View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Monday, June 22, 2009

St. Thomas More: Secular Franciscan

Today is the feast of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. I have ties to both.

I graduated from St. John Fisher College, named after that Bishop of Rochester, England, who refused to sanction King Henry VIII's adulterous marriage, and who refused to subscribe to the Act of Supremacy, which sought to undermine the Pope's authority and made Henry the head of the Church of England. Cardinal Fisher was executed for his stand on behalf of the Church.

More also died for refusing to sanction the marriage or the Act of Supremacy. He is a saint I have long admired for his courage - and for his writing (Utopia).

And he was a Secular Franciscan.

More was born Thomas was born in London in 1478. He was a devout youth, and although he studied to be a lawyer, he considered becoming a priest - either as a Franciscan, or a Carthusian. He became a Secular Franciscan around 1498, and he lived with the Carthusians for four years, but decided that his vocation lay in marriage and working in the world as a lawyer.

Although he was a busy lawyer and had a growing family, he was continued various pious practices, and for attending daily Mass. He was reproached by some for attending daily Mass when he had so much work to do, but he reportedly replied, "You are advancing the very reasons for the need for frequent holy Communion. If I am distracted, holy Communion helps me to be come recollected if opportunities are offered me each day to offend my God, I arm myself anew each day for the combat by the reception of the Eucharist. If I am in special need of light and prudence in order to discharge my burdensome duties, I draw nigh to my Savior and seek counsel and light from Him."

In addition to his career as a lawyer, he was a noted humanist and writer. His most famous work is the satire Utopia - the name of which entered the English language - which pointed out evils in Church and the state.

King Henry VIII brought More into the Royal Court, where he rapidly became one of the king's councillors and a judge. But even as he rose in the Court, he continued to care about the poor. He often invited poor neighbors to his home, and at his own expense he rented a house to provide shelter for the poor, sick and elderly.

Eventually, More became the Lord Chancellor of England. Henry was in the process of trying to obtain a divorce and to marry Anne Boleyn. He pushed the Pope to declare his first marriage null, but the Pope refused. Then Henry declared himself the Supreme Head of the Church in England. More resigned.

In 1534, Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy that repudiated papal authority in England, and which required an oath. More refused to take the oath. He was imprisoned for 15 months, but continued to refuse to take the oath., and was beheaded. He was canonized in 1935.

In Henry's day, most bishops remained silent or openly supported the King, and most politicians went against their Faith to accept and support what the King wanted and to keep their positions. Sts. Fisher and More provide examples of how our Bishops and Catholic politicians should act.


Blogger In the choir loft said...

All of us in the DoR have a tie to St. John Fisher as he is our patronal saint of our diocese.

Thanks for the posting.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I meant to include that - thanks for reminding me!

11:07 PM  

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