On June 22, the Church paused to remember a saint who remained faithful in the face of political persecution, even as it meant death.
Bishop Ronald Gainer celebrated Mass on the Feast of St. Thomas More at St. Theresa Church in New Cumberland. In the Diocese of Harrisburg, the annual Mass is sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of Central Pennsylvania, established by Catholic lawyers and judges to promote Christian principals in the law in the spirit of St. Thomas More.
The Mass also marked the start of Religious Freedom Week, June 22-29, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to reflect, pray and take action for the preservation of religious freedom.
A devout Catholic, a lawyer, scholar, author, government servant and Lord Chancellor, St. Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower of London and then beheaded by the order of King Henry VIII for refusing to sign the king’s Act of Supremacy – making him head of the Catholic Church in England – and Act of Succession – that only his children with Anne Boleyn, and not of he and his wife Catherine of Aragon, would be successors to the throne.
More was imprisoned from April 1534 until his death on July 6, 1535, and in that time wrote numerous letters which most often spoke of his conscience.
“More saw the parallels between his own suffering and Christ’s suffering. He rejoiced to the extent that he was suffering much like Christ. Both were betrayed, both faced execution,” Bishop Gainer said in his homily.
“There is so much we can learn from St. Thomas More…. We use words to express ourselves, but they can also be twisted and used against us. Thomas More would not lie; he felt lying was odious to God…. He never mistrusted God – He trusted Him always,” the bishop said.
“He ultimately felt whatever happened to him happened for the good. He believed that. And good has come out of Thomas More’s life. What happened to Thomas More has led to much good for all of us today,” the bishop told the congregation.
(Learn more about the USCCB’s efforts for religious freedom at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/index.cfm.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness