Thursday, July 28, 2016

Films Every DeMolay Should See: A Man for All Seasons

As many of you may already know, State Master Councilor Eric Dye chose the year's theme to be "Lights, Camera, Action: DeMolay Goes Hollywood!" With this in mind, Past International Master Councilor and frequent contributor to the PA DeMolay blog, Peter Brusoe has shared a film that he feels all DeMolay's should see. Thank you Pete for your contribution to our blog.

At KeyMan University we introduced a “Films Every DeMolay Should See” course.  We screened a few films that may have fallen out of our shared cultural awareness, or zeitgeist. One film that was on my list but did not make the final cut was “A Man for All Seasons.”  If you get a chance I think it is a film that every DeMolay should see. The film dramatizes the final years of Sir Thomas More, a personal hero of mine.  The film won six academy awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, and features performances from  stars like John Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave, Susannah York, Paul Scofield, and Orson Welles. (Please google them if you don’t know who they are)

Some may have heard of Thomas More for being the author of Utopia, or have seen a dramatization of him in the Tudors or Wolf Hall on PBS.  Or chances are you may have never heard of the man.  A Man for All Seasons is a good introduction to the person and his strength of character.

Thomas More was an exceptional man for his time.  In an age where education was generally limited to men, he ensured that his daughters received the same education that his son received. A successful lawyer, More served his country in a number of different capacities including positions in parliament (the legislative body of England), and a confidant and advisor to King Henry VIII.  In 1529 he assumed the role of Lord Chancellor of England. In this role, More was in charge of the courts the great seal of England, and the chief advisor to the King of England.  While there is no functional equivalent in American government to compare the position to, perhaps a combined position of Chief Justice and Vice President of the United States. Needless to say the man had arrived at the pinnacle of power and influence for a non-royal.

King Henry VIII sought a divorce from Queen Catherine of Aragon.  In those days, divorces required approval from the Church, and while Henry requested it the church was not willing to give it.  Historically this was known as “The King’s great matter.” Eventually, the King decided if the church would not give him his divorce, he would assume control over the church. More vehemently disagreed with King Henry VIII and resigned rather than do something that would violate his personal conscience.  Hoping to retire from public life and spend a life of studying and writing, the issue kept coming up and the King forced Sir Thomas More to swear an oath that he did not believe in.  Though his friends and fellow ministers of state urged him to give in, More refused and was charged with high treason. He still did not recant. A trial was held which included a panel of judges that counted among themselves the Father, Brother and Uncle of the newly made queen.

After 15 minutes of deliberation, the judges found More guilty. He was originally sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. The King commuted the sentence to simple beheading, considered a more humane form of capital punishment.  History holds that right before his execution More exclaimed “the king's good servant, but God's first.”

The film is a great re-telling of the story and has some pretty good quotes in it and some case studies of where power may tempt people.  As you watch the film think about the different characters in the film. Which ones do you admire? Which ones do you resemble the most?  What life lessons do you take from it?

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