabriel's odd manner. This culminates in Gabriel witnessing Rick and company's ultra-violent slaughter of the cannibals, who were basically on their way out, anyway, after eating alive-but-infected-Dale. Karma! Later, the memories of the ultra-violence lead Gabriel to tell the leader of Alexandria, Douglas Monroe (comics) or Deanna Monroe (TV), the following hypocrisy: "These people who were with me, are not good people. They've done things... Horrible things... Unspeakable things. They simply don't belong here." 

Paul Monroe aka "Jesus" -- TWD Issue 91
Maybe redemption is ultimately in store for this character, but in the comics at least he's just fading away. But what if there is no forthcoming redemption for this truly disappointing character? In such a case, it would be hard not to interpret this character as a harsh and unfortunate rebuke of organized religion. Unfortunate, but merely par for the course these days. 

TWD apparently has a lot to say about religion, all of which with heavy cynicism -- unless it's eastern religion/philosophy, of course. Take the following examples: 

  • There's actually a character named "Jesus", so-named because the bearded man looks like Jesus and is often viewed as a savior;
  • Hershel is a deeply religious man, who clings desperately to religion following his wife's death, yet becomes the moral center of the group for a time;
  • Ezekiel (comics) is named for an Old Testament prophet, and reigns as "king" of "The Kingdom"; 
  • Morgan is influenced by aspects of eastern religion while in the custody of the aptly named character "Eastman"; and
  • This is the Apocalypse, after all!
This leaves me to wonder what TWD might have been like if they had chosen a Catholic priest -- a real priest, or even a saint, not a derelict. I'm not talking about The Preacher comics or even Stephen King's Father Callahan. I mean true blue heroes. 

Here are the saints I'd want by my side for the zombie Apocalypse. Here's my TOP TEN list of replacements for Father Gabriel:

#5. Saint Maximillian Kolbe

This priest endured repeated beatings and lashings at Auschwitz concentration camp, and nevertheless continued to act as a priest. In 1941, after some prisoners escaped, 10 prisoners were chosen to starve to death in an underground bunker to serve as an example. One of the chosen men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!", and Saint Kolbe volunteered to take his place. After two weeks praying on his knees, he was the only one of the 10 men still alive, so the Nazis injected him with carbolic acid. Kolbe raised his arm calmly waiting for his martyrdom. 

So, if the Nazis, Gestapo, and the SS had trouble killing this guy, the Governor and Negan would be hard pressed to do the same.  

#4. Saint Joan of Arc
Michonne who? Now, here's a woman who could wield a sword. She could replace Father Gabriel and Michonne. 

#3. Saint Francis Xavier

In the 1500s, this Jesuit missionary traveled to Goa, India, to unfriendly Japan, and even to the doorstep of forbidden China. He endured countless privations and sufferings, but nevertheless wrote to his friend and superior, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the following:
The dangers to which I am exposed and the tasks I undertake for God are inexhaustible springs of spiritual joy, so much so that these islands are the places in all the world for a man to lose his sight by excess of weeping; but they are tears of joy. I do not remember ever to have tasted such inward delight; and these consolations take from me all sense of bodily hardships and of troubles from open enemies and not too trustworthy friends.

#2. Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Rick's group could probably hold a candle to Ignatius' band of survivors, which included #3 among others. This priest might have been one of the toughest men who ever lived. He was thrown out of a few Spanish bars. A cannonball pulverized his leg while a soldier in the Battle of Pamplona. When the leg didn't heal correctly, he told his doctors to re-break it and reset it. When he died, the pope's own surgeon performed an autopsy on the priest and discovered that his body was littered with stones, like kidney stones but all over. These "mute witnesses to his hidden sufferings" were found in his liver, kidneys, lungs, and even in a main artery (Idigoras p. 608). 

And did I mention he took a cannon ball to the leg? This priest wouldn't have closed his door to anybody. In fact, his missionaries probably would have converted the walkers, themselves.

#1. Saint Paul
Paul might have been the original survivalist, the prototype of Rick Grimes. The man, like the holy version of Rasputin, was virtually indestructible. For example, 2 Corinthians 11:24-28: 
Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.
This is probably a moot point. With all the miraculous healings in Jesus' name attributed to the Apostles, they would have just cured the zombies, like the lepers of their day. Regardless, I'd take St. Paul by my side, besides he could make tents. 

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