thomas more.jpg

Born: Feb. 7th, 1478
Died: July 6th, 1535
FEast: June 22nd
Patron of:  
adopted children, lawyers, civil servants, politicians, 
difficult marriages

thomas more.jpg

St. Thomas More

Bio

 

    Thomas More was born into a family with a father who was already a prominent English lawyer and judge. He was sent to one of the best schools in the country as he grew up, and for a job, he served the archbishop and chancellor as a page. The Archbishop was devoted to education and saw promise in Thomas, and nominated him for a position at Oxford. Thomas studied there several years, and then went to London to follow in his father's footsteps and become a lawyer.

Though he did well and was already attracting a clientele, Thomas' "easy" route into this profession made him question if he was instead being called to religious life. He lived by a monastery and joined monks in their practices for a period, but ultimately decided priesthood was not for him. He instead became a member of Parliament and married Jane Colt, with whom he had four children and was very happy.

When she died in 1511, however, Thomas shocked his friends and family when he married a friend of his, Alice Middleton, within 30 days. It was said this decision was made so that Thomas could have someone to look after his home and young children, whom he loved dearly, when he was so often busy. Though Alice was older and didn't occasionally understand his jokes, she brought an inheritance and she took good care of the children, including her own daughter from her previous marriage, and two other children of whom Thomas had become the legal guardian. Thomas also made sure that his daughters were educated the same as his sons, which wasn't common at the time.

Soon, Thomas rose through Parliament to be London's representative. While in this position, the people of London grew to respect and trust him. After several successful political maneuvers and agreements, Thomas soon was knighted and promoted again as a secretary and personal advisor to King Henry VIII, who liked Thomas and soon became his friend.

In 1529, Thomas More rose through the ranks again to become Lord Chancellor of England, which was the first time the position had not been held by a member of the clergy. In this position, Thomas' main role was to defend the Church against heresy and protect it at all costs. This included much work done in the name of preventing the Protestant Reformation from spreading. Though Thomas was just as loyal to the King and enjoyed his friendship just as much, this position (and his own conscience) also prohibited him from asking the Pope for King Henry to be able to grant a divorce for him. Thomas would also not allow the decree to pass that stated that the King would have more authority over the Church decisions than would the Pope. King Henry, in retaliation, let go many of the clergy members and Parliament members that did not support him in this issue. Thomas believed Henry was ready to break from the Church altogether to get what he wanted, and he felt this was wrong.

To avoid navigating the situation, Thomas More resigned from the position that he had only held for 3 years. This move removed him of the majority of his income and property.

When the King was married to his new wife, Anne, Thomas did not go to the ceremony, though he wrote a letter of congratulations. The King was offended by this move, and in retaliation, accused More of accepting bribes. Though the charges of treason were cleared and Thomas was safe for a time, he was asked to take an oath in 1534 acknowledging King Henry and Queen Anne's legitimacy as England's rulers as well as Henry's role as head of the Church (over the Pope). Thomas would not do so. Four days later, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason. In his trial, he was found guilty (especially since the jury consisted of many members of Queen Anne's family). Though he had suffered physical illness in prison, he remained cheerful whenever his family and friends would visit, despite their constant attempts to try and get him to just accept the oath. Instead, he was sentenced to be tortured and hanged.

King Henry, though unwilling to save his friend because he believed he had betrayed him, did at least change his sentence to mere beheading rather than hanging.

Thomas More is said to have joked with the executioners, even, as he was lead to be killed, saying that they'd help him up to the stand but that he'd "see himself down", and positioning his beard so that it wouldn't be harmed since it "had not done any wrong". His body was given to one of his adopted children (the only one to witness the execution) and his head was put on a pole above London Bridge for a month (a custom reserved for traitors) until, it is said, his eldest daughter was able to acquire it.

In addition to his remarkable life, his most famous writing was a book called "Utopia" in which he outlined his ideas for an ideal society. This book was the precursor to the entire genre of books about future societies either completely perfect or completely terrible in nature.

Prayer

 

You thought you had a true friend in someone, but, when the time came for you to disagree, he chose his own opinion over you, and even ended your life over it. Give us strength when we have been abandoned, persecuted, and condemned for doing what was right - especially by friends.

Amen.

Art Reflection

 

Thomas is still wearing his iconic style in this icon as he is in his famous portrait - but in 21st century style. His robe is now a hoodie, and the colors featured are the same. He has a pained expression from the loss not only of his life, his job, his position, and his friendship, but from knowing that he must stick to that decision in order to follow his faith and do the right thing.

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