Installation Scene From Becket

Thursday, December 29, AD 2016

 

If we who are called bishops desire to understand the meaning of our calling and to be worthy of it, we must strive to keep our eyes on him whom God appointed high priest for ever, and to follow in his footsteps. For our sake he offered himself to the Father upon the altar of the cross. He now looks down from heaven on our actions and secret thoughts, and one day he will give each of us the reward his deeds deserve.

Saint Thomas Becket

 

In honor of the feast day of Saint Thomas Becket, a reminder of the history of Catholic England, when Catholics were willing to stand against the State if need be to protect the Honor of God.   Becket (1964), although inheriting the historical howlers that existed in the play, and were known by the playwright Jean Anouilh who wisely preferred a poetic story to prosaic fact,  (Becket was Norman not Saxon, Henry II was not a crowned juvenile delinquent, the armor, as is usual in medieval epics, is all wrong for the period, etc.), this classic film helped awaken in me a desire to learn about the history of the Church.  With masterful performances by Richard Burton as “the holy blessed martyr” and Peter O’Toole as Henry II, the film brought alive to me as a child the high Middle Ages.  The installation sequence brought home to me the important role of ceremony, tradition and symbolism in our Faith, a lesson I have never forgotten.

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3 Responses to Installation Scene From Becket

  • I remember going to see the movie “Becket” as if it was yesterday. Actually, it was nearly 50 years ago. I had been discharged from the U.S. Air Force that Fall and was attending College on the G.I. Bill. I was lonely because everyone I knew in High School had married and/or moved to parts unknown. I had been gone for four years.
    To my great delight, I discovered that there was this one girl, whom I had always had my eye on, but never could get up the moxie to ask out, a beautiful and poised young lady, that was still available and unattached ! I asked her out, and she said “yes” !
    Well sir, I cleaned up the eight year old Impala that I had saved for to attend College with. And she sparked and shined. All except the one frayed patch on the passenger seat. I couldn’t afford new seat covers.
    We attended the movie “Becket”, the one with Burton and O’Toole. And the acting was great. I felt great. And I hoped that Virginia was as impressed with me, as I was with her !
    When we arrived back at her place, I noticed that she seemed kind of angry. I was trying to suggest that we go elsewhere for a bite. But she said no.
    Actually, as I helped her out of the car, she shouted, “Don;t ever pick me up again in that piece of crap !” And she gestured towards the Impala.
    Yessir, the movie was great. I never saw her again.
    Timothy R.

  • That Impala saved you from a lot of pain Tim!

  • In high school we were encouraged to see Becket and a Man For All Seasons which encouraged my interest in English saints. Two thomases martyred by the two Henrys. Having attended St. Thomas More grade school and with a birthday of December 29th I was already partial to these great saints who refused to compromise their faith by acquiescing to the Crown. Years later while on leave in England another WAVE and I caught the last train to Canterbury. We arrived just in time for Vespers/Evensong. It was an awesome experience to listen to the choir near the site of Thomas a Becket’s martyrdom.

Saint Thomas Becket and Three Plays

Wednesday, May 25, AD 2011

 

Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.

TS Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

The investiture scene from the movie Becket (1964).  The story of the great Archbishop of Canterbury Saint Thomas Becket, who, from being the worldly Chancellor of King Henry II, became the great champion of the Church in life, and a greater champion in death, has always attracted artists and writers.  In our time Jean Anouilh wrote the play Becket, brilliantly brought to the screen in the 1964 film.  Filled with historical howlers, Becket was Norman not Saxon for example, it brilliantly captures the clash between Henry and the man who had been his friend and loyal servant, but who served a Greater Master after Henry, over his protest, had him raised to be Archbishop of Canterbury.

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3 Responses to Saint Thomas Becket and Three Plays

  • Last Fall I saw a tremendous off-broadway performance of ‘Murder in the Cathedral” by the Brooklyn Arts HQ and performed in an actual cathedral (well, a majestic parish church anyway — St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Brooklyn, NY). Excellent production of this great play enhanced by the staging in a church.

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  • Much to my regret Kurt I have never seen a live performance of Murder in the Cathedral. My dream would be a dual revival of Anouilh’s Becket and Murder in the Cathedral with the plays being show on alternating nights.

14 Responses to Canterbury Dreamin’

  • Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

    This calendar says today is “Armed Forces Day.” “Flag Day” is in June.

    From the movie, “The Sand Pebbles”, Captain Collins (Richard Crenna) addressing the crew:

    “At home in America, when today reaches them, it will be Flag Day. For us who wear the uniform, every day is Flag Day.

    “All Americans are morally bound to die for our flag if called upon to do so. Only we are legally bound. Only we live our lives in a day to day readiness for that sacrifice. We have sworn oaths — cut our ties.

    “It is said there will be no more wars. We must pretend to believe that. But when war comes, it is we who will take the first shock, and buy time with our lives. It is we who keep the Faith.

    “We serve the flag. The trade we all follow is the give and take of death. It is for that purpose that the people of America maintain us. Anyone of us who believes he has a job like any other, for which he draws a money age, is a thief of the food he eats, and a trespasser in the bunk in which he lies down to sleep.”

  • A good comment T. Shaw. It has absolutely zero to do with the subject of my post, but a good comment nevertheless. Perhaps you were projecting into the future your comment on one of my Memorial Day posts next weekend? 🙂

    All future comments to this post, please stay on topic.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed that video and the commentary that followed pretty much says it all!

    Excellent!

  • Thank you Tito. The clever folks at History For Music Lovers are an endless source of inspiration.

  • A wonderful post. I took a course on Chaucer as a freshman in college and have loved him ever since. My love of his poetry was all the greater because I learned to recite it in Middle English. How delightful!

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  • Be careful about wishing for “a society dominated by a unifying faith” if that unifying faith turns out to be something other than Christianity.

  • I would not put the Prioress up as an exemplary Religious. She seems more like a timeserver, with her lapdogs and her ‘Amor vincit omnia’ necklace. Her tale is in a complex form associated more with ‘courtly love’ and its amorality than with the stories of the saints. She also pretends to a world savvy she does not have – she speaks French, but with an English accent. Her tale is a version of the blood libel against Jews which was popular at the time – but which Pope after Pope had condemned.

  • “Be careful about wishing for “a society dominated by a unifying faith” if that unifying faith turns out to be something other than Christianity.”

    Well actually MR the absence of a unifying faith centered in Catholicism creates a vacumn that other faiths have been busily trying to fill, often with disastrous results. I expect this process to continue as the religious impulse for a society as well as individuals has to be satisfied somehow, hence the desire to make politics into a substitute religion or to proclaim sex as the end of life, or any of the other dead ends that our society has run down since the Reformation. I doubt if the world of medieval Catholicism could be recreated as a practical matter, but that does not mean that we should not bitterly regret the passing of a time when more than 90% of the population was Catholic and to accurately assess the societal pathologies that the absence of this reality has caused in our culture.

  • True points Donna but Chaucer also emphasizes her tender heart and her deep faith. As for the regrettable anti-Semitism of her tale, I doubt if Chaucer personally knew any Jews since they had been expelled from England in 1292 by Edward I. They are summoned on as stock villians to add to the pathos of the tale the Prioress was telling and to emphasize her deep pity for the murder of the child saint.

  • Yes, the Middle Ages produced great saints like St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Thomas Becket. But we live in a world that does not want to go back to its Catholic roots. I, for one, try the best I can not to be taken in by the latest monstrosity produced by modern culture. Maybe someday, I will move to the suburbs. And turn off the television at night. And have my children home-schooled.

  • “But we live in a world that does not want to go back to its Catholic roots. ”

    For the time being. Times change, and I think where the Church is concerned time has proven almost always a useful ally.

  • One heart at a time. Remember that Jesus had only twelve people on his side when He started.

  • Very true MR, and three centuries later the Roman Emperor was bowing before the cross. For staying power and success over vast amounts of time no institution, as one would expect, can match the Church founded by Christ.

Installation Scene From Becket

Friday, October 23, AD 2009

In honor of the Anglican initiative of Pope Benedict this week, a reminder of the history of Catholic England, when Catholics were willing to stand against the State if need be to protect the Honor of God.   Becket (1964), although inheriting the historical howlers that existed in the play, and were known by the playwright Jean Anouilh who wisely preferred a poetic story to prosaic fact,  (Becket was Norman not Saxon, Henry II was not a crowned juvenile delinquent, the armor, as is usual in medieval epics, is all wrong for the period, etc.), this classic film helped awaken in me a desire to learn about the history of the Church.  With masterful performances by Richard Burton as “the holy blessed martyr” and Peter O’Toole as Henry II, the film brought alive to me as a child the high Middle Ages.  The installation sequence brought home to me the important role of ceremony, tradition and symbolism in our Faith, a lesson I have never forgotten.

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Installation Scene From Becket

  • Watching the excommunication scene is still frightening to me. As it should be, I suppose. I would half expect a large chasm to open up under Lord Gilbert the moment the Archbishop snuffs out the candle.

  • That was a very good scene. My favorite line from the movie is uttered after Becket has announced he is appealing to the Pope and a Baron calls him a traitor and advances upon him with sword drawn. “Sheathe your sword, Morville, before you impale your soul upon it!”

  • Huh. I just realized that Peter O’Toole was Henry II twice. Too bad there’s no Eleanor of Aquitane cameo by Katherine Hepburn! 🙂

  • My forebears (Becketts) came from London. They owned a brickworks on the Thames. In 1970 I had a young englishman from London working for me when I lived in Rotorua – his father was a builder in London, and John Oakes worked with him – they used to buy Beckett’s bricks for their building work.
    My father tried to dig further back than the 17th.century, but ran out of time, and couldn’t afford to go back to London from here (NZ)
    So we don’t know whether or not our family line is the same as St.Thomas.

    But I claim it anyway 🙂

    Don Beckett.

  • This moment in history is not only significant with respect to the great matter of Catholic/Anglican reunification but also to vindicate those who were literally severely tortured to death at Tyburn (i.e., <a href='http://www.tyburnconvent.org.uk/home/martyrs.html'the 105 martyrs) several centuries ago and all subsequent English recusants who likewise suffered a similar fate; that these did not die in vain!

    From 1535 to 1681 Tyburn was transformed into a place of cruelty, torture and execution for men and women who suffered on Tyburn Tree for their religious belief. According to the laws of the land in force at that time, it became an act of high treason to be a Catholic priest, or to associate with Catholic priests. It was also legal treason to refuse to accept the King as “the only Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England”, in the reign of King Henry VIII from 1534 onwards. Under Queen Elizabeth I similar laws continued. Under Charles I and Charles II especially similar laws brought many Catholic priests to martyrdom on Tyburn Tree. The infamous Titus Oates Plot and the persecution following it from 1678 to 1681 was the final stage of this one hundred and fifty years of religious persecution against Catholics.

    These 105 Catholic Martyrs of Tyburn suffered death then, because they freely chose fidelity to the Bishop of Rome as the true Head of the Church on earth. They also suffered death at Tyburn because they were ‘Mass saying priests”‘ or helped such priests.

    In the words of one historical account, “To inflict the extremity of torture on a Catholic was the highest joy.”

    May these who have long since joined the Communion of Saints experience certain satisfaction at the prospect that those very elements which made what once was Catholic England are now rightly being recovered and its ancient patrimony restored.

    P.S. Anybody seen the miniseries entitled, “Augustine: The Decline of the Roman Empire”, which Pope Benedict XVI actually previewed in September where the Pope himself gave a positive review?

    If so, I’d be interested in knowing their personal opinion of it and the details of where and when they saw it. Thanks.

    Here’s a link to its Trailer: