“So how do you select a patron Saint for a parish?” To be honest, I don’t know what the tradition might be in other churches, but when the question was asked of me—St. Thomas More came immediately to mind. St. Thomas spent his entire life in London, from birth to death, other than several diplomatic journeys he made at the request of his king. He is my favorite saint for so many reasons. He was a layman, a lawyer, a husband, a father. He was one of the greatest minds of his generation, who educated his daughters in a time when women were considered intellectually inferior to men. More was a Humanist and an author and was noted for his kindness, greatness of heart and above all—he had a wonderful sense of humor.
But Thomas More was not a full square saint. He often used his pen as a weapon on which he skewered others savagely who held opposing opinions. He approved the burning of heretics. He was a man who struggled with his own demons all his life but the God he met in prayer slowly but surely prepared him and transformed him into the Thomas More God had in mind.
More is primarily noted as the saint who stood up to King Henry VIII in the matter of his divorce from Katherine of Aragon and the King’s self-appointed leadership as head of the Church in England. I prefer to see him as a man who believed in the integrity of the individual conscience. He never spoke out about the divorce or the King’s self-promotion, but it was a silence that roared all over England. Once Lord Chancellor of England, Thomas More resigned his position, hoping to be left quietly alone. Instead, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 because he would not take the oath of supremacy. Up until the time that they removed his books and writing materials, he wrote devotional, meditative works. He was tried and convicted of treason. True to his conscience he stood firm and forgave his judges telling them that “we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation.” Before he was executed, More said “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
Thomas More was truly “a man for all seasons.” His journey, his struggles, make him, imho, a true model of living a life of faith while fully engrossed in “the world,” an apt patron and protector for our parish.
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