St. Thomas More and the Fight for Religious Freedom

As we enter the Fortnight For Freedom, which will last from today till July 4, we need to remember the sacrifices of other Catholics who have laid down their lives in defiance of tyrannical kingdoms and governments. It is fitting, and obviously planned, by the United States Bishops to begin this fortnight on the feast day of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More. From the early Christian martyrs to Sts. Fisher and More to the Mexican Martyrs (so eloquently shown in the recent film, For Greater Glory) to Sts. Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein to the Catholics being killed for their faith in Africa today, it is fitting that it is now our time to STAND UP for the great injustice (HHS Mandate) that has been promulgated by the current presidential administration; an administration that has tyrannical and socialistic tendencies rooted in its very foundation. At this time, we may not be called to shed our blood for the faith (red martyrs), but we are being called to stand up for our faith and face social persecution (white martyrdom).

Over the next couple of weeks, we will celebrate the lives of martyrs in the liturgical calendar. During this time, we must pray, study, catechize, and engage in public action. Religious Freedom is at the heart and center of not only the United States of America, but it’s also fundamental to every human being by means of the Natural Law. I urge you during this time to pray hard for the conversion of the hearts of those seek to destroy the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has faced many tyrants in her past and every time has been victorious for we have Jesus Christ and he has conquered evil and death.

St. Thomas More is the key figure for us when we think of one who stands up to tyranny and injustice. St. Thomas More was wrongfully committed of High Treason by the Kingdom of England for not agreeing to the marriage of King Henry VIII. Below are the last few lines of St. Thomas More from the play, A Man For All Seasons. I think we need to remember these words and try to live up to them for ourselves and fights we many have ahead. This is a play I first read in college and many of the lines have stuck with me over the years. It’s a beautiful depiction of St. Thomas More as servant to the king, but God’s servant first. As I have said in other posts –  We are Americans, but we are Catholic first!

Norfolk: Prisoner at the bar, you have been found guilty of High Treason. The sentence of the Court –

More: My Lord! My lord, when I was practicing the law, the manner was to ask the prisoner before pronouncing sentence, if he had anything to say.

Norfolk: Have you anything to say?

More: Yes. To avoid this I have taken every path my winding wits would find. Now that the Court has determined to condemn me, God knoweth how, I will discharge my mind…concerning my indictment and the King ‘s title. The indictment is grounded in an Act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to the Law of God. The King in Parliament cannot bestow the Supremacy of the Church because it is a Spiritual Supremacy! And more to this the immunity of the Church is promised both in Magna Carta and the King’s own Coronation Oath!

Cromwell: Now we plainly see that you are malicious!

More: Not so, Master Secretary! I am the King’s true subject, and pray for him and all the realm…I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live…I have, since I came into prison, been several times in such a case that I thought to die within the hour, and I thank Our Lord I was never sorry for it, but rather sorry when it passed. And therefore, my poor body is at the King’s pleasure. Would God my death might do him some good…Nevertheless, it is not for the Supremacy that you have sought my blood – but because I would not bend to the marriage!

*************************************************************************

More: My Master had easel and gall, not wine, given him to drink. Let me be going.

Margaret: Father! Father! Father, Father, Father, Father!

More: Have patience, Margaret, and trouble not thyself. Death comes for us all; even at our birth – even at our birth, death does not stand aside a little. And every day he looks towards us and muses somewhat to himself whether that day or the next he will draw nigh. It is the law of nature, and the will of God. You have long known the secrets of my heart.

The Death Scene from the film, A Man For All Seasons. 

2 thoughts on “St. Thomas More and the Fight for Religious Freedom

  1. Nice post Tom. I can’t think of a better patron for what we’re facing right now than Thomas More. It’s directly applicable. I heard some people saying today that we should be wary of using him in this context because he actually condemned some heretics to be burned. I’m not so sure that’s an issue. Times were different. For the circumstances of his death and execution, I think he’s the perfect choice.

  2. Great post Tom! I think St. Thomas More is the perfect patron for what wer’e facing today. Completely applicable. There are some that say we need to be careful about using him in this context because of his own recored in condemning heretics. But that’s beside the point. The fact is, his circumstances were very similar and he faced them heroically and in line with the way of a Saint! That’s very relevant.

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