Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 4, 1999
An introduction to St. Thomas More
Archbishop gives southside parish a feel for its namesake
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Thomas Collins speaking on Thomas More.
That is what brought more than 100 people to St. Thomas More Church Sept. 25 when the archbishop donned his scholar's hat to spend the day reflecting on the many hats worn by the parish's patron saint.
The event was part of the parish's Jubilee 2000 celebration.
More was a lawyer, judge, Lord Chancellor, parishioner, family man, writer, scholar and in the end a martyr.
With his work and his faith, he was completely loyal.
He was loyal to the kings of England, Henry the VII and VIII. More was Lord Chancellor during the reign of the latter who was not so much interested in being a good king, but a powerful king.
"Thomas was truly a good servant to the king. But the king didn't want a servant, he wanted a slave," Collins said.
He was loyal to his family. When he found himself spending too much time away from them because the king loved his company so much, More would switch off his exuberant personality so that the king would excuse him and send him home.
He was loyal to his conscience, which resulted in his execution. More resigned after refusing to support the divorce of Henry and Catherine of Aragon. He was later found guilty of treason and beheaded.
He was loyal to Pope Clement VII, who "was not an easy pope to be loyal to at the time," Collins said. "But Thomas was faithful because he said the person was replaceable; it was the office that matters."
And above all, he was loyal to God. His famous last words, "I die the king's good servant, but God's first" best exemplifies his faith.
Whatever he did, More did with a passion and he did it well.
"He lived a life of integrity," Collins said. "That is the most important thing of all. He always had a sense of purpose in his life.
"His role as a layperson in the Church was a perfect example of the teachings of Vatican II. His goal was to evangelize the world."
His writings are highly respected. His time in parliament and as Lord Chancellor was not spent as a rubber stamp for the king.
Although the king owned all of the wealth of the country, it was traditional that he would go to parliament and ask for money when he needed it. When Henry VII went to parliament asking for money, a young More objected to the request and he listed a slew of reasons why. In the end parliament gave the king only half of what he had asked for.
As chancellor, he asked for freedom of speech in parliament as a means of better serving his king.
But More was not without faults. He did on occasion lose his temper and when he did he would get carried away. As he was zealous in his work and faith, he was also in his anger.
He was a man with fears. He feared pain and of giving in if the pain was too much to bear.
"He would pray and ask the people to forgive him (if he gave in)," Collins said. His realization that he had the potential to break under pressure showed the depth of his heroism when he didn't give in.
Though More faced persecution for his beliefs five centuries ago, Collins said many martyrs today could be compared to More.
"There are more martyrs now than back in the 1500s," the archbishop said.
He cited the "martyrs of East Timor. "There are more actual physical martyrs today in our country. We should be willing to die for Christ, but before we can die for Christ, we should live for Christ. I think it's good to die for Christ, but better to live for Christ."
More was a man who followed his faith with his heart and with his mind.
"When religion becomes too much in the heart or the mind, we are in trouble," Collins said. "The two must work together." (More) did that. He was a great scholar, and he was emotional in his faith.
"If a religion asks you to check your mind in at the door, run."