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St. Thomas More by Holbein

On June 22nd, the Church commemorates the memory of an extraordinary man. Philosopher, writer, lawyer, Chancellor of England, ascetic, dveoted father, Franciscan tertiary, and faithful Catholic, St. Thomas More was all of these things and even more (no pun intended).

As a writer and philosopher, More sought to understand the world in which he lived as well as the ideals of Renaissance humanism. His Utopia is a book that attempts to examine what a perfect society would look like and how it would function. Ever since its publication, it has been one of the most discussed books in the world because of its potent message.

As a father, More was one that sought to give his children a great love of the Faith that would surmount any obstacle that was thrown in its way. He and his family recited the Divine Office together at his home. He also sought out tutors to teach his children Latin and Greek. An interesting side note is that one of his daughters, Margaret Roper, became one of the most famous Renaissance women for her erudition, which was undoubtedly inherited from and nourished by her father.

As a courtier and Chancellor of England, More was a man who was obedient to the King and did what was asked of him. Yet when Henry VIII decided to get married and declared himself to be the head of the Church of England, More would have none of it. As a faithful Catholic, he saw the King’s re-marriage for what it was and stood on the side of the Pope and the Catholic populace of England. Yet he didn’t merely stand by, Thomas More was also a man that was able to defend his faith and to prove that Tyndale and his successors were wrong.

In his apologetic writings, which have been republished here and there, More proves himself to be one of the greatest apologists of his time. Due to his training as a lawyer, he is able to explain the intricacies of the Faith with an unparalleled intelligence and wit. His knowledge of the Scriptures also helps him to prove his point beyond the shadow of a doubt. Indeed, many of his critics were frustrated when they read the writings of Thomas More. No loopholes could be found in his reasoning.

Ironically enough, the apologetic writings of More deal with some of the same questions that are raised by certain members of the traditional Catholic movement. Primary among them is the place of the Pope and the Papacy. It would be interesting to know how More would respond to these questions as well as numerous others if he were alive today among us.

Yet More’s apologetic writings are only part of his extensive collection of works. His devotional writings, some of which he composed in prison, are the devout meditations of one who has spent years thinking about the Passion of Christ and its meaning. These writings are among the most heartfelt that More outside of the letters that he wrote to his family from prison. Indeed, one can feel that his identification with Christ Crucified was total.

In his life and in his death, St. Thomas More embodied the words of St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary use words.” May his example lead us to a more faithful practice and greater love of our Catholic faith.

Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

Resources:

The King’s Good Servant, but God’s First: The Life and Writings of St. Thomas More by James Monti (http://www.amazon.com/Kings-Good-Servant-Gods-First/dp/0898706254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214155020&sr=8-1)

On the Sadness of Christ (De Tristitia Christ) by St. Thomas More (http://www.amazon.com/Sadness-Christ-University-Press-Translation/dp/0933932669/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214155095&sr=8-5).

The Last Letters of Thomas More (http://www.amazon.com/Last-Letters-Thomas-More/dp/0802843948/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214155225&sr=1-1)

A Thomas More Resource Book by Gerard Wegemer (http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-More-Source-Book/dp/0813213762/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214155225&sr=1-5)

Dialogue Concerning Heresies by St. Thomas More (http://www.amazon.com/Dialogue-Concerning-Heresies-Thomas-Saint/dp/1594170444/ref=pd_sim_b_10)

The Four Last Things: The Supplication of Souls; A Dialogue of Conscience by Thomas More (http://www.amazon.com/Four-Last-Things-Supplication-Conscience/dp/1889334650/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b)

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