Saints who capture the popular imagination are few and far between, but one saint who has succeeded in doing just that is our own St. Thomas More. The play and film “A Man for all Seasons” brought before a wider public the outstanding qualities of a man who was prepared to die rather than deny his most deeply held convictions.
Thomas More was born in 1478 and brought up in London. He attended St. Antony’s School in Threadneedle Street and was then placed in the household of Cardinal Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor. At the age of 14 he was sent to Oxford where he studied under Linacre before becoming a law student at Lincoln’s Inn. He was called to the bar in 1501 and entered Parliament in 1504. In 1505 he married Jane Colt and they had three daughters and one son. When his beloved Jane died he married Jane Middleton, a widow, who became an excellent mother to his three children.
Thomas has often been described as an ideal Christian. He was a model husband and father, a devout and cheerful person, a scholar and politician. Eventually he became Lord Chancellor of England. As a judge in the Law Courts he was acclaimed for his fairness and incorruptibility. When he refused to recognise the King (Henry VIII) as spiritual head of the Church in England he was cast into prison where he was held for fifteen months, until perjured evidence secured conviction. He went to the scaffold with unshakable faith, great heroism and profound charity. His last words were “I die for the faith of the Catholic Church, the King’s good servant but God’s first”.
Thomas prayed frequently that he would always do the right thing before God and that was all that mattered to him. In spite of all attempts to get him to change the views he considered right, he resisted even unto death.
Today, perhaps more than ever, we need the example and inspiration of a man like Thomas More. It is hardly likely that we will be called upon to die for our beliefs, but at a time when Christian ideals are increasingly being called into question it still demands courage to profess our belief in Christ. We can hardly do better than to look to St. Thomas More to inspire us with that courage.
Thomas More was canonised as a martyr in 1935. He is remembered now as a very human and lovable saint. He was, above all, a family man and many now look to him as the model Christian husband and father.
The above first appeared in “St Thomas More Parish – The First 21 Years” in 1981.