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A place just for you and Him: Weekly Message for 10-25-2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
On this day in 1529 St. Thomas More was appointed Lord Chancellor or England. He resigned less than three years later and was executed for treason in 1535 under the same monarch, King Henry VIII, who had appointed him chancellor after admiring him for twelve years. Thomas’ crime? Disagreeing with the king’s insistence on certain things he knew were not the Catholic faith.
When King Henry wanted Thomas to sign a letter to the Pope requesting an annulment from Henry’s wife, Catherine, Thomas refused. In the years that followed, he could tell that Henry was positioning court and clergy to break with Rome (a separated ecclesial community now known as the Anglicans—with the exception of some Anglican Ordinariates in full communion with Rome—and Episcopalians), and More knew he could not support that, so he resigned, citing poor health. Henry was not convinced.
In 1533, with the king now considered in England as supreme authority of Church and state, More did not attend the marriage coronation of Anne Boleyn, the woman for whom Henry had sought an annulment from Catherine. Thomas sent a letter of congratulations instead. More did not openly challenge the king or denounce him in the streets, or even in his circle of friends and acquaintances, but his attitude and example were sending a message that Henry did not like.
Henry had charges trumped up against More, but no evidence was found or could prove the alleged crimes. More was a trained and skilled lawyer, aware of his rights, and admired for his moral integrity, so after a lot of cat and mouse he was ordered to take an oath on April 13, 1534 that acknowledged Anne’s legitimate position as queen, the annulment Henry granted to himself, and the king being the head of the Church in England. Thomas accepted the position on Anne, but refused to acknowledge the other two points, leading to his imprisonment in the Tower of London.
In the end, a jury that included Anne’s father, brother, and uncle, based on false testimonies, condemned Thomas to death for treason. As Thomas went to the headsman’s block, said he was “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
The Catechism teaches that “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. … For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. … His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (n. 1776, cf. Gaudium et Spes, 16). St. Thomas More in every moment sought to do good, avoid evil, and to love. He heard the Lord’s voice loud and clear in his heart and put it into practice, sometimes with his silence.
Society today plays a lot of cat and mouse, legally, politically, culturally, and socially, to crowd us into agreeing with things our conscience knows to be wrong, just as Henry VIII wielded his influence and friendship to crowd St. Thomas More. The conscience is a place for you and the Lord alone. Not even the prophets always spoke the Lord’s message with words. They often gave witness through their presence, their absence, their actions and their omissions. We can do the same, even when it results in character assassination instead of actual assassination. Let’s do good, avoid evil, and seek to truly love.
May the Lord help you hear and heed what echoes in the depths of your conscience. It’s just you and Him.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Author Maximizing the Mass