Thomas More: Our Patron Saint
By Simon Lam
Thomas More, taking a stand for his belief, was beheaded at Tower Hill, London on July 6, 1535. He was a lawyer, author, philosopher, English Lord Chancellor, knight, martyr and the Patron Saint of adopted children, civil servants, court workers, lawyers, widowers and difficult marriages.
Sir John More, Thomas’ father, was a lawyer and judge. After schooling, St. Thomas became a household page to John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England.
He studied at Oxford University. In 1494 he became a lawyer. He also practiced simple piety and spiritual exercises of the monks. He wrote letters to his children when he was away at work and insisted that his daughters receive the same education as his sons.
In 1504, More was elected to Parliament representing Great Yarmouth, and later undersheriff of London. He earned a reputation as being honest and effective. He became a Privy Counselor in 1514. He also honed his skills as a theologian and a writer. Among his most famous works is “Utopia,” one of the greatest works of the late Renaissance.
King Henry VIII took a liking to St. Thomas More, and gave him posts of ever increasing responsibility. In 1521, he was knighted and made Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer, soon made Chancellor-Duchy-of-Lancaster, and became Lord-Chancellor in 1529. He prosecuted those accused of heresy and worked to defend the Catholic faith while he enjoyed Henry’s favor. In 1530, Henry worked to obtain an annulment from his wife Catherine; More refused to sign the letter to the Pope. With this failed annulment, King Henry purged the clergies; their relationship worsened when Henry was prepared to break away from the Church in Rome.
In 1532, St. Thomas More resigned, unable to support Henry’s schism with the Church. In 1533, St. Thomas refused to attend the coronation of Queen Anne Boylen. His absence offended King Henry, as an insult to his new queen and an undermining of his authority as head of the church and state.
St. Thomas More was accused of accepting bribes and other alleged crimes; that effort proved unsuccessful. He was locked away in the Tower of London on April 13, 1534, for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the church.
A court with an impartial jury, including Anne Boylen’s own father, brother and uncle, convicted St. Thomas More. Treachery with a contrived story invented by dubious witnesses, was worthy of treason, so the court sentenced him to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
King Henry, as a final act of mercy, commuted St. Thomas More’s punishment to mere decapitation. He ascended the scaffold on July 6, 1535, his final statement, proclaiming that he was “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
Pope Leo XIII beatified him in 1886; Pope Pious Xl declared him a saint in 1935.
In “Utopia”, St. Thomas More stated that his “consolation” came from his serene confidence that God has his own purpose and that Christians must yield themselves to that purpose in trust and in hope.
With St. Thomas More as our inspiration, we take confidence praying for our Church, and in St. Thomas More’s words: “leave everything to God’s high wisdom.”September 21, 2017