Prayers in the Abbey?

Confession: the hit British costume drama Downton Abbey was my guiltiest pleasure of 2011, a distinction poised to continue in 2012 as well. The show has been all over the news in the last few weeks, in the runup to and aftermath of its season two premier on PBS.

Provocatively, our national pundits have finally illuminated why liberals love Downton. It’s because the show has “corrected” our western history – while adding to it just the tiniest whiff of condescension. We’ve even been helped in stocking up on period novels to read when the second season is over. And I, for one, felt incomplete before seeing this photo montage of Downton plotlines juxtaposed with Beyoncé’s lyrics.

But in the wave of Downton write-ups and analysis, none that I’ve seen has yet addressed the new religious dimension that may be budding in one of the main characters: Lady Mary. One scene from the marathon two-hour premiere includes the poignant (if seemingly unlikely) moment of Mary kneeling bedside in prayer that God will spare her cousin and love interest Matthew Crawley from the Great War:

Mary: “Dear Lord, I don’t pretend to have much credit with you. I’m not even sure that you’re there. But if you are, and if I’ve ever done anything good, I beg you to keep him safe.”

Chalk one spiritual work of mercy for Mary.