The following is a reflection for the Feast Day of St. Thomas More, June 22.
In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann released a film that was eventually selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The movie was called High Noon, and it starred Gary Cooper as a retired lawman who was being hunted down by a criminal he once brought to justice. In the film, Gary Cooper had to make the decision whether or not to stand up to this criminal and his posse… or leave town. While everyone in the town begged him to do the “smart” thing and leave, Gary Cooper decided to stay and face the bad guys in a gun battle to the death.
Now, why am I talking about a 50s western? Because in 1966, the same director released a movie that would not only win him an Oscar for Best Director, it would win Best Picture. The film was called A Man For All Seasons and it was based on the life on the saint whose feast we celebrate today: Thomas More. Much like Gary Cooper’s character in High Noon, Saint Thomas More was faced with making a principled decision, a decision that no one wanted him to make and a decision that could cost him his life. Again, all around him—even his family—begged him to do the “smart” thing and just go along with the crowd: support the divorce of King Henry the Eighth of England like everybody else and just get on with his life.
What Gary Cooper’s character and Thomas More had in common in both stories is that they both lived up to Jesus’ admonition to “enter through the narrow gate.” However, while they both went through the narrow gate and stuck true to their principles, Thomas Moore challenges us to reflect on the WAY WE FIGHT our battles. Because while Gary Cooper’s character chose to fight his battle with a gun, Thomas More fought his battle with his wits and his faith in the righteousness of God.
All of us have times in our lives when we face “High Noon.” “High Noon” for us might be a disagreement with a co-worker; it may involve a choice between a commitment to social justice or simply doing what is expedient. It may even involve a fight that we have with a part of ourselves that is holding us back from being all that God created us to be.
What Saint Thomas More encourages us to do through his example is to fight those battles—not with violence—but grounded in the love of God.