Sheen, now 70, gave an interview about his upcoming film projects that appeared in last Saturday’s Irish Times.
Though he broke with the church for a while, Sheen says he came back into the fold after suffering a heart attack at the age of 40.
“It’s always a crisis that brings you back. And we begin to ask those two fundamental questions, if your gonna reflect on your life and take serious responsibility for it: who am I, and why am I here? And you reflect on those. I damn near died; I had the last rites,” he says.
“I started going to Mass again but it was out of fear and apprehension that I would die . . . and so it was another four years that I actually committed to come back. I came back to the Church of Vatican II, which I didn’t have a clue had gone on in my absence.”
Perhaps Sheen was thinking of his son when he spoke about how Catholicism can provide a concrete and real way forward when other vices fail.
“We all yearn for the sacred, we are always looking for a transcendence; some people go about it with drugs or alcohol or sex or power or ego, whatever, and when they prove not satisfying and we come to our senses, we begin to realize that there’s another costly journey,” says Sheen.
“It has to cost you something; if something worthwhile doesn’t cost you something, you are left to question its worth. And so I decided to go on that journey and, you know, I’m still at it.”
His latest role, in the Irish production Stella Days, sees him playing a Tipperary priest in the 1950s who loves music and film, but feels as if he has nothing in common with his parishioners. Father Daniel Barry seeks to raise funds for a new church by opening a cinema in the town, but meets opposition at every juncture.
Sheen’s mother was born and raised in Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary, and the Catholic faith is one that he follows as best he can, so the movie was a natural fit.
“I was raised Catholic, my parents were devout Catholics,” Sheen told The Irish Times. “My mother had family rosary most nights in the house, I remember growing up. But when something is given to you, it’s not unusual to let it slip through . . . I loved the church and the faith. But it wasn’t really something personal, it wasn’t costing me anything.”
No word yet on when Stella Days will be released in Ireland, or what the plans are for the film over here.