Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. Thomas More along with his co-martyr, Bishop John Fisher. The movie "A Man for All Seasons" recounts the life and death of Thomas More, Catholic martyr at the hands of King Henry VIII. Henry took the Church of England off on the course of schism because he wanted to divorce his Catholic queen Catherine of Aragon.
Sir Thomas More, laywer, statesman and Lord Chancellor of the Realm, eventually was deposed from office and then beheaded after refusing to swear an oath affirming Henry's supremacy over the Church.
The movie centers on More's struggles of conscience as he wrestled between his personal devotion to the King and his adherence to Catholic truth. How easy it would have been for More to use one of the following excuses to simply sign the oath of alligiance to King Henry as Head of the Church:
"It's just a piece of paper."
"Private faith is more important than doctrine or titles."
"My family needs me."
"Governance of the Church isn't part of the Gospel. I can live with this."
Instead, St Thomas More made the hard decision, leaving behind his wife and children for imprisonment, public disgrace and eventual execution. His death didn't prevent the schism. His martyrdom didn't even slow the process down. But his way of witness provides us all with encouragement to stand up for the Truth whatever the cost.
Here is what More wrote to his daughter Margaret from prison:
"By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far supassing 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 St. 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."
St. Thomas More,
pray for us whose faith is weaker than yours.
Help us to understand and practice our Catholic faith,
fully and freely.