Archive for the ‘St. Thomas More’ Category

Captain America, St. Thomas More, & the Spirit of Truth

May 14, 2016

In the new blockbuster movie Captain America: Civil War the titular hero is discerning an important decision when he hears this message in a church:

“Compromise where you can. And where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, no. You move.”

Captain America - No, You MoveAs I watched in the movie theater, that bit about the tree struck me as odd. Trees bend and can be cut down, but pillars of iron or stone mountains don’t budge. I later discovered that these movie lines were adapted from a famous comic book speech Captain America once addressed to Spider-Man:

“When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — ‘No, you move.’”

Did you spot the difference? “Plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth.” That’s not only more beautiful, it’s also an allusion to Old Testament imagery. Psalm 1:3 says:

“[The Just Man] is like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither, and whatever he does prospers.”

And Jeremiah 17:8 says:

“[Those who trust in the Lord] are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.”

These verses teach that the just man who is rooted in the Law (or the Truth) of God prospers, and that those who trust in the Lord prevail against adversity.

I wish that Hollywood had included the fuller quote in the new Captain America movie—not only because it’s better writing, not only because it echoes Sacred Scripture, but because it better reflects the truth about where Truth comes from. My all-time favorite film disappoints me in a similar way.

A Man for All Seasons - St. Thomas More at TrialA Man for All Season won the 1966 Academy Award for Best Picture, but its depiction of its hero, St. Thomas More, falls short of perfection. In the movie, as in real life, Thomas More suffers unjust imprisonment for refusing to swear an oath recognizing King Henry VIII as the supreme head of the Catholic Church in England. The movie’s screenwriter, the agnostic Robert Bolt, drew on More’s own writings to craft some fantastic dialogues, but Bolt somewhat misrepresents the saint’s true motivations.

In one scene, Thomas More’s friend, the Duke of Norfolk, asks why he won’t just “give in.” Thomas answers, “I will not give in because I oppose it — I do — not my pride, not my spleen, nor any of my appetites, but I do — I!” The real St. Thomas More’s motivations are portrayed more accurately in the scene at his trial. He tells the court:

“The indictment [against me] is grounded in an act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to the law of God, and his Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which no temporal person may by any law presume to take upon [himself.] This was granted by the mouth of our Savior, Christ himself, to Saint Peter and the Bishops of Rome whilst He lived and was personally present here on earth. It is, therefore, insufficient in law to charge any Christian to obey it.”

The real St. Thomas More refused to sign the King’s oath because he saw in it a denial of Christ. He preferred to die rather than lose Heaven; and he did go on to die, thereby gaining Heaven. But Robert Bolt has his Thomas More conclude his courtroom speech like this:

“Nevertheless, it is not for [refusing the King’s] Supremacy that you have sought my blood, but because I would not bend to the [King’s re-marriage]!” (In other words, “No one is going to make me act contrary to my own self-will!”)

The real St. Thomas More was not standing up against the world for individually-chosen truth. (More opposed heretics when he served as King Henry’s High Chancellor.) He knew that Truth and right and wrong are not things we create for ourselves. We receive them, as water from a river. They do not flow from us as their source. The real St. Thomas More was a champion for the Truth which comes from God.

So how can we be faithful to the Truth which comes from God? How can we be planted like trees beside the River of Truth that flows from God? By prayerfully welcoming the Holy Spirit.

At his interrogation before the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus says: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (In the Holy Trinity, the Father is the Speaker, Jesus is the Word, and the Holy Spirit is the Voice) But Pilate refuses to listen. He retorts to Jesus, “What is truth?” He rejects the Spirit of Truth and walks away.

Later, at his Ascension, Jesus instructs his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high with the Spirit of Truth who will teach them everything and remind them of all he has told them. Unlike Pilate, the disciples listen to Jesus and obey him. Some 120 persons (including the apostles, the Virgin Mary, some women, and some male relatives of Jesus) gather together and all devote themselves to prayer. They pray for nine days—the Church’s first novena, and on the tenth day, on the Jewish feast of first fruits called Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, comes and fills them.

St. Peter PreachingOnce the Spirit’s fire touches their heads, the disciples know what to say and they are unafraid to say it. Previously they had been hiding behind locked doors, but now they go out into Jerusalem’s crowded streets praising and preaching Jesus. This new-found wisdom and courage are gifts from the Holy Spirit, who empowers them to begin reaping the Church’s first fruits from the world. Observe well what the disciples do, for we are called to do the same: they listen to Jesus and obey him, they gather together and pray, they receive the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and gifts, and then they go forth to speak and act powerfully in the world.

In the Gospel of John, on the last and greatest day of one of the Jewish feasts, Jesus stands up in the temple area and exclaims, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” Here the Gospel writer adds: “He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.”

The Holy Spirit is our River of Living Water. As trees planted beside him we will prosper, and by being rooted in him we will prevail against adversity. In Holy Mass let us pray to receive the Spirit wholeheartedly and to be clothed with his power. And then, filled with the Spirit of Truth, even if the whole world tells us to move, we will have the words and courage to stand our ground. By the Holy Spirit, we can be heroes for this world in desperate need of heroes, in the likeness of Captain America, St. Thomas More, and the apostles after Pentecost.

The Dying Words of Jesus & His Saints

November 14, 2014

Each November, when the dark nights lengthen and trees become bare skeletons, we especially pray for the souls of those who have gone before us in death. This is also a fitting time of year to remember and consider the certainty of our own mortality. How did Jesus and his holy ones face the end of their lives? Their dying words can both instruct and inspire us:

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

—Our Lord Jesus Christ, c. 33 AD

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

—St. Stephen, martyr, c. 34 AD

“Glory to God for all things!”

—St. John Chrysostom, 407 AD

“Your will be done. Come, Lord Jesus!”

—St. Augustine, 430 AD

“May God forgive you, brother.”

—St. Wenceslaus, martyr, 935 AD

“I have loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore I die in exile.”

—Pope St. Gregory VII, 1085 AD

“If all the swords in England were pointed against my head, your threats would not move me. I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”

—St. Thomas Becket, martyr, 1170 AD

“When you see that I am brought to my last moments, place me naked upon the ground just as you saw me the day before yesterday; and let me lie there after I am dead for the length of time it takes one to walk a mile unhurriedly.”

—St. Francis of Assisi, 1226 AD

“Be assured that he who shall always walk faithfully in God’s presence, always ready to give him an account of all his actions, shall never be separated from him by consenting to sin.”

—St. Thomas Aquinas, 1274 AD

“Leave the doors open, so that everyone may enter and see how a pope dies.”

—Bl. Pope Urban V, 1370 AD

“Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

—St. Bridget of Sweden, 1373 AD

“Blood! Blood! Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

—St. Catherine of Siena, 1380 AD

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”

—St. Joan of Arc, martyr, 1431 AD

“I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

—St. Thomas More, martyr, 1535 AD

“O, my God!”

—St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1556 AD

“After all I die as a child of the Church. My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time for us to meet one another.”

—St. Teresa of Avila, 1582 AD

“Jesus, I love you.”

—St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 1680 AD

“In all things I adore the will of God in my regard.”

—St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, 1719 AD

“Be children of the Church.”

—St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 1821 AD

“My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”

—St. Andrew Kim Taegon, martyr, 1846 AD

“Holy Mary, pray for me, a poor sinner.”

—St. Bernadette Soubirous, 1879 AD

“I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me. My God, I love you.”

—St. Therese of Lisieux, 1897 AD

“To restore all things in Christ.”

—Pope St. Pius X, 1914 AD

“Long live Christ the King!”

—Bl. Miguel Pro, S.J., martyr, 1927 AD

“Jesus. Maria.”

—St. Pio of Pietrelcina, 1968 AD

“Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.”

—Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 1997 AD

“Let me go to the house of the Father.”

—St. John Paul the Great, 2005 AD

What do you want to be your dying words?

Neat Things About “A Man For All Seasons”

August 21, 2014

“A Man For All Seasons” was 1966’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, and it is my all-time favorite movie. This YouTube video I made presents a number of interesting things you never knew about this wonderful film. I invite you to watch, “like,” and “share” it.

 

Checkout Catholic Movies

July 14, 2010

Did you know the St. Vincent DePaul Society just two blocks from St. John’s (location) has a library of Christian movies, books, and CD’s free for checkout? Pick up the films below for a spiritually edifying and entertaining evening:

The Ten Commandments (1956, VHS, 219 min)
Moses faces Pharoah demanding “Let my people go!”
+ Charleton Heston, Yul Brynner, and a cast of thousands
+ Regarded as the greatest Biblical epic of all-time
+ In *Technicolor*!

For another film about a great shepherd of God’s people, I recommend…

John Paul II (2005, DVD, 180 min)
A dramatic biography about Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II
+ Regarded as the best drama about the Great Pope
+ Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) plays the young Wojtyla
+ Jon Voight stars as Pope John Paul II
— The latter half is better; I suggest skipping to the conclave

For another film about a character who becomes a new man midway into the film, I recommend…

Becket (1964, VHS,  150 min)
St. Thomas Becket’s conversion makes him King Henry II’s enemy
+ Good dialogue, verbal sparring
+ A great excommunication scene
+ Teaches that personal conversion is possible

For another film with another English Thomas crossing with another King Henry, I most highly recommend…

A Man for All Seasons (1966, DVD, 120 min)
St. Thomas More’s conviction makes him King Henry VIII’s enemy
+ Won Best Picture, Actor, Director, Cinematography
— This title can be mistaken for another starring Charlton Heston
+ Brilliant dialogue, drawn from More’s own words
+ My all-time favorite film, it’s almost perfect…
— Gives More a pride at heart inconsistent with his character
+ Teaches the awesomeness and the attractiveness of virtue

For another film about religious conviction not bowing to the politics of the age, I recommend…

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005, DVD, 117 min)
A German girl is arrested for writing against the Nazis during WWII
— Subtitled
+ The lead actress is captivating
+ Great verbal combat throughout the interrogation and trial
— Ends sadly, like A Man for All Seasons
+ Shows times can cloud truth, but that conscience still speaks

For another film about another Christian who heroically resisted the Nazis, I suggest…

Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz (1995, VHS, 76 min)
St. Maximilian Kolbe is a knight for Mary in a darkened age
+ All roles are interestingly played by one man, Leonardo Defilippis
— The recurring theme music is not bad, but overplayed
+ Satan’s speeches are enjoyable in a Screwtape Letters way
— A tad too preachy by way of the masonic, communist, Nazi foes
+ Presents the value and power of Marian devotion

For another film by Defilippis about a saint whose faith was a spiritual romance, I suggest…

John of the Cross (1997, VHS, 60 min)
A Spanish mystic seeks God and reform with St. Teresa of Avila
+ Leonardo and Patti Defilippis play all of the major roles
+ Gives a taste of John’s spirituality, quoting his Spiritual Canticle

For another film by Defilippis about a Carmalite Doctor of the Church, I suggest…

Therese (2004, DVD 96 min)
Thérèse of Lisieux’s story, the most popular saint of modern times.
+ Anyone with a fondness for her will gain from this movie
+ The lead actress, whom Providence led to this production, shines
— Criticized for not being as good as it should have been
— One gets no clear sense of her simple, “Little Way” spirituality
+ This film increases one’s love for this great, little saint

For another film about a holy nun’s experiences in the convent, I recommend…

Faustina (1994, DVD, 75 min)
Jesus tells a Polish nun, St. Faustina, to proclaim Divine Mercy
— Subtitled
+ A work of art of profound depth
+ Her love for Jesus and message of mercy are communicated well
+ Teaches that Jesus’ Mercy embraces all willing to receive it

For another film about supernatural phenomena and the value of suffering, I recommend…

Padre Pio: Miracle Man (2000, DVD, 214 min)
St. Padre Pio bears Christ’s wounds, reads souls, & battles Satan
— Subtitled; English is optional but its voices and dialogue are poor
— Long, 3 hours and 34 minutes, presented in two halfs.
+ Great scenes, like the actresses’ confession and His spiritual battles
+ Teaches, among other lessons, that holiness is manly

For another film about a Franciscan priest with amazing spiritual gifts, I recommend…

The Reluctant Saint: The Story of St. Joseph of Cupertino (1962, VHS, 104 min)
An unintelligent man rises to the heights of sanctity
— Black and white
+ Joseph is played handsomely and enduringly
+ Rather funny, if you are in a fun mood
— Runs about fifteen minutes longer than it needs to
+ Shows a little of the old ritual for exorcism, which is interesting
+ Teaches that God takes the weak and makes them strong

For another film about a simple mystic who was doubted in their day, I recommend…

The Song of Bernadette (1943, DVD or VHS 158 min)
St. Bernadette Soubirous’ sees Mary appear in Lourdes, France
— Black and white
+ Jennifer Jones, at her most innocent, in a Best Actress role
+ Vincent Price (Thriller) plays the skeptic
+ Teaches that God is still real and found among the small

For another film about the life of the Visionary of Lourdes, I recommend…

The Passion of Bernadette (1989, VHS, 106 min)
St. Bernadette Soubirous’ life after entering the convent
+ Sydney Penny reprises her role as Bernadette
+ Shows that humility is beautiful

For another film about a great French saint, I recommend…

Monsieur Vincent (1947, DVD, 114 min)
St. Vincent DePaul grows in his understanding and care of the poor
— Subtitled
— Black and white
+ Gritty, yet beautiful
+ Well crafted characters
+ Teaches us to love our neighbor as ourself

For another film about charity and our resposibility to the poor, I highly recommend…

Entertaining Angels: The Dorthy Day Story (1996, VHS, 112 min)
Dorthy Day’s journey from communist to Catholic humanitarian
+ Stars Moira Kelly (The Cutting Edge) and Martin Sheen
+ Heather Graham (Austin Powers 2) does surprisingly good acting
— Contains an historical, non-graphic nor explicit abortion subplot
+ Teaches that life’s meaning is in committed personal life

For another film with an American, pro-life message, I highly recommend…

Bella (2006, DVD, 91 min)
A man with emotional scars helps a friend through a crisis
— Not a true story
+ Rich characters
+ Shows that life is beautiful, in every sense of the word

For another film about escaping prisons of the heart, I recommend…

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002, VHS, 131 min)
A falsely-condemned Frenchmen escapes prison and plots revenge
— Not a true story
+ Stars Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) charmingly
+ Richard Harris (Harry Potter) portrays a good Christian
+ In a great scene, a fight to the death has a surprising end
+ Explores the Problem of Evil vs. Providence in a powerful way

For another film about an imposter who gradually becomes a real hero, I recommend……

Meet John Doe (1941, DVD, 122 min)
A feel good movie about American values and the little guy
+ This film is in the public domain; click above to watch it now
— Black and white
— Not a true story
+ Directed by Frank Capra (It’s A Wonderful Life)
+ Teaches about the enduring strength of the little guy