1.10.09

St Thomas More Model for Modern Catholics


Being laid up I have allowed myself to get on with my reading. While in Duke I got the urge to read a life of St Thomas More.

St. Thomas More, Model for Modern Catholics, by John Fink, is a new book. I was grateful to buy the only copy at the local Catholic store.

This is a short biography, just about 167 pages, not counting the notes or bibliography, yet Fink has managed to keep the life of this Saint very much alive. He is portrayed as being first and foremost human. St Thomas suffered from the same things we suffer from today, the temptation go along to get along. He did not succumb to that temptation.

John Fink gives a glimpse into the More family, remarkable in itself. An example of this, St Thomas operated the first school for women. He insisted that his daughters, adopted daughters and sons write him every day, pairing them up so that they would write him in Latin. His letters to them, also writen in Latin, were first translated into English and then re translated into Latin. St Thomas was himself a man of humour and wit, but not in a rude way. He comes across as a good father, and husband.

He communicated with another notable of the time, Erasmus. (My late father who much admired Erasmus once told me that Erasmus was the last person who could have possibly known everthing. Neither he nor St Thomas spoke the others native language so on visits they communicated solely in Latin.

St Thomas' other contemporary included Luther, with whom he argued the points of Catholicism and defended the Faith through his books. (His opinion of Luther and mine are parallel.) Tyndale too was a constant irritant, his English bible translation would probably have been accepted by St. Thomas had he not added anti-Church rantings and comentaries.

Of course St Thomas is mostly remembered for failing to accept King Henry's divorce and marriage to Anne Boleyn, yet this is not why he was eventually beheaded, although it certainly was the root cause. He was placed n the block because he refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy, which placed Henry above the pope in authority over the Catholics of England. In other words St Thomas foreshadowed the martyrdom of thousands of French Cathoilcs who refused to accept the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.

This is a well researched book, easy to read, and a great idea for a weekend, with a glass of wine. find it here...

Dieu le Roy!
Brantigny

A little about the sketch above which forms the cover of this book and aound which the story is told. If is looks as is it could have been drawn by Holbein, it was. This sketch was commissioned for a painting of his family. It is remarkable because it is so heart warmingly realistic. Another first, this is regarded as the first family, non ceremonial portrait in history. It looks as if the family is about to recite the evening office, common to this family, (how many of us recite the family office now? Too busy?)

It shows, St Thomas in the center, to his right his own father John More, Lady Alice More his 2nd wife is kneeling on a Prie-dieu, engaging a prayer book. Left to right are Elizabeth More, his adopted daughter Margaret Giggs (pointing out something to John who is ignoring her), Thomas' ward Ann Crescare, Thomas only son John More, Cecily More, and Margaret More. John Harris St Thomas secretary and Henry Patenson the More family fool, (a perhaps uncomplementary name in our century but 500 years ago it was popular to have a disabled person in a family for humour, St Thomas did not treat his in the manner and Henry was treated with the upmost respect and accompanied St Thomas on some of his travels.)

2 comments:

Matterhorn said...

You're right- he is a model for modern Catholics, especially.

I hope you are feeling stronger. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Richard!
Great post as always! St. Thomas More has always been one of my favourite people from Henry VIII's time.Holbein's art always wonderful. As a young artist, I'd always try to copy his style.I will be looking forward to reading this book.I'm still praying for you to have a complete recovery. Marge