Friday, 22 June 2012

A Saint for all Seasons

Today is the feastday of St Thomas More, intellectual, lawyer, politician, poet, writer and...a great man.

This clip shows some of his witty remarks from the film 'A Man for all Seasons'.
 In the film he was played by Paul Scofield, also a great Catholic* (*apologies, I have since discovered that he was not a Catholic) as well as an accomplished actor.

But one of St Thomas More's most poignant lines is not included in the clip; it was made by him when he commented on the lamentable state of the Catholic Church in England and it could be just as applicable today.

More said (of the absence of backbone among the Bishops and, to a lesser degree, the priests), that the country suffered from:
                                 "........A weak clergy lacking in grace"

And this is one of the accounts of his execution on July 6th 1535......St Thomas was addressing his executioner at this point....

"After saying the Misere on his knees, he asked forgiveness, saying, 'Thou wilt do me this day a greater benefit than any mortal man can be able to give me. Pluck up thy spirit, man, and be not afraid to do thy office. My neck is very short; take heed therefore that thou strike not awry for saving thy honesty.'

Then, covering his eyes and laying his head upon the block, he removed aside his beard, saying that (he) had never committed any treason.
So with great alacrity and spiritual joy he received the fatal blow.

And then he found those words true that he had spoken often, that a man may lose his head and have no harm; yea, I say, unspeakable good and everlasting happiness.

And here is a prayer composed by the great man whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534, it is a good prayer for Catholic bloggers to adopt......a great prayer for Catholic bloggers to adopt....

Give me the grace, Good Lord
To set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men's mouths.
To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.
Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.
Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.
To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.
Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.
To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.
To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.
To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.

                                        St Thomas More - Ora pro nobis


  1. Thank you, Richard, for this inspiring post. Apart from the quality of the content, it reminded me of what a wonderful resource the Catholic blogosphere in general has proved to be.

    God bless.
    Dorothy B

  2. Very inspiring, Richard.

    On a lighter note, I found this lovely screensaver featuring Thomas More.

  3. Richard,
    Possibly, today we have only one member of the Hierarchy of England and Wales who is on par and both Catholic and Orthodox as was St. John Fisher. There is no doubt still many of the laity who have the same blood running in their veins as did St. Thomas More-Please God we will not be put to the test as they did! Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales pray us!

    God Bless,


  4. When I taught, I showed two films each term: BECKET and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, complete with a packet of lessons, writing assignments, and tests. The films (not the writing assignments!) were well-received by the young'uns of all faiths. There is hope.

  5. A Blessed Feast of St. Thomas More to all of thee!

    "A Man For All Seasons" is my favorite movie ever. It has so much resonance and power, from the plot to the setting to the glorious music! I do so wish a big-budget film would be made about St. Edmund Campion. It would be thrilling!

    By the way, does anyone know what religion Paul Scofield was?

  6. Sadly, I’m one of the few who’s not so fond of “A Man for All Seasons” or “Becket”.

    For the former, *not* its fault at all, b/c a two hour play/movie can’t bring in too much, but to me it’s like Thomas More-lite. In college I also read Yale’s “Complete Works of St. Thomas More”, and realised there was so much more to him. I was so taken by his writings; I used to devour them! One gets such a *feel* for how he sounded like -- especially alliteration! -- and then his different fields of interest are wide: biography, poetry, polemics, prayers; his letters are also of great interest.

    For the latter, the underlying inaccuracies made it very hard for me to watch; I wish the playwright had done more research. Since St. Thomas of Canterbury is one of my patron saints, it feels personal! :-D There are some lines though that just make my day, Anouilh gave the King some great lines. And the excommunication scene does provide great imaginative food.

    For myself I’d love to have something on Blessed John Henry Newman. As I’ve said to others, I have my own movie on him going on in my head! I’m constantly reading the letters and biographies and mentally picturing how the events could be filmed. Of the three main biographies, Trevor’s, I think, would be the best to adapt; she really makes the scenes come to life. However with nearly 90 years to cover, I think only a miniseries length could do justice to his life, something along the lines of “St. Teresa of Avila” with Concha Velasco, the best “saint film” I’ve ever seen.


    Here’s another excerpt from St. Thomas More, from “A deuoute prayer”:

    Almighty god, take from me al vaynglorious mindes, all appetites of myne owne praise, all enuye, couetyse, glotony, slouth and lecherye, al wrathfull affeccions, all appetite of reuengynge, al desire or delite of other folks harme, all pleasure in prouoking any parson to wrath and anger, al delite of exprobracion, or insultacion against anye parson in their affliccion and calamitie.

    And geue me good Lorde an humble, lowlye, quiet, peasible, pacient, charytable, kinde, tender, and piteful minde, with all my workes, and al my wordes and all my thoughtes, to haue a taste of thy holy holy blessed spirite.

    Geue me good Lorde, a full faythe, a firme hope, and a feruent charity, a loue to the good lorde incomparable aboue the loue to my selfe, and that I loue nothing to thy displeasure, but euery thing in an order to the.

    Geue me good lord, a longing to be wt the, not for thauoiding of the calamities of this wretched world, nor so much for ye auoiding of the paines of purgatory nor of the paines of hel neither, nor so much for the atteining of ye ioyes of heauen, in respect of mine own commodity, as euen for a very loue of the.

    pp. 229-230 of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Volume 9: The Apology.


    Pray for us, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.

    Pray for us, St. Thomas of Canterbury and Blessed John Henry Newman.

    Pray for us, Holy Mary, Virgin-Mother.

  7. Did I read that right...that Paul Scofield was a Catholic? I certainly was not aware of that. Was he a convert?

  8. Aged P - apologies, he was not a Catholic. He was a friend of a close Catholic relative and I had believed that they had shared the faith together. I was wrong and am about to amend the post.