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December 25, 2014

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas MoreSt. Thomas More is the patron Saint of politicians, statesmen, and lawyers. He was the son of John More, a prominent lawyer. As a boy he served as a page in the household of Archbishop Morton. He studied at Oxford, and the public affairs. In 1499 he determined to become a in public affairs. In 1499 he determined to become a monk and subjected himself to the discipline of the monk and subjected himself to the discipline of the Carthusians.

During his early manhood, he wrote comedies and spent much time in the study of Greek and Latin literature. One of his first works was a translation of a biography of Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494); he became a close friend with Desiderius Erasmus (ca. 1466-1536) and he, like them, became a great humanist.

More’s sense of obligation to active citizenship and statesmanship finally won out over his monastic inclinations.  He entered the parliament in 1504. In 1510, he was appointed undersheriff of London.

During the next decade, More attracted the attention of King Henry VIII, and served frequently on diplomatic missions to the Low Countries. In 1518 he became a member of the Privy Council; he was knighted in 1521.

Two years later, More was made Speaker of the House of Commons. As speaker of the House of Commons in 1523, More helped establish the parliamentary privilege of free speech.

He refused to endorse King Henry VIII’s plan to divorce Catherine of Aragon (1527) and marry Ann Boleyn. Nevertheless, after the fall of Thomas Wolsey in 1529, More became Lord Chancellor of England. He was the first layman to hold the post. His work in the law courts was exemplary, but he resigned in 1532, citing ill health and probably feeling that he could not in conscience serve a government that was interfering with the church.

Two years later he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for refusing to acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church of England. He was found guilty of treason, on evidence that was probably perjured.  He was beheaded on July 6, 1535 his last words being “”I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” St. Thomas More was canonized in 1935.

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