A man for all seasons: We need St. Thomas More’s example today Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, May. 31, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Back when I was in high school, I first saw the movie A Man for All Seasons about the controversy between King Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More.

Sir Thomas was lord chancellor of England at that time and a loyal member of the Catholic Church. When the king wanted Sir Thomas to approve his marriage to Anne Boleyn after he divorced the queen, Sir Thomas refused.

This is a scene from that movie in which the king explains why he needs Sir Thomas’ support

Prayer of St. Thomas More


from your provident hand we have received

our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

You have called us as your people and give us

the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,

and your Son, Jesus Christ.

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,

you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,

bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel

to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us

in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.

Give us the strength of mind and heart

to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;

give us courage in making our voices heard

on behalf of the rights of your Church

and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,

a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters

gathered in your Church

in this, decisive hour in the history of our nation,

so that, with every trial withstood

and every danger overcome —

for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,

and all who come after us —

this great land will always be "one nation, under God,

indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Copyright 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.

Sir Thomas More: Then why does your Grace need my poor support?

King Henry VIII: Because you’re honest . . . and what is more to the purpose, you’re KNOWN to be honest. There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown; and those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth and I’m their tiger; there’s a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves. And then there’s you . . .

Sir Thomas More: I am sick to think how much I must displease your Grace.

King Henry VIII: No, Thomas, I respect your sincerity. But respect . . .  man, that’s water in the desert.

Obviously even King Henry VIII realized why he needed and desired the approval of Sir Thomas. He was a man who followed his conscience and lived by it.

Sir Thomas More was eventually beheaded in 1535, dying true to his faith and principles to the end. It took until 1935 for Sir Thomas to be canonized a saint in the Catholic Church. Two centuries after his death, Jonathan Swift said More was “the person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced.”

Today, we could look to St. Thomas More’s example in how to deal with questions of religious liberty. Like him, we may have to stand up to civil leaders in our country to defend free exercise of our religious faith. We may not face death, but we might face challenges from those who don’t agree with our right to freedom of conscience and to practice our faith as we see it.

As we prepare to celebrate a Fortnight for Freedom in our country, let us pray the prayer printed here, asking St. Thomas More to help give us his courage of conviction.