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Saint Thomas More, Patron of Lawyers and Jurists, Martyr
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Posted on 06/21/2009 6:27:01 PM PDT by Salvation
Saint Thomas More
Patron of Lawyers and Jurists, Martyr
February 7, c. 1477------ July 6, 1535
Feast Day: July 6 [Traditional], June 22 [New]
"The King's good servant-----but God's first!"
"O Lord, if it be Thy will, give me a share in Thy chalice."
Saint Thomas More was a man of subtle complexity, yet utterly humble. The son of a lawyer, the Londoner, Sir John More, he, too would take the bar. By the age of 32 he was already accomplished, having completed his education at Oxford. As a layman in the London soon to be drenched with the blood of Catholic Martyrs, he practiced the self-denial and piety of the Carthusian Monks, which was a blessing since he would follow them to Martyrdom; he then married and had four children while holding several influential posts-----administrator, ambassador, judge, counselor, in particular personal counsel to Henry, and was known as a scholar. But he was for all practical purposes "a commoner" because he so readily identified with the poor and those who suffered injustice at the hands of the powerful. The little man, dispossessed and ignored, could count on a "friend" at court. An amiable, naturally kind man, he would earn his reputation as a strong debater, regardless of whose egos might be bruised, because the truth and the justice that it engenders was his hallmark.
One could say he had the misfortune of serving under King Henry VIII. That is, if one were a worldly person with little or no Catholic sense. In fact it was God's magnificent will that Sir Thomas would exchange the title, Sir, for Saint and Martyr through the aegis of the King. Henry had appointed Thomas to replace Cardinal Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, the highest government post at the time. Although he knew instinctively that Sir Thomas would not support his move to divorce Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Queen Isabella of Spain, in order to marry the scheming concubine Ann Boleyn, he thought that he would be able to circumvent any objections from his new Lord Chancellor. The year was 1529 and Henry was coming to the conclusion that the Holy See in Rome would never grant his "annulment" and that he would have to subvert the authority of the Holy Catholic Church by superseding her, in effect becoming his own Pope with his own hijacked Church complete with many intimidated prelates [the threat of execution] and all her holdings in England.
There are often two opposing viewpoints about the King Henry-Sir Thomas More affair, with no room for the complexity of the legal mind of our Martyr. One side insists that he died "for freedom of conscience" which is far from reality, and the other that he was either cowardly or not cowardly enough, so to speak. The latter was held by his wife, although to be sure she would have used another description for the husband she loved so intensely, and by some of his friends. Those who judged him a coward belonged to what could be characterized as "legal Jansenists" who thought he should have taken the same approach as Bishop John Fisher, although in the end they both gave their lives as Catholics and were canonized. God creates us with unique personalities that influence individual actions that lead to heroic sanctity.
Briefly, this is what happened: You are also referred to St. John Fisher's directory.
Henry asked the sainted Bishop and Saint John Houghton, a Carthusian, and Prior of the London Charterhouse to take the oath that Henry was the supreme head of the Catholic Church in England, which they refused, denouncing his claim as heresy itself, which, of course it was. When Sir Thomas was asked to swear to the same oath, he simply refused, without lambasting Henry as a heretic. Being a layman he had the idea, and it is not without merit, that to boldly chance Martyrdom when it can be avoided is "to tempt God", especially since it is primarily the duty and purview of the clergy to instruct as to heresy and contempt of scared things. He said:
"God made the Angels to show Him splendor------as He made animals for innocence
and plants for their simplicity. But man He made to serve Him wittily, in the
tangle of his mind! If He suffers us to fall to such a case that there is no escaping,
then we may stand to our tackle as best we can, and yes, then we may clamor
Now Thomas had the spirituality of a Franciscan working among men and not that of a contemplative monk. And it was not that he had no theological temperament and a grasp of doctrine, for indeed he was learned and had written treatises in defense of the Faith against the blasphemous claims of Martin Luther, whom he referred to as "a raving baboon." In fact he early on realized the central importance of the Holy Mass and that everything else depends on how it fares. It was that his comprehension of the nature of the authority of the Papacy was less developed and certain, especially since at that time the arrangements between Church and state were such as they had been for centuries, with kings appointing bishops, if not consecrating them.
In his retort to Luther he argued that the Church was unified by faith, not by charity, because: 1) the Church had to be visible like its incarnate founder, and charity was impossible to see, whereas a man's faith could be seen as orthodox or heretical. And 2) because the Church contained sinners (lacking charity) as well as Saints. Further, he refuted Luther's notion of the utter equality of all believers: No, he said------the Church is given real authority because it is the body of Christ, to Whom has been given all authority in Heaven and on earth, and this authority is conferred differently to different members of the Church. Thus authority in the Church is a very immediate result of its Divine foundation. And if authority is real, so is obedience. Obedience is not a tactic for muddling through various obstacles, but is a positive, central, sometimes heroic virtue for those who would imitate Him Who was obedient unto death.
When More spoke of "the tangle of a man's mind" it was in regard to conscience, but he did not mean the kind of conscience that is formed out of a private law made up by oneself in order to justify disobedience. His "tangle' to form conscience to was to discover most carefully what the Church meant by the supremacy of Peter, and then form his mind to that of the mind of Christ. He took great pains to understand what he was being asked by God to do and until he discerned this with certainty he opted for silent refusal rather than outright decrying the matter.
Actually Henry was asking him to obey an illicit order, not argue his authority per se as King of the realm. But to accomplish this in fidelity to the Faith he had to refuse to follow Henry into heresy, dissent and the eventual folly of novelty. Henry took this as an affront to his authority, as if to deny his kingship. More always said he was the King's good servant but God's first, that is he served another King under whom all other kings must submit in obedience to their Creator. This new quandary for a devout Catholic who found himself having to defy an illegal order of a legitimate monarch required a special name, RECUSANT, that is, a technical legal term which came to designate in general a Catholic who for reasons of faith refused orders of the civil authority, and in particular a Catholic who disobeyed the civil law which required him to attend services of the Anglican religion. He disobeyed not in a spirit of disobedience but in a spirit of fidelity and submission to a higher law, that of Divine law.
Now, some background details in the tragic downfall of Henry, once a staunch defender of the Faith, whose moral lapses and cruelty were not to be undone by his hubris, and who would serve to impel Thomas More to Sainthood.
The source for this segment is:
THE RISE AND GROWTH OF THE ANGLICAN SCHISM by the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Sander, who was ordained in 1562. The work in English-----the original was in Latin-----was first published in 1877. After each paragraph the number in brackets is the page from which it was excerpted. The work has been re-released by Tan Books. The above link will take you to the exact page where it is listed for sale, a bargain at 18.00, for the book is almost 400 pages with a summary of the Schism called the Annals of the Schism. We retained the original English usage.
Everybody was at this time talking of the divorce. All those urged it on in every way who thought that their advancement could be secured only by disturbances, for they saw a road open to the highest honours through the divorce. On the other hand, those who confessed the faith, loving only the truth, defended the cause of the queen, abandoned openly by men, as the most just. Books were everywhere written-----some in defence of the marriage, others against it. One of the books attacking the marriage ,vas presented to the king, and read in the presence of many bishops in the palace of Cardinal Wolsey, but most of the prelates dared say nothing either in favour of the truth or in condemnation of the king beyond this, that there were passages in the book which might reasonably make the king scrupulous about the marriage of himself and queen Catherine. Every good man, and every learned man, was strongly against the divorce, and hardly anybody but the impious and the ignorant favoured it; nor was the king so dull as not to see that his cause met with grave opposition, and was in peril of being lost. 
He sends for Thomas More, whom he knew to be a man of the highest ability, exceedingly learned and perfectly honest, and asks him his opinion about the marriage. More at the time was a member of the council, but he was not yet chancellor. He answered candidly that he did not at all approve of the divorce. Henry did not like the answer, but he would leave no stone unturned to serve his purpose, so he promised the highest rewards to Sir Thomas if he would conform his view to that of the king, and then commanded him to take counsel on the subject with Dr. Fox, provost, of King's College, Cambridge. This Dr. Fox was the most zealous of all the promoters of the divorce. But so far from changing his opinion after the conference was More, that he would have urged the king with far greater freedom not to put away his wife, if he had the opportunity; but the king never touched upon the subject again, though in other affairs the services of More were regarded above those of all others. The king used to say that if Sir Thomas More were won over to his side, it would do more for him than the assent of half his kingdom. . . . [31-32]
. . . Henry was held back not so much by his respect for the laws of the Church as by his fear of the emperor Charles V; for he knew too well that the emperor would not patiently endure the divorce of his aunt, and that his own subjects would be angry if he entered into new and questionable relations with the French, and deserted the ancient alliance of the house of Burgundy, with which they were bound by the gainful bonds of trade. He saw also that men loved and admired the queen for her goodness, while Anne Boleyn was everywhere regarded as a woman of unclean life, and that Wolsey, his chief minister, was not so earnest in the matter as he had been; and last of all, he remembered the account he had one day to give before the judgment-seat of God. The thought of this pursued him night and day; he could come to no decision, and was unable to sleep. Whether he had friends he knew not, but he was certain he had enemies; and besides this, his own conscience condemned him, and he regarded his life as joyless. 
But when he could not indulge his passions except on the condition of making Anne Boleyn his wife, and was by some told that his marriage with Catherine was against law, knowing also that he had rendered such services to Pope Clement, in return for which he might confidently expect that the Pope would do for him all that he, was asking him to do, and that both the neighbouring princes and his own subjects would yield before the authority of the Pope, he doggedly made up his mind, overcome by his passions, to put Catherine away, to make Anne his wife, and disregard the emperor, then . . . And certainly if the Roman Pontiff were not he whom, because he sits in the see of Peter, the effectual prayer of Christ Himself has made strong in the faith (St. Luke xxii. 32), there was every appearance that Clement would have yielded in everything to the wishes of the king. [33-34]
While the king was thus tormented, Wolsey was also troubled in the same way, carried to and fro in the tumult of his thoughts. At one moment he was glad to see the emperor slighted by the king, at another grieved at the elevation of Anne Boleyn to the highest rank. At one time he was afraid the king would dismiss him with contempt and find other means to obtain the divorce, at another time he hoped that the king's passion for Anne Boleyn would die out, and that he might be persuaded to marry the sister of the most Christian king. Anyhow the Cardinal, domineered by his lust of power, forced himself to satisfy the desires of the king. . . . 
. . . Thomas Cranmer, from the household of Anne Boleyn, was chosen as judge by the plaintiff in the suit on the condition of pronouncing the sentence of divorce. He . . . boldly declared that the king was bound by the Divine law to put Catherine away, and that he was free to marry again. But Henry himself, holding the judge and the sentence in his own hand, and knowing well what the end would be, had already married Anne Boleyn, though he had put off the solemn celebration of the wedding till Easter Eve. Anne therefore was on that day, the day kept in honour of our Lord's burial, the 12th of April (1533), brought forth before the world as the king's wife, and on the 2d of June next following was crowned, and on the 7th day of September, in the same year, in the fifth month after the marriage was publicly celebrated, gave birth to Elizabeth, Henry's child. It is clear, therefore, that there must have been a secret marriage. [109-110]
Elizabeth was baptized at Greenwich, and then the king called upon every bishop, and upon every person in orders, upon all the nobles, and upon every Englishman whatsoever of full age, to take an oath that Elizabeth ,vas the next and the lawful heir to the kingdom of England. At the same time he robbed Mary, the daughter of Catherine, as being the issue of a marriage that was unlawful, of her right to the throne. That oath was tendered to John Fisher, the bishop of Rochester, and to Thomas More. The latter seeing the king rushing headlong into all wickedness, had not long before resigned the chancellorship. They refused to take the oath, and were thrown into prison. As Sir Thomas More was led into the Tower of London, the warder of the prison was standing at the gate, and as usual demanded the upper garments of the prisoner. Sir Thomas, who was always cheerful, took off his cap and handed it to him at once; but the warder said, "I do not mean this, but the cloak which you have on." " Surely," said Sir Thomas, "the cap is the upper garment, for it covers the upper part of the body." Thus this saintly man, at the very doors of the prison, which to most men is full of terror, amused himself as if he were at a feast. He used to say that the world at large, into which man was driven when banished out of Paradise because of sin, was nothing else but a prison, out of which men are called every day to answer for themselves. His prison was smaller than the prisons of other great men, and he thanked God for it, for of those things which are not pleasant the least is preferable. His blessed soul cheered itself with thoughts of this kind. [110-111]
At this time the name of the nun Anne Barton (a virtuous religious, who had foretold that Catherine's daughter Mary would reign before Elizabeth------the Web Master) was in all men's mouths. She said that Henry was no longer a king, because he reigned not of God; . . . by an act of Parliament she was condemned and put to death, together with two Bendictines and two Franciscans, all of whom believed her to have spoken, moved by the spirit of God. [111-112]
Note from the Web Master: It is rather ironic that all five of them were charged with the crime of heresy, "heresy" to disapprove of scandal and "sin" to announce the unplanned for result.
Sir Thomas More, among others, had carefully tested the spirit of the nun, and was unable to discover in it any trace of that fanaticism which was maliciously laid to her charge at the time. What is certain is this, that she said that in due time things would come to pass which were at that time regarded as impossible; for Mary, who then was made to give way to Elizabeth, came afterwards to the throne before her, and in her own right. 
Out of all the clergy, none withstood the divorce with greater freedom than the Friars minor, commonly called the Observants. They, indeed, both in public disputations, and in their sermons, most earnestly maintained that the marriage of Catherine was lawful . . . For this the king so hated all the Friars of the Obeservance, that . . . he drove them out of every monastery of their order . . . 
. . . Parliament assembled, and Henry, for the purpose of revenging himself still more upon the Pope, took away from him all jurisdiction and power over the English and the Irish, and declared every one who should henceforth acknowledge the Pope's jurisdiction guilty of high treason. He made an onslaught on the word Pope, and gave orders that for the future the Roman Pontiff should be called, not the Pope, but the bishop of Rome only. He himself, the king alone, was to be considered supreme head of the Anglican Church, to whom above all others it belonged, by his full authority, to correct all errors, heresies, and abuses in the Church of England. The first-fruits of all benefices were to be paid to him, and also the tithes of all ecclesiastical dignities. The king had the laws executed with such severity that a man might be condemned to death if he left unerased the name of the Pope in any book belonging to him. The name of the Pope was blotted out of all calendars, indexes, the fathers, the canon law, and the schoolmen. People were forced to write in the beginning of their copies of the works of St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustin, St. Leo, St. Gregory, and St. Prosper, that if the books contained anything in defence or confirmation of the authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, they rejected that word, opinion, or reason at once, and would not be guilty of so great a crime. [114-115]
Most of the bishops and the other prelates whose duty it was to withstand these things, from the first thought it best to give way for a time till the king changed his mind, or some Catholic prince came to the rescue of the Christian religion. But they waited in vain for the emperor or any other, for they had sinned so grievously against God and their neighbour. Still there was a holy remnant left in the land, which had utterly refused to bend the knee before Baal. [115, emphasis added.]
TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; saints
The Memorial of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More is June 22.
posted on 06/21/2009 6:27:01 PM PDT
posted on 06/21/2009 6:37:11 PM PDT
(With God all things are possible.)
Feast Day is July 6 and that’s that.
I remember well because its also my birthday.
There is no “new” calender.
Only wish the good saint could visit to confirm to you.
posted on 06/21/2009 7:29:54 PM PDT
(As Rome goes so goes the world)
Lawyers have a Patron Saint....who knew?
posted on 06/21/2009 7:30:43 PM PDT
(Cogito, ergo conservatus)
You might want to check out this link for verification of the date I have above.
FYI, Catholic Culture rates Catholic sites on their authenticity, etc.
posted on 06/21/2009 7:34:38 PM PDT
(With God all things are possible.)
Also please note that I used CatholicTradition.org as my source for this post.
posted on 06/21/2009 7:36:13 PM PDT
(With God all things are possible.)
posted on 06/21/2009 7:39:24 PM PDT
(With God all things are possible.)
William Shakespeare is now considered to have been a recusant and a secret Catholic who held to the old traditions. One of his daughters had to pay a fine for not attending the Anglican mass which historians take to mean that she was also a recusant.
posted on 06/21/2009 8:46:07 PM PDT
(I heard Joe the Plumber speak 03-30-2009.)
Saint Thomas More, Martyr
Saint Thomas More, Martyr
Optional Memorial with Saint John Fisher
Sir Thomas More
Hans Holbein the Younger
Tempera on wood, 74,2 x 59 cm
Frick Collection, New York
Saint Thomas More was born in London and was Chancellor of King Henry VIII. As a family man, a public servant, and writer, he displayed a rare combination of human warmth, Christian wisdom, and sense of humor.
Source: Daily Roman Missal, Edited by Rev. James Socías, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, Illinois ©2003
Voices Young Writer Award - Pentecost 2004
A Life Lived with Faith and Reason - by Anna Maria Mendell
you confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading: I Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:34-39
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
posted on 06/22/2009 8:34:56 AM PDT
(With God all things are possible.)
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