I think it is true to say that most Christians have what we call their “patron saints”- that is to say, saints whose lives and principles appeal to them more than others. One of my patron saints is certainly Saint Thomas More, who was martyred in 1535 AD because he refused to support King Henry VIII’s divorce from the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, and his “marriage” to Ann Boleyn, one of his many mistresses. In other words, he gave his life, rather deny his faith in favour of his political career. Do you sense a familiar flavour with what is going on at present in the “political world of Canada?” I do.
The following is a very brief account of the life and death of St. Thomas More.
Thomas More was born in London, England in 1477. He studied at Oxford University and was one of its most brilliant students. He then studied at Lincoln’s Inn and became a lawyer. In 1504, he married Jane Colt and they had four daughters. Jane died in 1511. He later married a widow, Alice Middleton, who helped him to raise the children.
A very distinguished lawyer
Thomas became one of the most distinguished lawyers in England. So much so, that when Henry VIII became king of England, he appointed Thomas More one of his chief government officials and later, as lord chancellor of England, which made him second only to the king in influence and importance. The king was not highly educated and began to depend on Thomas for all the major decisions in the governing of England. But then there arose what has been termed, “The king’s great matter.” King Henry and Queen Catherine had not succeeded in bringing forth an heir to the throne of England. Henry was a very immoral man who had many mistresses. So, he decided to divorce Catherine of Aragon and “marry” his favourite mistress, Ann Boylen, and make her queen. He appealed to the Pope of the time for an annulment from Catherine. But, the Pope replied that the marriage to Catherine had been valid and there could be no question of an annulment. Henry was enraged so he decided to make himself “head of the Church of England” and everyone in England would have to recognize him as such. He “married” Ann Boleyn and made her queen. He declared that every member of the government would have to accept him as king and head of the Church and Ann as queen of England. Of course, most of them accepted – but not Thomas More. Thomas made his refusal public and this enraged the king. He had Thomas publicly tried for “infidelity to the king.” Thomas was declared guilty and condemned to death. He was imprisoned in the Tower for a year, in the hope that he would submit. Even his wife and daughter were sent to the prison to try to persuade him to change. But Thomas never wavered. The “death sentence” meant the most terrible death by “hanging, drawing and quartering,” but Thomas would not “betray Christ.” The day arrived – July 6, 1535 AD. The king could never forget his admiration for Thomas More and made one final concession. He gave orders that Thomas was to be “beheaded,” not drawn and quartered. History records that as Thomas stood ready for death, he turned to his executioner and said, “I die the king’s good servant. But God’s first.” He then laid his head on the block.
Politicians, take note.