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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

ST. THOMAS MORE

Luke, Chapter 22, Verse 1-2

1 Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near, 2 and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, for they were afraid of the people.

Fear is the eighth deadly sin and the Jewish authorities were absolutely controlled by fear. Naturally when fear rules your life you instinctively run or fight. They chose the death of one man to save the people, which was their rationalization to have Christ killed. Judas was their answer. The Jewish authorities’ leadership failed miserably out of self-deception.


Sir Thomas More-Honesty[3]


John McCain in his book entitled “Character is Destiny” tells us that Sir Thomas More surrendered everything for the truth as he saw it and shamed a king with the courage of his conscience. Thomas was a brilliant student. He loved learning and would for the rest of his life prefer the less prestigious but more satisfying rewards of a scholar to the riches and power of the king’s court. He was part of a movement called humanism, whose followers were faithful to the Church but hoped to encourage a better understanding of the Gospels and their more honest application to the workings of society. They studied the great Greek and Roman philosophers, whose views on morality and just societies they believed complemented their Christian principles. They were passionate in pursuit of the truth as revealed by God, and by discovery through study and scholarly debate and discussion. They thought the world could be made gentler with Christian love and greater learning—love and learning that served not only the nobility of court and Church, but all mankind. Thomas was a devout Christian, and for a time lived in a monastery with the intention of entering the priesthood. The monastic life was one of isolation and self-denial. And though he took his religious devotion seriously, he loved the comforts of family life, and the rewards of learning and earthly pleasures as well: music and art, reading and writing, friendship and conversation and jests. He loved his city, London, then the greatest capital of Northern Europe. He loved life. So he left the cloister for a wife and family, and returned to the worldly affairs of men. His love of learning and truth was second only to his love of God, and he encouraged his children, for the sake of their happiness, to seek truth through learning as well as scripture. He cultivated friendships and exchanged letters with some of the greatest minds in Europe, including with the Dutch priest and famous humanist philosopher Erasmus, who became More’s greatest admirer outside his family, and whose description of More became the title by which he is still remembered to this day: “a man for all seasons.” His scholarly reputation and skill as a scrupulously honest lawyer first gained the attention of the king’s most powerful counselor, the lord chancellor of England, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. An ambitious and shrewd politician, Wolsey recognized the younger man’s talents, and pressed him into the king’s service. Serving first as a diplomat, then in a series of increasingly powerful offices at court, knighted, and given lands and wealth, More became a favorite of Wolsey’s and Henry’s. And while he might have preferred the life of a philosopher, husband, and father to the rigors of public life, he no doubt took pride in the king’s confidence and favor. When Wolsey’s downfall came that would lead in time to Thomas’s death, Henry made his friend, Thomas, Lord Chancellor. It was the highest office at court, and Thomas More was the first layman to hold it. His appointment was greeted favorably by the court and public alike, for Thomas was known by one and all as an honest man, who would conscientiously discharge the duties of his office. As it turned out, he was too honest for his king. Thomas More waged an intellectual and judicial war against the followers of Luther that was at times surprisingly aggressive and even cruel for such a reasonable and just man. In the beginning, he had the king’s full support in his persecution and prosecution of “heretics.” More defended the Church out of religious principle, and because he and the king feared the uncontrollable social disorder that a permanent split among the faithful would surely cause. But his hatred, if it could be called that in such a mild man, was for the heresy and not the heretics. Death was the judgment for heretics in the courts that Thomas More governed, but he went to great lengths to encourage the accused to recant their views and escape their sentence. In fact, in the many cases he prosecuted, all the accused except for four poor souls, who went to their deaths rather than recant, escaped the headman’s ax. More was diligent in his duty, but a much more powerful threat than Luther’s protests had encouraged was growing to the Catholic Church in England. Henry’s queen, Catherine of Aragon, had failed to produce a surviving male heir. Henry was determined to have a new wife who could give him a healthy son. Other kings and nobles had received from the pope annulments of their marriage. But the most powerful king in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was Catherine’s nephew, and he had great influence with Pope Clement VII. He persuaded Clement not to grant an annulment that would remove the crown from his aunt’s head. Once Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a scheming courtier, he would no longer accept papal opposition to his desire to remarry. In this dangerous and growing conflict, Thomas More became a central figure, and he would struggle with all his intellect, lawyer’s skills, and courage to obey his king without forsaking his church. It would prove impossible. Initially More dutifully served the king’s wishes, arguing in Parliament that there were grounds to consider the marriage to Catherine unlawful. But when the king declared himself, and not the pope, to be the supreme head of the Church in England, More offered the king his resignation. Henry refused it and promised his friend that he would never be forced to take any action that his conscience would not permit. But the king’s assurance was hollow, and soon both he and More realized that the king’s desires and More’s conscience could not be reconciled. More again asked the king to accept his resignation, and this time, Henry agreed. For many months, he was careful not to speak against the king’s wishes, in public or in private. But he declined to attend the king’s wedding to Anne Boleyn. When Parliament passed a law requiring the king’s subjects to sign an oath recognizing Anne as queen, and any children she might bear Henry as legitimate heirs to the throne, he refused to sign it because it denied the pope’s authority over the Church in England. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He remained there until his trial fifteen months later. The jury, which included Anne Boleyn’s father, brother, and uncle, found him guilty and sentenced him to be hanged, and drawn and quartered. Then More spoke his conscience and said he could not in his own heart accept the king as head of the English Church. The death to which he was first sentenced would have been a far slower and more painful death than he was made to suffer in the end. Henry, mercifully, permitted his old friend and counselor to die by beheading. On the day of his execution, he had some difficulty climbing the scaffold steps. He thanked the guard who helped him but joked that he should be allowed to “shift for myself” when he came back down. He recited a prayer of repentance. The hooded executioner, as was the custom, begged the condemned man’s forgiveness. More gave him a coin, kissed him, and thanked him for giving him a “greater benefit than ever any mortal man can be able to give me.” And then the man who had all his life loved to jest, made one last joke. As he knelt to place his head upon the block, he asked for a moment to arrange his long beard so that it wouldn’t be severed by the ax, observing that as far as he knew his beard had not offended the king. In his last address, spoken moments earlier, he had asked the crowd of witnesses to pray for his soul and for the king, for he died “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” One swift stroke and the king’s will was done. The life on earth of honest Thomas More was ended. His glory had just begun.
  
Pray for the return of the Church of England to the fold.

Fortnight for Freedom[4]

Religious freedom has recently become one of the major focal points in the conversation on how Americans can promote the common good. Our Catholic tradition has much to offer this conversation. In this time of increasing polarization in our culture, we can contribute to a better understanding of this issue in a way that respects all people. We can speak with friends and neighbors about religious freedom and work to clear up misconceptions about it.

1. Respect. It is important that we not dismiss skeptics, but rather, that we listen to their concerns and take them seriously.

2. A Fundamental Right. Religious freedom is a fundamental right. It means that the government cannot coerce people into acting against their consciences. This is important for all people, not just people of faith. A government that makes one group choose obedience to the state over obedience to faith and conscience can force any group to submit to the state's demands.

3. Space to Do Good. People of faith need religious freedom to have the space to serve others. Oftentimes, religious liberty disputes arise when religious organizations are expected to sacrifice aspects of their faith in order to continue to serve the surrounding community. But it is our faith that inspires us to serve. Take the Little Sisters of the Poor, who live out their Christian faith by serving the elderly poor. These women have had to seek protection from a regulation requiring them to facilitate access to contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs and devices. Or, consider adoption services run by Catholic Charities, which simply seek to place children in homes with a married mother and father. Due to the redefinition of marriage in civil law, many Catholic Charities and other faith-based adoption agencies around the country have been forced to end their adoption and foster care services. When faith groups violate their consciences, they undermine the whole mission of their ministry. People of faith and faith-based organizations need space to make their unique contributions to the common good.

4. Authentic Pluralism. Skeptics are often concerned about the effects that religious organizations have on people who do not share those religious beliefs. Skeptics tend to see a conflict between religious freedom and their vision of equality and choose a mistaken concept of equality over freedom. These are certainly difficult issues. Here are points to consider:

·         A pluralistic society makes space for people who hold views that run counter to the mainstream. Religious groups, and groups formed around a particular set of principles, need to be able to express their views with integrity. It is crucial that our society not adopt the view that all groups – least of all religious groups -- must conform to one view. True freedom results in a diversity that strengthens, rather than weakens, society.
·         Some skeptics say that religious people impose their faith on others. However, when religious groups are accused of causing harm to others, the "harm" is often that they do not facilitate an action. The craft store chain Hobby Lobby refused to cover abortifacients for its employees. But Hobby Lobby is not preventing its employees from obtaining these devices. The Christian family that runs Hobby Lobby refuses to participate in an activity it believes is immoral.
·         It is similar when family-owned businesses choose not to participate in same-sex weddings. For example, florist Barronelle Stutzman had served a customer she knew was in a same-sex relationship for almost a decade. However, she could not in good conscience create custom floral arrangements for the customer's same-sex ceremony. She was happy to provide flowers for any other occasion but did not want to be forced to participate in a particular event that went against her Christian beliefs. The State of Washington sued Barronelle for declining to participate in an activity that went against her faith.
·         Above all, the Church seeks to offer a better way. Catholic teaching is holistic, rooted in the dignity of the person, a dignity that is visible to reason yet made clearer by the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not simply asking for freedom from coercion so that we can be left alone. We believe that what we teach - about marriage, sex, family life, care for refugees, care for the poor, care for the sick, care for all vulnerable – is good for society. When we see a culture that is often unloving and hostile to life, we work to bear witness to a healthier culture, a "civilization of love," in which all people can flourish.

  
Amoris Lætitia[2] Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family- The sacrament of Matrimony (71-75)

The truth of the love of man and woman is fully illuminated only in the love of the crucified Christ. He stressed that ‘marriage based on an exclusive and definitive love becomes an icon of the relationship between God and his people, and vice versa.

The family is the image of God, who is a communion of persons. Jesus, who reconciled all things in himself and redeemed us from sin, not only returned marriage and the family to their original form, but also raised marriage to the sacramental sign of his love for the Church. In the human family, gathered by Christ, ‘the image and likeness’ of the Most Holy Trinity has been restored, the mystery from which all true love flows.

The sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment. The sacrament is a gift given for the sanctification and salvation of the spouses, since “their mutual belonging is a real representation, through the sacramental sign, of the same relationship between Christ and the Church.

In accepting each other, and with Christ’s grace, the engaged couple promise each other total self-giving, faithfulness and openness to new life. The sacrament is not a “thing” or a “power”, for in it Christ himself “now encounters Christian spouses... He dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses.

Sexual union, lovingly experienced and sanctified by the sacrament, is in turn a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple. The sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one with us.

In the Church’s Latin tradition, the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the man and the woman who marry; by manifesting their consent and expressing it physically, they receive a great gift. Their consent and their bodily union are the divinely appointed means whereby they become “one flesh”.
  
Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Please pray for me and this ministry
·         Please Pray for Senator McCain and our country; asking Our Lady of Beauraing to intercede.



[1] https://www.buffalolib.org/vufind/Record/1656521/Reviews
[2] Pope Francis, Encyclical on Love.
[3]McCain, John; Salter, Mark. Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember
[4]http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/how-to-talk-about-religious-freedom.cfm

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