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The Theology of the Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon and his Pilgrimage to Lourdes

Forgive me, but I've been a big fan of zombie movies, books, and comic books for a long time. I think it started after watching George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) with my dad. We loved watching movies together. 

The last voicemail I received from my dad, before he died, was a whispered voicemail from a movie theater. He had just learned they were re-making Dawn of the Dead. He was so excited to tell me.    

It's not often that the Catholic world and the zombie world intersect. That's part of the reason I wrote the Catholic zombie apocalypse. Four volumes so far and still going. 

Imagine my surprise when Lourdes and the Abbey of Saint Bernadette showed up in the season premiere of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon.

The Theology of the Walking Dead


During the opening minutes of the first episode and season premiere, Daryl Dixon washes ashore on the beach of Marseille, France. From here, Daryl wanders randomly, seemingly, until he has made a succeeded in making a pilgrimage all the way to Lourdes. 

Along the way, Daryl survives all the following:

  • les affamès: "the hungry ones," what the French call walkers; 
  • les brûlant: "the burners," zombies with acidic blood whose touch burns and infects; and 
  • les Guerriers: "the Warriors", the soldiers of a French political movement with Marxist or fascist undertones called Pouvoir Des Vivants ("Power of the Living").

Catholic Horror, Theology of Zombies

Daryl Dixon: L'âme Perdue or "The Lost Soul" 

The first episode is called L'âme Perdue or "The Lost Soul." Throughout the countryside, Daryl is met with various French graffiti and signs that read Dieu Vous Aime.

Darryl, the titular "lost soul," scoffs at the translation of these words: "God loves you." 

Nevertheless, the "lost soul" finds his way to Lourdes and the Abbey of Saint Bernadette. And guess what happens in this place of healing waters? Daryl's wound is washed with healing waters.       

The Abbey of Saint Bernadette is part of l'Union de I'Espoir ("Union of Hope"), a network of God-fearing survivors. The Union of Hope seems to be the counterpoint to Pouvoir Des Vivants ("Power of the Living"). 

The Abbey of Saint Bernadette is represented by a warrior-nun named Sister Isabelle, who is portrayed by actress Clémence Poésy (perhaps better known as Fleur Delacour from Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire). 

Sister Isabella Catholic Theology of Zombies

Sister Isabelle provides the MacGuffin-like purpose to Daryl's hero quest and, presumably, the entire story arc of the series. She believes that a 12-year-old orphan (Laurent) is prophesied to be a Messiah who will lead the revival of humanity. 

Sister Isabelle is the orphan's guardian and needs Daryl to deliver Laurent to The Nest community. The Nest is the Union's base in northern France, where the boy must be taken to protected. There, he will become the Messianic leader of prophecy.

The Walking Dead, Catholic Horror

A Lasting Christian Message?

It seems like the entire series might be a continuation of Daryl's pilgrimage and involve a strong Christian message. Hopefully.   

At the end of the episode, we receive the answer to this question of the episode title, "The Lost Soul." 

A question is posed to Isa, short for "Isabelle" or Sister Isabelle of the Abbey of Saint Bernadette.  

"Are we lost, Isa?"

"We are never lost with God." 

C'est bon! 

A very good start for a mainstream television show, but these things usually go south before long. The zombies always tend to show up eventually. 

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