-by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527
“omnium horarum homo” -a man for all seasons, referring to his wide scholarship and knowledge
Excerpts taken from “Married Saints” by John F. Link, pp 1-3; 6-15.
“…[Thomas] More is known in literary circles as one of the best authors of the Renaissance. He was widely known as both a poet and an author…The most famous of his works was Utopia, the literary masterpiece he wrote when he was 39 years old. Its publication opened the doors to other literary figures of his time…More hosted mainly literary figures and educators in his home; one of the things he was known for was his talents as a host.
More was born on February 7, 1477 in London, to John and Agnes More. His mother died when he was a child and was not an influence on him. His father, though, was. Like his son Thomas would become, John More was a lawyer. He attended very closely to Thomas’ personal and professional development. Left to his own preferences, Thomas would not have become a lawyer since his preferences in school were for theology and the other liberal arts – literature, history, and philosophy. Like many scholars of his time, he became fluent in both Latin and Greek. In fact, he wrote Utopia in Latin for the intelligentsia of Europe. It was translated into English after his death.
Thomas studied at Oxford from age 14 to 16, was a pre-law student in London from 16 to 18, a law student from 18-23, and admitted to the bar at 23…More also entered politics, being elected a member of Parliament at age 27 by the merchants who were his clients. His reputation as a lawyer grew, especially his reputation for honesty and integrity.
By the time More reached his 40’s, he had become the most successful lawyer in England. Because of his reputation for integrity and prudent judgment, both as a lawyer and as a judge, More’s law practice grew enormously and he became quite wealthy. More’s reported income was 400 pounds sterling per year. A substantial amount, considering ordinary people in London of that time lived on ten pounds sterling per year.
More’s career continued to spiral upward. At age 46 he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons. At 52, Henry VIII appointed him Lord Chancellor of England, the highest appointed office in the country.
At 58, More refused to approve Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and remarriage to Anne Boleyn, as the Lord Chancellor, chief judge and legal authority of the nation, was required to do to make the divorce legal and the remarriage possible. Thomas was forced to resign, eventually imprisoned, and on July 6, 1535 was executed for treason by beheading.
More’s last prayer was the Miserere, Psalm 51:
“Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam…Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness…”
“What does it avail to know that there is a God, which you not only believe by Faith, but also know by reason: what does it avail that you know Him if you think little of Him?”
– Saint Thomas More
“Occupy your minds with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones. Unoccupied, they cannot be.” -St. Thomas More
“Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in His merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience.
God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God.
By the merits of His bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, His bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.
I will not mistrust Him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to Him for help. And then I trust He shall place His holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault He will not let me be lost.
I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to Him. And if He permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for His justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that His tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend His mercy.
And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best. – from a letter written by Saint Thomas More from prison to his daughter Margaret
Prayer to St Thomas More
St Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients’ tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.
Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God’s first.