(1478 – 1535)
Ordinary Time: June 22nd
His belief that no lay ruler has jurisdiction over the church of
Christ cost Thomas More his life.
Beheaded on Tower Hill, London, July 6, 1535, he steadfastly refused
to approve Henry VIII's divorce and remarriage, and establishment of
the Church of England.
Described as "a man for all seasons," More was a literary scholar,
eminent lawyer, gentleman, father of four children and chancellor of
England. An intensely spiritual man, he would not support the king's
divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Nor
would he acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the church in England,
breaking with Rome and denying the pope as head.
More was committed to the Tower of London to await trial for
treason: not swearing to the Act of Succession and the Oath of
Supremacy. Upon conviction, More declared he had all the councils of
Christendom and not just the council of one realm to support him in
the decision of his conscience.
Four hundred years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint
of God. Few saints are more relevant to our time. In fact, in 2000,
Pope John Paul II named him patron of political leaders. The supreme
diplomat and counselor, Thomas More did not compromise his own moral
values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to
authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority
wants. Henry himself realized this and tried desperately to win his
chancellor to his side because he knew More was a man, whose
approval counted, a man, whose personal integrity no one questioned.
But when Thomas resigned as chancellor, unable to approve the two
matters that meant most to Henry, the king felt he had to get rid of
Excerpted from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.