St. Thomas More was a brilliant man: a lawyer, a philospher, a writer, a statesman, advisor to the King, and for a time, Chancellor of England. He was a family man: a devoted husband and a loving father who wrote tirelessly to his children when away; he was firm about his desire to reside at his family's private residence rather at court. A Renaissance humanist, More was a champion of education, in particular, the education of women, whom he (at the time quite radically) believed to be men's intellectual equals.
Most notably, Thomas More was a man of faith, of unswerving devotion to our Lord, unwavering loyalty to the Catholic Church, and of unassailable integrity.
I admire St. Thomas More ardently, and I have always drawn great inspiration and encouragement from his life and (I am sure) from his prayers. So today, on his feastday, I want to share with you two glimpses into the man, the martyr, the saint.
A Prisoner's Prayer
Sir Thomas More wrote the following prayer while imprisoned in the Tower of London for refusing to deny his conscience. He was imprisoned by King Henry VIII, whom he had advised from youth and who had always been his friend. It was under Henry's orders that More was first bereft of visitors, then his possessions, and finally his life.
Give me the grace, Good Lord, to set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men's mouths.Martyrdom
To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business. Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.
Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.
To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.
Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.
To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.
To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.
To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.
The following scene from Showtime's hit series The Tudors depicts the martyrdom of St. Thomas More. Despite the series' penchant for over-dramatization of historical events, this event is remarkably accurate.
Please note that, due to the violent nature of St. Thomas' martyrdom, this video is not for young readers.
St. Thomas More, pray for us.