Wednesday 25 November 2015

Saint Thomas More, English Martyr, defending a great Catholic figure, film, DVD, Wolf's Hall, Henry VIII, Tudor England, Mary's Dowry Productions

Saint Thomas More, renowned for his writings throughout Christendom
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Thomas More' DVD

No Compromise
Taken from 'Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales'
by Henry Sebastian Bowden of the Oratory
Reading for July 5th
During his imprisonment in the Tower, Sir Thomas More's keenest trial arose from the endeavour of his beloved daughter Margaret to persuade him to take the oath, as she had done herself. She urged that he was more to the king than any man in England, and therefore ought to obey him in what was not evidently repugnant to God's law. That in favour of the oath of supremacy were all the learned men of England, and nearly all the bishops and doctors, save Fisher.

Margaret Roper, Saint Thomas More's daughter, tries to speak with
him as he is led from Westminster to the Tower of London
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Thomas More' DVD
Thomas More answered that he condemned no one for taking the oath, "for some may do it upon temporal hopes, or fear of great losses, for which I will never think any have taken it; for I imagine that nobody is so frail and fearful as myself. Some may hope that God will not impute it unto them for a sin, because they do it by constraint. Some may hope to do penance presently after, and others are of the opinion that God is not offended with out mouth, so our heart is pure; but as for my part, I dare not jeopardy myself upon these vain hopes." As to the numbers against him, he had on his side many more in other parts of Christendom, and all the doctors of the Church.
"He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth." - Matt. 12, 30.

Saint Thomas More's love of God and those around him was reflected in every moment of his life. He was a learned man who radiated joy and a deep desire to see all come to the happiness of Heaven, knowing how quickly a person's life passes in this world. Known throughout Christendom as a kind and educated man, a man of prayer and charity, Saint Thomas More was able to share the faith with everyone he met in Tudor England and abroad. He has left us an inspiring journey to reflect upon as we travel the same path through life in England today.
Saint Thomas More with Cardinal Wolsey
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
In 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions filmed various key moments from the lives of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher. These portrayals run silently beneath a narrative with original contemplative and uplifting music, offering a prayerful way to look through a window into the lives of these Saints and journey with them. While filled with historical information, facts and events in the context of English history, these films seek to offer a spiritual encounter with Saint Thomas More or Saint John Fisher.
We filmed scenes from various events in the life of Saint Thomas More over two days, with additional filming on various external locations for scenery and nature. Scenes recreated included moments with his family in Chelsea, his writings, time at court, imprisonment in the Tower of London and his last moments on Tower Hill.
The story is told from Saint Thomas More's point of view and runs for one hour. The original music was composed by Bernadette Bevans and fuses medieval and contemporary styles into a contemplative, absorbing atmosphere that accompanies Saint Thomas More.
Saint Thomas More with his family in Chelsea
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with this inspiring Tudor Saint.

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The following is an article from the Guardian Online -  showing the fruits of 500 years of protestant thought and a secular presentation of Catholic figures in history, especially in secular entertainment:
"No matter how controversial the standing of a great statesman, the passing of almost 500 years since his death might be expected to settle opinion one way or the other. Yet the power of a popular historical account, most recently Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker prize-winner Wolf Hall shows that reputations are rarely safe.
Hilary Mantel’s 2009 story of political intrigue in the court of Henry VIII, has already persuaded hundreds of thousands of readers that Thomas Cromwell, played by Mark Rylance, was an admirably modern man and not simply a grim political fixer for a self-indulgent king. But the actor Anton Lesser appears in the role of Sir Thomas More in the BBC2 series, taking up arms in a second long-running battle for the public image of a famous man. And unlike Cromwell, Thomas More was not only a key political figure in England’s history: for many he remains a revered saint.
Saint Thomas More's concern for souls included that of
his friend and King, Henry VIII.
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD

Thomas More (1478-1535), lawyer and moral philosopher, is still regarded by many Catholics as the quintessential good man. He has been held up to schoolchildren for centuries as the most significant English defender of the true Catholic faith. Hilary Mantel’s portrait, however, is of a torturer of heretics with a penchant for self-punishment and a misogynist to boot. The Catholic writer Peter Stanford suspects that many Catholics, lapsed or otherwise, will be dismayed when Mantel’s well-researched yet passionately argued slant on the merits of Cromwell versus More reaches a wider TV audience. “As a child I was told that More was a very clever man who defended the pope against a parvenu king and who would not let him fiddle around with the eternal truths so that he could have his way with another woman,” he said. “He is still revered, often alongside John Fisher, the bishop and martyr, who was beheaded by Henry VIII in the same year as More. He is important as a defender of the faith, even though we are not persecuted any more in this country. Wolf Hall is going to be hard for some people to watch because there are lots of churches named after More and several of the old recusant stately homes have relics. They frequently have part of Mary Queen of Scots’ rosary, a bit of the stick that John Fisher used to stagger up to the gallows on and something claimed to have been written by More.”
Saint Thomas More calmly ties the blindfold over his eyes
as he kneels before the block on Tower Hill, July 1535
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
Hilary Mantel, who received a Catholic education at a convent school, uproots More and places Cromwell, the king’s chief adviser, much closer to the moral core of her story – although he is rendered as complex and enigmatic. More, in contrast, cuts a dry and uncompromising figure. “Mantel may portray Thomas More as a callous religious obsessive, but for us growing up he was the exact opposite,” said Stanford. The biographer of Lord Longford adds that a religious education is such a powerful tool that many with a Catholic background will, like him, never have questioned More’s saintly status.

Saint Thomas More and Erasmus, two great thinkers of the 16th Century
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD

“Once someone has been elevated to the canon of saints, that is it really. They are beyond question for many Catholics. It tends to stop the conversation,” he said. More’s moral quality was underlined for a modern public in 1966 with the release of the hit film version of Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons. This gave cinemagoers of all faiths, and of none, a reason to look up to More as a bastion of wider humanist values. With its tight and witty screenplay, drawing convincingly on the original words of More, the film established Henry VIII’s disobedient lord chancellor as brave and full of integrity. A man who, out of a sense of personal honour as much as religious conviction, was prepared to stand in opposition to the king’s plan to go against the tenets of Rome to divorce and marry for a second time. It did no harm to More’s historical profile that he was played on screen by the late Paul Scofield in a softly spoken performance that has gone down as one of his finest. Crossing swords with a villainous Cromwell in one scene, More’s is the voice of stylish, unpretentious reason.

More: “You threaten like a dockside bully.
Cromwell: “How should I threaten?”
More: “Like a minister of state. With justice.”
Cromwell: “Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.”
More: “Then I am not threatened.”
The other piece of influential writing that has helped emphasise More’s superior character is his own book, Utopia. A philosophical argument couched in the tale of a traveller who returns from an unknown land, it has furnished English literature with many enduring ideas – not least that of a Utopia itself; a perfect, unattainable society. Published in Latin in 1516, Utopia still intrigues and amuses readers despite having been around for half a millennium. In More’s imagined Utopia, property, goods and food are all shared among the households in each city and there is a heavy emphasis on agriculture, although some weight is given to academic learning as well. When it comes to government: “Anyone who campaigns for public office becomes disqualified for holding any office at all,” he suggests. Religious tolerance is advocated, as is legal divorce, euthanasia and the adorning of male and female married priests. On the other hand, and less palatable to current taste, atheists are regarded as despicable, and most households keep slaves drawn from a ready supply of foreigners and criminals. The book, though widely studied, has always puzzled readers because many of the notions it toys with appear to run directly against More’s own Catholic convictions, not least about divorce. It also seems odd that the role of lawyers in Utopia should be held up for contempt by the man who was at one point, as lord chancellor, the leading legal authority in the land.

Saint Thomas More reads his epithalamium to King Henry VIII
and Queen Catherine of Aragon on the occasion on their wedding
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD

For Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of church history at Oxford University and a great fan of Cromwell over More, there is no denying the appeal of More’s mind. “I have seen some of the new series and More comes across as a desiccated fanatic. Well, that would be one take. It is true he has always been a controversial character partly because he became such a plaster saint, seen as unassailable in the Catholic church,” said MacCulloch. “But like Cromwell he was a complicated humanist, as well as a great stylist and the author of the wonderful Utopia. For More, I think, the whole of the late 1520s became resolved into a life and death struggle for his world. We all have our priorities and for him a united Christendom overrode his concern with mercy or with pity.”
MacCulloch admits he takes much of his understanding of the relationship between More and Cromwell from the late eminent Tudor scholar Sir Geoffrey Elton, once his doctoral supervisor at Cambridge. Elton, who wrote about Cromwell had a low opinion of More. “Elton was a little partisan perhaps, but I do find Hilary’s version compelling.” The professor, who is working on his own biography of Cromwell, is happy for popular historical fiction to engage with Tudor history. “It is not a battle between fiction and history. It is a conversation. I regard Hilary as an ally, not a threat. She has created a powerful parallel universe and historians and novelists each bring their own perspective.”
Saint Thomas More in the Tower of London
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
The screen image of More as played by Scofield has “ruled the roost for 30 or 40 years now,” MacCulloch adds, and it is time for a different view. “The problem is that anyone looks quite good when they are compared with the monstrous Henry VIII, and More did show great nobility in squaring up to him. There was also a lot of fancy footwork though, which does distract you from the fact that, in the end, More died for something he believed in.”
More, first called “a man for all seasons” by his contemporary Robert Whittington, always had a good argument to hand, and would probably have pointed out that men who are prepared to put their head on the block for an idea are not likely to be self-interested. As More once said: “If honour were profitable, everybody would be honourable.” Today, however, proofs of strong conviction and acts of religious martyrdom are no longer recognised as a fair way to win.
Saint Thomas More calmly offers his life for the Catholic Faith
which had been the Faith of England for over a thousand years
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
Our own film about Saint Thomas More is a prayerful journey with a holy man, Saint and great historical figure that offers a spiritual encounter with the Man for all Seasons, certainly relevant for our own troubled days in England.

For films on the lives of the Saints and Martyrs:

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