June 22: The feast of *Saint Thomas More*
Today, June 22, we celebrate the feast day of *Saint Thomas More* (1478-1535), English martyr for the faith and patron of lawyers.
Saint Thomas More was born in London, the son of a judge. At a young age, Thomas was placed in the home of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and arranged for him to attend Oxford.
He quickly demonstrated considerable academic skills, mastering both Greek and Latin, becoming expert in French, mathematics, and history, and learning to play both the flute and viola. His gifts quickly attracted attention, and he was admitted to law school, becoming a barrister several years later.
It quickly became clear that Thomas excelled at law, but it was not where his primary interests lay. He was deeply drawn to the idea of the religious life, spending considerable time in prayer and contemplation, delivering lectures on the writings of Saint Augustine, and engaging in penance and mortification similar to those enacted by local monks.
He eventually moved into the monastery, but could not ignore the injustices of English society, and eventually left to enter into a career in politics.
He was married shortly thereafter. Thomas entered Parliament, and tirelessly defended the rights of the poor, much to the annoyance of King Henry VII. In revenge, the King imprisoned Saint Thomas’ father and would not release him until Thomas agreed to withdraw from public life.
After the death of the King in 1509, Thomas became active once more. More’s political career became increasingly at odds with King Henry VIII, who, himself, was looking to break from the Catholic Church so that he might remarry. Despite his opposition to the plans of the king to divorce, he was elected Lord Chancellor. While his work in the law courts was exemplary, he steadfastly refused to approve Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage and establishment of the Church of England.
He resigned in 1532, citing ill health. He was arrested and found guilty of treason and confined to the Tower of London. Upon sentencing—death by beheading—the constable of the Tower of London visited More, respecting him, and seeking his forgiveness. Saint Thomas’ body was buried in the Church of Saint Peter. His parboiled head was placed on display on the Tower Bridge for one month prior to the local faithful rescuing it.
St. Thomas More gave up his life in testimony to the upholding of Catholic faith and to the indissolubility of Marriage. 400 years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint of God. In 2000, Pope John Paul II named him patron of political leaders.
*St. Thomas More, pray for us.*