Media Mindfulness Blog

Fr. Brown and Flambeau: A Good Friend is Hard to Find 

Fr. Brown and Flambeau: A Good Friend is Hard to Find 

*Spoiler Alert: contains spoilers for Father Brown Series 11, Episode 5


Father Brown is G.K. Chesterton’s most beloved literary character. A classic amateur sleuth in British literature, the good Father has been portrayed on screen in several adaptations, including the 2013 BBC television series which is currently airing its 11th season. While the classic stories and the episodes they inspire may differ in many regards, there are several elements that remain consistent throughout.


1. Father Brown’s pastoral prowess for sniffing out the truth; 2. Father Brown’s prioritization of the salvation of souls; and 3. Father Brown’s hopeful heart toward the cunning sinner, Flambeau. 


“...a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.” - Proverbs 18:24 NRSVCE 


While the Flambeau that flows from Chesterton’s pen and Flambeau in the BBC miniseries differ greatly in their personas, both present a compelling example of a fallen man who, at his core, has goodness and a longing for truth in his heart. Furthermore, both versions of Flambeau find their match in the fervent and unassuming Father Brown, whose guileless friendship ends up bringing out the part of himself that Flambeau has tried so hard to bury. 


Father Brown’s relationship with Flambeau has a lot to teach the average Christian about the eternal impact of friendship upon the souls of those we meet. Focusing especially on the characters who reach a climactic moment in BBC’s 11th season of Father Brown, we can glean both a challenge and lasting inspiration from the titular character.  


Mark Williams as Father Brown in "Father Brown."  © 2013 BBC. All Rights Reserved. 


After seasons of hearing the criminal Flambeau proclaim himself as a lost cause, Series 11 has Flambeau colliding with a person he never wanted to see again. This undesired reunion brought up many wounds that Flambeau had never truly faced. He deals with some of these things well, and some of them less-well, but it is when he is faced with the death of the person he’d been so desperately avoiding that he had to come to terms with everything. 


In a moment of incredible grace, with the quiet but firm presence of Father Brown, Flambeau, in the very face of death, offers forgiveness to one who had deeply wronged him. 


And then, true to his nature, he fled. 


"A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity." - Proverbs 17:17, NRSVCE 


Mark Williams, John Light, and Ian Gelder in "Father Brown." © BBC. All Rights Reserved. 


Time passes, and we see Father Brown in his confessional again – in that place where he offers God’s mercy with such sober joy to so many people. Except this time, when he opens the grate, we realize Flambeau is on the other side. As per usual, he chose this private booth as a safe place to deliver a message. But when he stands to leave, Father Brown stops him... 


And calls his bluff. 


After so much time running, after so many burdens weighing on his soul, and after facing the excruciating reality of death and life, hatred and forgiveness, Father Brown knows why he came this time when he could have simply sent a letter. 


“Would you like me to hear your confession?” he asks. 


“For if they fall, one will lift up the other...” - Ecclesiastes 4:10 


For the first time, Flambeau breaks. As he whispers the words we never thought we’d hear him say, we break, too. 


Flambeau always knew Father Brown wanted his soul to be “saved,” scoffing at the notion while still appreciating the genuineness and guilelessness of the simple priest’s friendship. Yet, at that moment, he realized just how genuine that friendship really was. 


That realization has now allowed him to make the leap that had seemed so impossible before. 


A holy friendship had changed him. A holy friendship carved out the space for him to be vulnerable in expressing the best of himself and the worst of himself. A holy friendship gave him a glimpse into Christ, who called him “friend” (John 15:15). 


Mark Williams as Father Brown and John Light as Hercule Flambeau in "Father Brown." © BBC. All Rights Reserved. 


“I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” -John 15:15, NRSVCE 


How many saints have there been whose friendships brought one another closer to God? Perhaps the most appropriate saint friendship to pair with Father Brown and Flambeau is that of St Ignatius of Loyola and St Francis Xavier.  


Ignatius of Loyola was not the college roommate that young Francis wanted. Francis was full of dreams and ambitions for wealth and prestige, and Ignatius was that annoying religious guy that Francis’s friends liked for some reason. After three years of Ignatius encouraging Francis to look at his life differently - in the light of eternity – the two of them were finally able to have an open, vulnerable conversation about Christ in Francis’s life...a conversation which would change his life forever.  


Through his friendship with Ignatius, Francis discovered a nobility and wealth that could not be taken away from him and that he could share with the world through his life offering. He would be among the first Jesuit priests in the order founded by his friend and the letters exchanged between them speak of a true bond of brotherhood. They stand as an incredible example of how fervent faith and guileless friendship can bring souls to Christ. 


Art by Dora N. Bittau


Take a moment to examine your own relationships. How do you approach your baptismal call to share Jesus Christ with others?  


Do you seek to convert your friends and then drop them like a hot potato if they aren’t particularly open to the idea? Do you hide your faith from your friends so completely that they have no clue you have a relationship with Jesus or that they could have one too?  


Do you value your friends for the gift of who they are, while also sharing the greatest gift you can give them: Jesus, your Savior and theirs? 


“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”  - 1 Thessalonians 5:11 


In all your friendships, in whatever form is most appropriate, seek to live the fervent faith and guileless friendship exemplified by Father Brown toward Hercule Flambeau, or Ignatius of Loyola toward Francis Xavier. You may find, as they did, that in the Lord’s own time he can use your devoted and faithful friendship to bring his beloved children home to himself. 


“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:20 NRSVCE 



Claudie Blakely, Mark Williams, and Ruby-May Martinwood in "Father Brown."  © BBC. All Rights Reserved. 


You can stream Series 11 Episode 5 "The Father, The Son" of BBC’s Father Brown TV series on BritBox. 



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