Martyrs of the Church — Saint Thomas More

North Texas Catholic
(Oct 26, 2017) Faith-Inspiration

A 1527 painting depicting Sir Thomas More by German artist Hans Holbein The Younger. (Artvee/Public Domain/Expanded using AI)

I was so excited to find out we were writing a series on saints and martyrs. I love recounting the stories of our sisters and brothers who were blessed to imitate Christ in His suffering and death. And I am grateful to share with you St. Thomas, who among these siblings has been a close intercessor and companion of mine.

St. Thomas More was a highly educated and talented individual who was considered highly faithful. He led a vocation of husband and father while balancing a public life as a lawyer and statesman, all with integrity and consistency. These were just a few traits that won him the favor of the King, for whom he was a trusted and loyal servant and friend for many years.  

However, Henry VIII required all of his statesmen to sign an Oath of Royal Supremacy which would affirm the King of England was the head of the Church of England, thereby denying the authority of the pope. In good conscience Thomas could not sign such a document — he could not deny the authority of the pope or the universality of the Catholic Church. Politically he could not support this document either, as it would have led clearly to a schism of the Catholic Church and for centuries destroy the legitimacy of the Catholic Church in England.

Thomas did not want to incite sedition against the king, but he also could not go along with what he was being asked to do by denying the authority of the pope. Nor did he want to put his family in danger by defying the command of the King. Thus, his response was silence, silence that was heard around the world. The refusal to sign the Oath led to him being imprisoned and then convicted of treason and eventually beheaded for the sake of Christ and His Church.

This initial silence was neither one of cowardliness, nor of a defiance of authority. Rather it was the act of a man pursuing resolutely a rightly ordered relationship between God, King, and family. Near the end he was known for saying, “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

St. Thomas More serves as a witness to the call and challenge that we all share. We are all called to be willing to stand, to fight, to suffer, and even to die for what is good and true. But more so we must remember that the call to be a martyr for Christ is one of intimate union with Christ, and in Thomas’ case a call to rise up in true integrity. To stand and to not back down. The life of St. Thomas More was to be someone who would stand relentlessly for the truth, even to the point of death.

Callie Nowlin, CTS, is a convert turned Director of Religious Education, catechist, and blogger with a passion for Scripture and helping others on their journey toward Christ.

Martyrs of the Church, Catholic saints, St. Thomas More, Henry VIII, trending-english