Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hail, Saintly Chancellor and Merry Martyr

As government treads ever more directly and forcefully upon the rights of religion, the likelihood that the blood of martyrs may once again be spilled to defend religion's rights grows toward certainty.  Today is the feast of St. Thomas More, who was such a martyr, though martyrdom was never his ambition.  More was an eminent lawyer and judge, and served King Henry VIII as chancellor.  When the Pope refused to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon in order that Henry might marry Anne Boleyn, and Henry divorced Catherine and married Anne anyway, More retired from public life.  Yet retirement from public life did not afford More safety, since Henry soon required all his subjects to swear an oath affirming the validity of his new marriage.   More assented to as much of the oath as possible, and refused his assent only to the portions relating to the marriage, but kept a strict silence as to the basis for his refusal.  As a lawyer, More was well aware that the only lawful construction to be given his silence would be consent to the oath.  For refusing the oath, More was arrested, but remained silent regarding the oath through 15 months of imprisonment in the Tower of London.  Yet silence did not afford More safety, since he was tried for treason anyway, and convicted on the basis of false testimony regarding his reasons for refusing the oath. 

More bore his judges no acrimony, telling them that he wished "we may yet hereafter in Heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation.”

Although he was one of the more important men of his times, More was genuinely humble, unencumbered by any undue regard for his own greatness.  Here is More on the subject of worldly importance:

"As Boethius says: For one man to be proud that he has rule over other men is much like one mouse being proud to have rule over other mice in a barn."

UPDATE:  Archbishop Chaput: 21st Century America Likely to be much less friendly to religious faith
Clearly, anti-Christian pressures are building. 

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