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Here is how Bishop Robert Barron and journalist John L. Allen, Jr. describe A Man for All Seasons in their recent book To Light a Fire on Earth – Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age:
“On any list of slam-dunk Christian classics, A Man for All Seasons would have something close to top billing. It’s the story of St. Thomas More, the great English lawyer and politician who refused to sacrifice his conscience in order to approve the divorce and remarriage of the king he served, Henri VIII. Barron has credited More’s life, and the 1966 film that captured it, with getting across three basic insights: We’re all responsible for upholding the rights of others; accepting one’s duties often leads to discomfort; and despite the second point, you don’t have to be gloomy about it.”
Barron says, “My favorite line is from an early scene with More and Richard Rich, a young, ambitious Cambridge graduate who wants a position at court. More tells him that he can find him a job as a teacher in a local school. Crestfallen, Rich complains ‘If I were a teacher, who would know it? More replies, ‘You, your friends, your pupils, God… not a bad public, that.’ That statement sums up the whole Christian spiritual life, in many ways. You’re playing to one audience. To use [Hans Urs von] Balthasar’s language, it’s not the ego-drama but the theo-drama that matters.”
The St. John Paul II National Shrine recently hosted the exhibit God’s Servant First – The Life and Legacy of St. Thomas More. A Man for All Seasons tells the story of this great statesman whose integrity and determination serve as an example for us today. In the exhibit catalog, the Forward cites G.K. Chesterton’s 1929 observation that Thomas More “is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death… but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years’ time.” Now, eighty-nine years later, Chesterton’s words seem prescient.