St Thomas More, martyr - Feast: June 22

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Home > Media > News > St Thomas More, martyr - Feast: June 22
St Thomas More, martyr - Feast: June 22

Two great English martyrs have served as the King’s chancellor. Both named Thomas, the martyrs Becket and More each gave their lives to protect the English Church from the monarch’s wilful belligerence.

Father of four children, a gentleman, an eminent lawyer, theologian, writer and chancellor of England, More’s life and death remain a model for the contemporary Christian whose conscience and religious liberty are even today under threat.

The 1966 award winning film adaptation of Robert Bolt's play of the same name, A Man for All Seasons, witnesses to More’s wit and courage. A man who consistently submitted his own wants to the needs of others: to the material needs of the poor, to the legal needs of the oppressed, and to the demands of truth and conscience, More’s opinion was widely appreciated as an important litmus of truth, more especially so by King Henry.

A deeply spiritual man, it was his small acts of intentional discomfort such as eating leftover scraps and giving his best food away to the poor, or sleeping on the floor with a log for a pillow which prepared him for when duty might require more uncomfortable choices like imprisonment, isolation, and execution which he embraced with heroic virtue.

In refusing to take King Henry’s oath, and honour his Act of Succession, More accepted that family and friends would not understand his resolute defence of the primacy of truth over power. And he understood that our attitude drives our ability to respond well to difficulties, so laughing and joking in the face of adversity diffuses the darkness of our own trials and brightens the world around us. Indeed in his final words of pardon to his executioner he quipped that having “not offended the king”, his beard might best avoid the axe.

While More’s last words - “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first” – are perhaps the most quoted, I am reminded of Matthew 10:16: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” to which Bolt’s More offers his daughter Meg this: “God made the angels to show Him splendour, 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.”

St. Thomas More, martyr for the truth…pray for us!