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March 20, 2008

Comments

Jason in San Antonio

Where can we find this Vatican list of 15 religious films?

SDG

It's linked in the blog post above (here's the link again). There are 45 films in all, 15 for religion, 15 for values and 15 for art.

labrialumn

Ahhh, yes, the murderer of Lutherans.

Leo

St Thomas More is my favourite saint. Much of my mental image of him comes from Bolt's/Schofield's depiction.

1. Rational conscience - rational grounds for moral acts. eg when the Duke of Norfolk asks More to join him in signing Henry's declaration "for the sake of fellowship", More replies "when you are in heaven for following your conscience and I am in Hell for not following mine, what of fellowship then? Will you join me in Hell?" NB quote based on probably inaccurate memory.

2. Reluctant martyrdom, unlike some of the stories of enthusiastic martyrdom in Roman times. More tried every licit trick in the lawyer's book to stay alive (and he was the most brilliant lawyer in England). Yet, following false witness, when there was no other way to 'let this cup pass' he accepted martyrdom (Greek for witness).

3. More was a great writer eg Utopia - he made people think about what sort of society might be possible.

4. He was both cerebral and earthy. Unlike some of the saints I can imagine enjoying his company, even in questionable 'earthiness'. There is the story of when his daughter's finance visited one morning while she was still in bed. More took the finance into her bedroom, ripped off the bedclothes, revealing her nakedness and said: you might as well see what you are getting. NB I'm not saying we should imitate this.

5. He was married, with children. Disproportionately few canonized saints are.

6. Like me he wasn't perfect. But he was willing to do the right thing, even at the ultimate cost - am I?

SDG

labrialumn: I am sure More forgives you. I will try to do the same. Spitting on other people's piety, particularly at this time and in this way, seems small and spiteful.

Leo: Thanks for your comments.

General note: Please, everyone, let's not degenerate into theological squabbling during the Triduum.

Nick

There's no way for anyone to know the final destination of Scofield's soul, but the mental image of Scofield finally getting to meet St Thomas More is a most intriguing one.

Paging Peter Kreeft... paging Peter Kreeft... get to work on the next imaginary dialogue book.

Thomas

Very sad to see that Scofield has died. We owe him a debt of gratitude for giving us the single greatest depiction of a saint in the history of "entertainment," not to mention the greatest movie ever made, period. I've seen A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS so many times I could recite most of it verbatim. And not that I'm an actor, but it's a further credit to Scofield that I cannot even conceive of those lines being said any other way than how he uttered them.

As if I needed an excuse to rewatch the film, I'll be watching it again in his honor this weekend.

St. Thomas More, pray for David Paul Scofield.

Matheus F. Ticiani

SDG,

Just for the record, I think it's worth reading Imdb's obituary, and also this one from the London Times, which also posted this article. I had wanted to see the movie for a long time, after reading your review, which I was able to do only last year, because it only became available on DVD here in Brazil with the release of the latest Special Edition. I thought the movie was beautiful, altough more boring than I expected; and Scofield's performance superb. May God take care of his soul.

SDG

Matheus, I'm glad you finally got a chance to see it! Thanks for the links, I should have thought of that.

bill912

I had videotaped the movie years ago, but last month bought a copy of the DVD while vacationing in Birmingham and visiting EWTN. One of my favorite lines in the movie occurs during St. Thomas' trial after Richard Rich, newly-named attorney general for Wales, perjures himself. St. Thomas says: "'What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his immortal soul?' But Richie...Wales?"

Mary Kay

Paul Scofield was superb in A Man for All Seasons. I watch it periodically as a sort of spiritual booster shot.

Ed Peters

I have it memorized, the play, that is.

I am not one to praise actors for their life off screen/stage, as most are so inconsequential, or nuts. But PS is an exception, based on anything I've ever heard. His private life seems as sound as his acting was sublime. SDG, great plug for Quiz Show, a terribly under-appreciated film.

Liam

I demur that Scofield's performance is the greatest depiction of its kind of a saint. Greatest talkie, yes. But Maria Falconetti's portrayal in Carl Dreyer's immortal silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc (Passion de Jeanne d'Arc) is the platinum standard. Falconetti's performance was long cited as the single best acting performance of all time on film. The film relies on the trial transcripts and Dreyer brutalized this famed stage actress (this her lone film) in the filming for effect. *That's* a martyrdom being depicted.

Barbara

And one of my favorite quotes from A Man For All Seasons:

And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

SDG

*That's* a martyrdom being depicted.

A martyrdom, yes, I agree (as my review attests). But does Dreyer's film offer a greater or more profound evocation of heroic virtue and personal sanctity? I wouldn't say so.

FWIW, I've watched both films within the last few months. Both performances are beyond praise. But while I love and admire Falconetti's Joan, I wouldn't want to be her the way I want to be Thomas More -- or even, say, the way I would want my daughters to be Sophie Scholl (to cite another great Triduum/Passion film that I just watched this week with my wife Suzanne and our two older kids).

Incidentally, looking over my review of Sophie Scholl, I see I made a similar point regarding these same three characters:

Sophie Scholl is one of a very few films that accomplishes one of the rarest and most valuable of cinematic achievements: It makes heroic goodness not just admirable, but attractive and interesting. How many films do this? One may admire and respect Dreyer’s Joan of Arc, but how much would one enjoy being her friend?

There are exceptions to the rule. Paul Scofield’s Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons is one. Sophie Scholl is another.

FWIW.

P.S. Ed, I also have memorized long tracts of the play as well as the film. Many of the screenplay changes Bolt made bringing the story to the screen I think were good ones, but there are some great bits in the play I miss in the film. I love this exchange at the very end of the play, as Thomas goes to his death, and is confronted by the "cow" (Norfolk's term) from (in the film) Leicester who tried (in the film) to bribe Thomas and got (in both the play and the film) a "wicked false judgment" (in her opinion), but an "impeccably correct" one (in Cromwell's judgment):

WOMAN: Sir Thomas! (He stops) Remember me, Sir Thomas? When you were Chancellor, you gave a false judgment against me. Remember that now.

MORE: Woman, you see how I am occupied. (With sudden decision goes to her in the left spot. Crisply) I remember your matter well, and if I had to give sentence now I assure you I should not alter it. You have no injury; so go your way; and content yourself; and trouble me not!

Liam

Well, I take Falconetti's performance as more metaphysical than Scofield's - perhaps why the latter is more inviting to imitation. After all, hers is not only a passion of immolation of the flesh, but an immolation on an existential plane - she is being persecuted by her CHURCH (not merely the English). There's an interiority to her performance that Scofield's exteriority complements.

I would say that Falconetti's performance is the greater precisely because it well portrays the sense of utter abandonment most Catholics dread but to which some of us are called - with none of the heroism that More's situation that more of us can relate to. And that is putting aside that More, of course, had a wit and loving family that Jeanne is not shown to have.

Moreover, Jeanne's passion as portrayed by Falconetti is one that is not about a life of virtue. Rather, it taps into the more scandalous teaching of Christianity - that a life of virtue is wonderful but is beside the point to being an icon of Christ. Too often we settle for cultivating virtue instead of the more vexing challenge of being icons of Christ. (While, in the end, the two are in harmony, the paths to those ends can look and feel quite different.)

David B.

I just watched the movie two day ago. RIP, David Paul Scofield.


A some thoughts:

I've often heard people level the charge of "boring" against the film, and I must disagree: it's pace is perfectly matched to the intellectual and philosophical arguments between Cromwell et al, and Saint Thomas More. Any less deliberate approach to this Saint's thought and life would've been, IMO, an injustice.

Liam said,

she is being persecuted by her CHURCH (not merely the English).

I would argument More was, in some ways, also being persecuted by the Church. The overwhelming majority of the Church'c leadership in England betrayed (or continued to betray) the Faith, and left More practically alone. At least one even helped in his trial and execution.

Liam

David B

When I typed that I knew that qualification would arise, but the situation in Jeanne's case lacked the support from Rome that More at least new he and Fisher had. Awful, but not as pointed as in Jeanne's case.

David B.

Liam,

Gotcha.

Kevin

Let us all pray for his soul....for he who made St. Thomas More "flesh and blood" for us.

May the prayers of St. Thomas be with him...and may he say to him in heaven "very nice portrayal of me..."

Thomas

In the ODYSSEY the poems climax comes when Odysseus strings his bow which none of the suitors could do, and plucks the string. That single note brings the hero's journey to its peak and is followed by a bloody resolution.

Every time I see A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS I am reminded of that single "note."

At More's trial he has defended himself against the charge of treason, but is then condemned by Rich's perjured testimony and a fixed jury. The judges are about to pronounce sentence on him when he interupts saying, "My Lords, when I was practicing law it was the manner to ask the condemned, before pronouncing sentence, if he had anything to say." They respond asking, "Have you anything to say?" And then comes that single climactic note.

"Yes."

Only Paul Scofield could have given such life to a single word. You can sense the deep breath that preceded it and the relieved sigh as he utters it. For the viewer, and no doubt for the Saint himself, that one moment released all the tension that had reached unbearable heights in the troubled times leading up to it.

More's glorious fate was sealed but inspite of impending death he was granted a new freedom. He no longer had to maintain his silence in the face of grave injustice.

Earlier in the film he says to Margaret, "Listen, Meg. God made the angels to show him splendour. As he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind. If he suffers us to come to such a case that there is no escaping then we may stand to our tackle as best we can. And yes, Meg, then we can clamour like champions, if we have the spittle for it. But it's God's part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping."

Well, he was brought to such a pass, and contained in that one perfectly delivered "yes" is the clamour of a champion. And like Odysseus who plucked his bow and unleashed a hail of arrows on his enemies, St. Thomas plucked his bow and unleashed a withering response to the king, his new "church," and his government and court that condemned him.

I could go on and on about Paul Scofield's performance and the film in general, but I think it would crash the whole internet.

Thank you, Mr. Scofield. I pray we meet in Heaven.

SDG

Liam:

I would rather say that the diversity of the saints attests the multiplicity of ways in which the infinite Christ can be imitated and imaged. (Consider the disparity, bordering on the comic, between St. Francis and St. Thomas. Or Therese of Lisieux and Catherine of Siena. Or Padre Pio and Maximilian Kolbe.)

FWIW, I don't see Christ less clearly in St. Thomas than St. Joan, either in reality or in the cinematic portrayals under discussion.

Tim J.

Very well said, SDG. We become more ourselves as we progress toward perfection in Christ, we do not all become more like some featureless ideal, or more like one another.

The saints are like the many bits of brilliantly colored glass in a stained glass window, through which the Light shines. Many colors, one light. If God had meant for us all to turn out the same, He would have made us in factories, rather than in families.

David B.

A good line from the film is near the end, when the Cardinal asks More if he really believes his executioner is sending him to God. More answered: "He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him." I can almost imagine Scofield saying the same.

Thomas

Dave,

It was that heretic Cranmer who said that to More, and he was no Cardinal, thank God.

Even that political opportunist and scoundrel Wolsey wasn't a heretic. Surely the inclusion of a Cardinal in the break with Rome would have been an even greater blow.

It's a great joy in those unhappy days that the only Cardinal left in England at the time was the only bishop who stood fast with the Holy Father. (Although it should be noted that Fisher was elevated in response to his fidelity in the face of martyrdom.)

Speaking of St. John, I've always wanted to see a movie made about him as well. So much untapped potential from that time period. It seems that inspite of the popularity Tudor England has in Hollywood, it's all rather sympathetic to Henry and Elizabeth, if not outright anti-Catholic in its view.

I hope someone who can finance large projects on his own (such as Mel Gibson) gives us a legitmate feature film or two on men like Fisher and Campion. A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS proves that it can be done, and in light of the interest in recent movies on that bastard Elizabeth I and Showtime's THE TUDORS, it may be a good time to strike while the iron is hot.

Liam

I would wish Katherine of Aragon to be a subject feature. She's been portrayed well at least three times in the past 40 years (Irene Pappas (Anne of a Thousand Days), Annette Crosbie (Six Wives of Henry VIII - a superb overlooked characterization) and Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors - however much "The Tudors" is more fiction than history, Maria Doyle Kennedy has added further to the thespian characterizations of this great woman and wife). Too bad it's unlike her cause will ever advance in Rome (not only due to the political implications but because Rome itself at the time was discomfited by her refusal to follow the path of Queen Jeanne of France to the nunnery) - I don't think she even has a formal cause - she'd make the perfect patron for abandoned spouses and mothers.

J.R. Stoodley

I'm sorry to hear that he died. I saw A Man for All Seasons and I liked it. Also, because of the circumstances of my watching it (private) it has a particular significance to me.

J.R. Stoodley

Leo,

St. Thomas More is also one of my favorate saints, and also the patron of my college's campus ministry.

Minor point though, according to one guy on EWTN, the real point of Utopia was not to present an idea of what a human society should be but rather to describe man's dream society with the subtle message that it is impossible and if anyone tried to create it they would create a hell. He then said this idea of More's was born out in Communism. I don't know if that annalysis is correct and I've never read the book myself, but it's something to think about anyway.

John

Off topic, but poingnant none-the-less...

My wife and kids and I joined the Catholic Church last Easter, went to mass fairly reliably for the first number of months, then less consistently over the ensuing months. My wife revealed to me a few months ago that she just can't stand all the pageantry and symbolic acts of the mass; that it seems contrived and unnecessary, and that she doesn't think she needs to attend confession, that she can simply bring her issues straight to Jesus. She and I agree the preaching (homily) is quite weak at all the services we've attended compared to nearly every other type ofchurch we've attended, and we don't get that same feeling leaving church like we did years ago while attending Lutheran services. Our kids are also bored to tears at Mass and really dislike going. We've started visiting other churches (baptist, free churches, etc.)but haven't found one we like. I still feel some sort of attachement to the Catholic Church, but don't know what to do...any suggestions?

John

Thomas

Tough it out, John. You presumably entered the Catholic Church for the only reason someone ever should - you believe it to be True.

As far as the particulars, maybe check out a book like Thomas Howard's IF YOUR MIND WANDERS AT MASS (Ignatius Press). It may give your wife a greater understanding and appreciation of the ritual she doesn't see the significance of.

As for your kids, I'd go out on a limb and guess they'd get pretty bored no matter what church you went to. Stick with it. Kids don't like their vegetables, but it'll strengthen them anyway, and as they get older they will grow to appreciate the firm, permanent foundation you've given them.

But it all comes back to my first point. If the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, and it is, then things like bad homilies don't amount to much. The Sacraments are the same in every parish and they are efficacious. They will sustain you if you go to them often and regularly. And the Church has a great treasury of writers and preachers that you can always tap into for what is sometimes lacking in a particular homilist. Make use of them. When you encounter difficulty, plunge deeper in to the Faith, don't let those difficulties repel you.

Some of the greatest saints lived holy lives devoid of actual consolation. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and many more. We all hit these dry spots. Just remember that they are ultimately gifts from God. He needs to stretch us, sometimes painfully, to prepare us to be filled with His grace.

I'll pray for you and your family at Mass today. And remember that the Church and her members love you and will help you through. Be open to that help.

Happy Easter.

Christine the Soccer Mom

Interestingly enough, our family has watched one family movie each Sunday of Lent. (Our girls gave up TV otherwise, except for school-related things.)

A Man for All Seasons was the movie of choice the weekend before Palm Sunday. I love the movie, and want to own a copy sometime. I cry every time I watch it.

May God give his soul rest.

(I'm with Nick, too; it really tickles me to think that, providing Scofield arrives in Heaven, Saint Thomas More will be there to greet him, too.)

Mary Kay

John,

My first question would be to ask why you and your wife decided to join the Catholic Church last year and what's changed since then.

she just can't stand all the pageantry and symbolic acts of the mass; that it seems contrived and unnecessary

I prefer to think of it as a depth of family history. Does your wife have something she treasures from her parents or grandparents? Something that's not "necessary" to get through the day? That's what the "pageantry" in the Mass is.

she doesn't think she needs to attend confession, that she can simply bring her issues straight to Jesus.

That's a big one. She's missing out on the sacramental grace of confession. She might want to read the Catechism, paragraphs 1441 (only God forgives sins) and 1444, "the Lord gives them (apostles and by extension, priests), the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. It seems your wife may have some lingering doubts about Church authority.

She and I agree the preaching (homily) is quite weak

Homilies are meant to expound on Scripture and the Catholic faith and can be powerful doing so. Sometimes though, they are uneven. However, even at their best, they are not the primary focus of the Mass. The Eucharist and Scripture form one act of worship, to paraphrase on of the Vatican II documents. A good homily is nice, but not essential. If you consider the homilies in your parish to be weak, there are several priests who post their homilies online. Fr. Martin Fox (frmartinfox.blogspot.com) is one. There are others who I can't think of at the moment. Actually, one resource that a lot of Catholics use is a monthly publication called Magnificat.

same feeling leaving church like we did years ago while attending Lutheran services. Our kids are also bored to tears at Mass and really dislike going.

Mass and the Catholic faith are not feeling based, but aside from that, it sounds like you and your family could benefit from continuing your learning about Catholicism. You couldn't possibly learn all there is to know before you entered the Church. I'm a cradle Catholic and I'm still learning.

Prayers for you and your family. Stay and ask questions - this is a great blog for discussion.

SDG

My wife and kids and I joined the Catholic Church last Easter, went to mass fairly reliably for the first number of months, then less consistently over the ensuing months. … We've started visiting other churches (baptist, free churches, etc.)but haven't found one we like. I still feel some sort of attachement to the Catholic Church, but don't know what to do...any suggestions?

Some thoughts

c matt

I am sorry to hear PS passed away. A Man for All Seasons is definitely in my top three movies of all times, and the most inspiring - I love the reader above who likened it to a shot in the arm when needing encouragement.

In addition, it gives us lawyers hope of making it to heaven.

SDG

David B (in another thread) asked L'Abri Alum:

Allow me to (respectfully) get something off my chest: Why did you attack Saint Thomas More's character in a recent combox?

FWIW, I don't mind people criticizing St. Thomas' role as Chancellor in the execution of Protestant heretics. In this respect I would say he was a man of his times (though some Catholics today would continue to defend the execution of heretics).

Likewise on the Protestant side, e.g., Luther's virulent later anti-Semitism and advocacy of the violent crushing of the peasant revolt, and Calvin's complicity in the burning at the stake of Michael Servetus, should be seen in historical context. Not as a way of denying moral responsibility, but as a way of judging fairly.

In my opinion, whatever our view of St. Thomas's role in the execution of Protestants, the man's character and virtue demand deep respect and honor, as has been felt by Christians of all stripes for centuries.

Without forestalling any and all moral critique, for one's first or primary response, one's summary judgment in a sense, to a man of such heroic virtue and integrity to be something like "Ahhh, yes, the murderer of Lutherans"… well, that strikes me as both contemptible and foolhardy. If the measure we measure with will be measured back to us, that is not the measure I would choose to measure out.

Even if such a remark was not characteristic of our whole judgment in the matter, and we only led with something like the above as a provocative rejoinder, well, I've already expressed my opinion in that regard.

David B.

SDG,

I accept your statement in the other combox, and whole-heartedly agree with and affirm your most recent post here. I'd just like the person who made the
original remark to give some sort of acknowledgment of the inappropriate nature of the original statement in question. Peace.

e.

St. Thomas More was/is a Saint; one who greatly cared for the salvation of souls and sought, like a physician, to tend to ailing individuals whose souls were in mortal danger.

These days, such a concept is unfathomable in light of the materialistic fiber of today's society.

No matter how history has been revised by such modern fiction (yes -- an anti-Catholic fiction at that!) like those shows as "The Tudors" who have demonized the man; so what?

The man is a Saint and is in the Father's Heavenly Kingdom -- doesn't matter what Showtime, Labrialumn, and even what SDG says.

More's book "Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation" was/is a Classic treasured by Catholics and, in the past, a great multitude of Protestants alike.

End of Story.

Thomas

SAINT Thomas More executed heretics in England under civil law for the good of the realm and the preservation of peace in England. Capital punishment remains a legitimate option, as stated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to this day.

The baseless attacks on his sanctity are ridiculous and the excuse-making (judge him by his times) is mealymouthed.

The saint doesn't need excuses made for him.

Dr. Acula

I always thought that St. Thomas More:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_More

Should have been played by David Warner:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=david+warner&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

He was in "The Omen" and in "Time Bandits."

There are no good images online that look exactly like our Saint though. :-(

I also thought that Peter Ustinov should have played Henry VIII.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

Dr. Acula

I always thought that St. Thomas More:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_More

Should have been played by David Warner:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=david+warner&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

He was in "The Omen" and in "Time Bandits."

There are no good images online that look exactly like our Saint though. :-(

I also thought that Peter Ustinov should have played Henry VIII.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

Augustine

Scofield of course is considered by many to have played the 20th Century's definitive King Lear.

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