The New Evangelization - Europe

















































































































SAINT MARGARET MARY ALACOQUE
Virgin, Apostle of Devotion to the Sacred Heart - AD 1690 (October 16)

Margaret was born at Lhautecour, France, 22 July, 1647, and died at Paray-le-Monial, 17 October, 1690.

Her parents, Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, were distinguished less for temporal possessions than for their virtue, which gave them an honourable position. From early childhood Margaret showed intense love for the Blessed Sacrament, and preferred silence and prayer to childish amusements. After her first communion at the age of nine, she practised in secret severe corporal mortifications, until paralysis confined her to bed for four years. At the end of this period, having made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to consecrate herself to religious life, she was instantly restored to perfect health. The death of her father and the injustice of a relative plunged the family in poverty and humiliation, after which more than ever Margaret found consolation in the Blessed Sacrament, and Christ made her sensible of His presence and protection. He usually appeared to her as the Crucified or the Ecce Homo, and this did not surprise her, as she thought others had the same Divine assistance. When Margaret was seventeen, the family property was recovered, and her mother besought her to establish herself in the world. Her filial tenderness made her believe that the vow of childhood was not binding, and that she could serve God at home by penance and charity to the poor. Then, still bleeding from her self-imposed austerities, she began to take part in the pleasures of the world. One night upon her return from a ball, she had a vision of Christ as He was during the scourging, reproaching her for infidelity after He had given her so many proofs of His love. During her entire life Margaret mourned over two faults committed at this time--the wearing of some superfluous ornaments and a mask at the carnival to please her brothers.

On 25 May, 1671, she entered the Visitation Convent at Paray, where she was subjected to many trials to prove her vocation, and in November, 1672, pronounced her final vows. She had a delicate constitution, but was gifted with intelligence and good judgement, and in the cloister she chose for herself what was most repugnant to her nature, making her life one of inconceivable sufferings, which were often relieved or instantly cured by our Lord, Who acted as her Director, appeared to her frequently and conversed with her, confiding to her the mission to establish the devotion to His Sacred Heart. These extraordinary occurrences drew upon her the adverse criticism of the community, who treated her as a visionary, and her superior commanded her to live the common life. but her obedience, her humility, and invariable charity towards those who persecuted her, finally prevailed, and her mission, accomplished in the crucible of suffering, was recognized even by those who had shown her the most bitter opposition.

Margaret Mary was inspired by Christ to establish the Holy Hour and to pray lying prostrate with her face to the ground from eleven till midnight on the eve of the first Friday of each month, to share in the mortal sadness He endured when abandoned by His Apostles in His Agony, and to receive holy Communion on the first Friday of every month. In the first great revelation, He made known to her His ardent desire to be loved by men and His design of manifesting His Heart with all Its treasures of love and mercy, of sanctification and salvation. He appointed the Friday after the octave of the feast of Corpus Christi as the feast of the Sacred Heart; He called her "the Beloved Disciple of the Sacred Heart", and the heiress of all Its treasures. The love of the Sacred Heart was the fire which consumed her, and devotion to the Sacred Heart is the refrain of all her writings. In her last illness she refused all alleviation, repeating frequently: "What have I in heaven, and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God", and died pronouncing the Holy Name of Jesus. The discussion of the mission and virtues of Margaret Mary continued for years. All her actions, her revelations, her spiritual maxims, her teachings regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart, of which she was the chief exponent as well as the apostle, were subjected to the most severe and minute examination, and finally the Sacred Congregation of rites passed a favourable vote on the heroic virtues of this servant of God. In March, 1824, Leo XII pronounced her Venerable, and on 18 September, 1864, Pius IX declared her Blessed. She was canonized by Benedict XV in 1920. When her tomb was canonically opened in July, 1830, two instantaneous cures took place. Her body rests under the altar in the chapel at Paray, and many striking favours have been obtained by pilgrims attracted thither from all parts of the world. Her feast is celebrated on [16] October.


SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND
Matron - AD 1093 (November 16)

Born about 1045, died 16 November [1093], was a daughter of Edward "Outremere", or "the Exile", by Agatha, kinswoman of Gisela, the wife of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside. A constant tradition asserts that Margaret's father and his brother Edmund were sent to Hungary for safety during the reign of Canute, but no record of the fact has been found in that country. The date of Margaret's birth cannot be ascertained with accuracy, but it must have been between the years 1038, when St. Stephen died, and 1057, when her father returned to England. It appears that Margaret came with him on that occasion and, on his death and the conquest of England by the Normans, her mother Agatha decided to return to the Continent. A storm however drove their ship to Scotland, where Malcolm III received the party under his protection, subsequently taking Margaret to wife. This event had been delayed for a while by Margaret's desire to entire religion, but it took place some time between 1067 and 1070.

In her position as queen, all Margaret's great influence was thrown into the cause of religion and piety. A synod was held, and among the special reforms instituted the most important were the regulation of the Lenten fast, observance of the Easter communion, and the removal of certain abuses concerning marriage within the prohibited degrees. Her private life was given up to constant prayer and practices of piety. She founded several churches, including the Abbey of Dunfermline, built to enshrine her greatest treasure, a relic of the true Cross. Her book of the Gospels, richly adorned with jewels, which one day dropped into a river and was according to legend miraculously recovered, is now in the Bodleian library at Oxford. She foretold the day of her death, which took place at Edinburgh on 16 Nov., 1093, her body being buried before the high altar at Dunfermline.

In 1250 Margaret was canonized by Innocent IV, and her relics were translated on 19 June, 1259, to a new shrine, the base of which is still visible beyond the modern east wall of the restored church. At the Reformation her head passed into the possession of Mary Queen of Scots, and later was secured by the Jesuits at Douai, where it is believed to have perished during the French Revolution. According to George Conn, "De duplici statu religionis apud Scots" (Rome, 1628), the rest of the relics, together with those of Malcolm, were acquired by Philip II of Spain, and placed in two urns in the Escorial. When, however, Bishop Gillies of Edinburgh applied through Pius IX for their restoration to Scotland, they could not be found.


SAINT MARIA GORETTI
Virgin & Martyr - AD 1902 (July 6)

"By the loving providence of God, we have assisted this evening at the supreme exaltation of a humble daughter of the people, in a ceremony whose solemnity and dignity are unique in the history of the Church.

For tonight's canonization has been held in this vast and inviting place of mystery, made for the occasion into a sacred temple whose vault is the open heaven that proclaims the glories of Almighty God—a choice for which you first expressed the desire before We had decided to make the disposition.

The concourse of the faithful coming here for the occasion, exceeds anything that has ever been witnessed at any other occasion. You have been lured here, we might almost say, by the entrancing beauty and intoxicating fragrance of this lily mantled with crimson whom we, only a moment ago, had the intense pleasure of inscribing in the roll of the saints; the sweet little martyr of purity, Maria Goretti."

Assunta Goretti, Maria's mother, must have had many thoughts and mixed emotions as she listened to His Holiness, Pope Pius XII deliver this homily. More than 250,000 people had gathered in the piazza, St. Peter's Square on the evening, June 24, 1950 to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to pray, and to honor Assunta’s canonized daughter. Any mother would be transported back in time, the early days of marriage, young children, family, familiar surroundings...

...To the never-ending winter of 1897. The blustery Alpine cold whipped down along Italy's eastern edge. Italy's backbone, the Apennine Mountains, deflect all the warmth from the Mediterranean and the African Continent. Luigi Goretti, Assunta's hard working farmer husband, was discouraged. The pure mountain air, steep paths and craggy landscape were appealing. Even the beauty of the Adriatic could be seen from the church tower in their little village of Corinaldo. But it was not enticing now. Enduring the long winters of heavy snows and bitter cold wind while gathering precious fuel was no way to live. Luigi was a man of action. God helps those who help themselves. He wanted more for his family than the meager existence the mountains provided. Assunta felt a knot of fear and panic at the thought of leaving her ancestral home. But Luigi, in his youthful travels as a soldier, had seen what lay beyond the mountains. There was the milder Mediterranean climate, fertile plains, and a chance for a man to make a living for his family, rather than the constant battle against nature.

Luigi and Assunta packed what little they had, along with their four children, Angelo, nine, Maria, six, Marino, four and new born Allesandro. Across the Apennines they traveled, two hundred miles in two weeks, due westward on steep, treacherous mountain paths until at last the Roman Campagna spread before them.

Into the city they headed, overwhelmed by the size, the multitudes of people and a strange, noisy life. They found comfort inside the city's numerous churches, praying, lighting candles, imploring the saints for guidance that they would find fruit and not folly in their adventure.

By chance they learned of rich farm lands owned by Count Mazzoleni south west of the city near the coastal town of Nettuno. They were told to stop and inquire at Ferriere. The land could be rented reasonably, or perhaps worked on a profit-sharing basis. The family was eager to settle. The boys were becoming restless. Only Maria remained sweet and uncomplaining as the city pavement fell away to a landscape of vineyards, and fields of wheat and corn. But as they continued, the Mediterranean coastal plain was very different. The "fertile" farmland had to be wrestled away from marshes and swamps. The air was hot and always heavy and damp from the sea.

It was mid afternoon when they entered the village of Ferriere on the edge of the Pontine Marshes. Not a soul was on the street to greet them; no church, no shops. The heat of the day was intense, the children thirsty and tired after the day's journey. Luigi swallowed his disappointment as he knocked on a door. Looking around him he felt unwelcome, as if all the sidewalks had been pulled up and locked away. Finally after several attempts to arouse someone, Luigi heard the slow shuffling of feet. An elderly woman unbolted the door and directed him in the direction of the Count's "estate": the "old cheese factory" at the end of town.

The Goretti's found the oblong two story building perched on a small rise surrounded by flat, swampy, treeless land. The outbuildings consisted of a shed, stable and hen house, abandoned, empty of all life. With minimal fuss and bother, the Goretti's became sharecroppers for Count Mazzoleni.

Assunta quickly took over the cares of the house and made it home for her family. Luigi began to work immediately to make a success of his endeavor. His first project was to drain the neglected land. All summer he continued with tireless effort and by fall had tilled enough land to plant eight acres of wheat and barley. But the summer of backbreaking work, the change in climate and the proximity of the malarial-infested Pontine had put Luigi in grave danger. At first, he ignored a slight chill and fever. With so much to be done how could he rest? There was work at the quarry to patch the roadway, hedges to trim, firewood to secure, buildings and roofs to repair, lofts to clean, and task after task after task. A troublesome cough followed him day and night, but he never stopped.

Harvest time came and Count Mazzoleni came to inspect the yield. He found Goretti's grain half cut, limp in the fields. The Count angrily stormed into the house. Luigi lay ill, prostrate with fever. He could only admit that he could not bring in the harvest by himself. Without waiting for further explanation, the Count said he would send Giovanni Serenelli and his son to complete the work for a share of the crop.

Luigi fought back bitter disappointment. Now he must share half his harvest and expect Assunta to care for two more people. How could he ask his lovely Assunta to do more? Already she was overburdened with his illness, the children, a new baby, and the cares of the farm. As Luigi and Assunta prayed together before retiring, Luigi knew he must tell Assunta, but first he must sleep.

Early the next morning, the Serenelli's arrived. Giovanni was a man about sixty and his youngest son, Alexander, was a strong and well-built young man of eighteen. Giovanni hailed from Assunta's own country and spoke lovingly of the people and places that were dear to her heart. He also had a well-practiced and touching litany of his own miseries: his wife's death in the asylum and a son's confinement there, his other children following their own lives back home. He was now left with his youngest, destitute and alone, but willing to work with Luigi—for half of the profits and a communal life with the Goretti's.

As the Serenelli's diligently began to work to get the harvest under control, a bit of joy returned to the Goretti household. Assunta prepared her best meals. The children were happily amused with Alexander's prowess at catching birds and making reed whistles. But as autumn's labors turned to the rainy, idle days of winter, the Serenelli's dispositions soured.

Giovanni had taken a liking to the strong, local wines and became irritable and overbearing. Alexander began to act vile, hostile and sullen, the result of years of maternal neglect and a youthful, depraved apprenticeship among the stevedores. He now shunned the children and spent his time locked in his room brooding over seamy magazines. Assunta discovered his hoard of pornographic books as she cleaned his room one day. She worried about Alexander's influence on her oldest son, Angelo, but unwilling to start a quarrel, she swallowed her first impulse to burn every piece of trash she found. Their home did not need more trouble. Luigi regretted their move from the mountains and especially repented of taking these two strangers into his home.

The malaria was doing its subtle job through the winter. As spring beckoned with endless work, Luigi attempted to meet its rigors uncomplainingly. He came in from the fields pallid and exhausted. Each night the children knelt about the bed in prayer; Luigi looked at his beautiful little Maria, with her limpid eyes and rosy cheeks. Why had he not noticed her maturity and grace? Silently she prayed and wept for her family. As April 1902 ended, so did Luigi's earthly life. As he lay surrounded by family and neighbors, he whispered haltingly to Assunta: "Go back to Corinaldo..."

Giovanni Serenelli became master of the farm. He was harsh and ruthless. He allowed Assunta and the children to stay and work for him. She desperately longed to go back to home and family, back to the fresh mountain life. She could not fulfill Luigi's dying wish now. A woman traveling over two hundred miles alone with seven young children and no money was unthinkable. Giovanni insisted Maria, now twelve, assume all the household duties while Assunta worked in the fields.

Her father's illness and death, the Serenelli's sinister cruelty, the never-ending labors of the farm had made Maria far too serious for her age. Her devotion to Jesus and her obedience to her mother was extraordinary. Even the other village children noticed her piety as she walked to town to sell eggs. It was with admiration and a touch of envy that they referred to Maria as "The Little Old Lady."

It was now July 1902. Only a few months before, Maria, though illiterate, had completed her Catechism instructions in order to receive her First Holy Communion. How she had longed to take Jesus into her heart often! Once a week on Sunday just did not seem like enough. Maria managed the rigors of life because she had her Jesus for strength. This serious little girl had matured spiritually beyond her years, too.

Assunta noticed her young daughter's character changing. There was no childish playfulness left in Maria. The cares of the world clouded her eyes with sadness. Her night prayers become longer. She examined her conscience repeatedly for occasions of sin, her small body trembled with fear and bitter sobs. Alexander Serenelli had been stalking her for months now, prowling about with evil in his heart, threatening to kill her if she told a soul. She did not take Assunta into her confidence for fear of burdening her mother with more cares and creating more trouble with the Serenelli's.

The intense summer sun burned down on the farm yard. Assunta watched her children playfully helping with the threshing. She gazed upon them with intense love. They were her last joy left in this life. Maria was up on the porch outside of the kitchen, fingers flying with needle and thread, baby Theresa asleep at her feet.

Maria was lost in thought, too. She was rejoicing in eager anticipation of going to Mass. Tomorrow was Sunday and the Feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus. How she longed to share herself with Him in Confession and Communion. Then suddenly, Maria was startled by the sound of footsteps behind her. It was Alexander. He demanded she come into the kitchen. She froze in terror. Maria's silence further inflamed his foul passions. He grabbed her arm, dragged her into the kitchen, pressed a dagger to her throat and bolted the door. She fought him fiercely and screamed, "No! No Alexander! It is a sin. God forbids it. You will go to hell, Alexander. You will go to hell if you do it!" All went unseen and unheard.

Maria awoke with the sun streaming through the kitchen window. She heard the children playing and the monotonous sound of the threshing. The baby Theresa was crying at the edge of the porch. Maria attempted to lift herself to the open kitchen door. Her call for help was more a submission to the searing pain. A napping Giovanni heard the infant crying, and in an instant of exasperation for what he thought was Maria's neglect, headed up the stairs. His shout brought Assunta and the neighbors running, hearts pounding. They found Maria, tortured with pain, badly bruised and lying in a pool of blood. Assunta, recovering from shock questioned her sweet Maria, who answered, "It was Alexander, Mama... Because he wanted me to commit an awful sin and I would not."

Maria was laid tenderly on a bed while a neighbor summoned the ambulance. Assunta tried to soothe her daughter's agony as the ambulance wagon bumped along on that torturous trip to the hospital in Nettuno. The doctors attempted to repair the extensive damage, but could give Assunta no encouragement. Maria unconsciously cried as she resisted Alexander's demands over and over. When she opened her eyes, they were transfixed upon the Statue of Our Lady placed at the foot of her bed. Awake she seemed to remember nothing of the previous day's horrors and wished only to know of the well being of her family. The parish priest came in to offer her Viaticum, but first she took time to reflect on the good Father's reminder that Jesus had pardoned those who had crucified Him. As she gazed at the crucifix on the far wall, she said without anger or resentment, "I, too, pardon him. I, too, wish that he could come some day and join me in heaven." Assunta's tears flowed hot and heavy as she gave her sweet Maria her last mortal mother's kiss. As the bells throughout the city were proclaiming the vespers hour, Jesus came to gather sweet Maria into His eternal protection, her reward for strength and virtue beyond her tender years.


SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE 
Priest & Martyr - AD 1941 (August 14)

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941) was born at Pabiance, in Russian Occupied Poland. He was baptized Raymond at the Parish Church. Already proficient in virtue, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him in 1906 A. D., about the time of his first communion.

She offered him the graces of virginity and martyrdom and asked him which he wanted. Filled with zeal, he begged for both, and was filled thereafter with the most ardent desire to love and serve this Immaculate Queen.

He joined the Order of Friars Minor Conventual at Lvov in Austrian Occupied Poland, where he took the name Maximilian, and after finishing preliminary studies he was sent to the International Seraphic College in Rome to pursue doctorates in philosophy and theology.

In 1917 on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbon, renowned anti-Catholic and agnostic of Jewish lineage, St. Maximilian was moved by divine grace to found a pious association of the faithful known as the Militia of the Immaculate .

The Militia was to be a loosely organized tool in the hands of the Immaculate Mediatrix for the conversion and sanctification of non-Catholics, especially those inimical to the Church. Its members consecrated themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoked Her daily for the conversion of sinners, and strove by every licit means to build up the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart throughout the world.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1918, St. Maximilian returned to Poland to teach Church History in Cracow, where he organized the first group of the Militia outside of Italy. Because of ill health he was freed to devote his time exclusively to the promotion of the Militia, whereupon he founded the "Knight of the Immaculate," a monthly Roman Catholic Magazine promoting the knowledge, love and service of the Immaculate Virgin, in the conversion of all souls to Christ Our Lord.

The phenomenal growth of this apostolate led to the foundation of the first city of the Immaculate, Niepokalanow in 1929. This was a friary of Franciscan priests and brothers engaged in the use of all kinds of modern equipment so as to promote via the mass media the Militia through all parts of Poland.

Two years later St. Maximilian, heeding the call of the Holy Father to all religious, to come to the aid of the missionary efforts of the universal Church, volunteered to go to the Orient to found another city of the Immaculate, Mugenzai No Sono .

St. Maximilian returned to Niepokalanow, as it spiritual father, in 1936 and under his able direction the number of the friars there grew above 900 in the months preceding World War II. Publishing apostolate was producing 1,000,000 magazines monthly as well all 125,000 copies of a daily paper for the 1,000,000 members of the Militia worldwide.

After the invasion of Poland by the German Wermacht in September of 1939, the friars dispersed and Niepokalanow was ransacked. St. Maximilian and about 40 others were taken to holding camps, first in Germany, and later in Poland. By the mercy of the Immaculate they were released and allow to return home on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the same year.

During the war the friars turned to caring for about 5,000 Jewish refugees of the Poznan district as well as providing a repair shop for the farming machinery of the locale.

To incriminate St. Maximilian, the Gestapo permitted one final printing of the "Knight of the Immaculate" in December of 1940. In February of 1941, they came to Niepokalanow and arrested St. Maximlian. He was taken to Pawiak Prision in German Occupied Warsaw, Poland, and later was transferred to Auschwitz.

Over the entrance gate of this concentration camp was a sign in German, "Work makes free!". In reality, upon entering the prisoners were told that all Jews had the right to live only two weeks, Roman Catholic priests 1 month.

At Auschwitz several million Roman Catholics were put to death along with another several million persons of Jewish lineage. The objective of Hitler, in his hatred for Jesus Christ, was both to remove all witness to the truth of the original revelation of the God of Israel (the Jewish nation), as well as all who came to believe in Him in His Incarnation by Mary (Roman Catholics).

Thus, St. Maximilian, Knight of the Immaculate Virgin, was placed by Divine Providence at the very center of the ideologic and spiritual conflict of the century, and was destined by God to be the sign of contradiction to a nation given over to diabolic hatred of God and His people.

St. Maximilian, in response to the vicious hatred and brutality of the prison guards, was ever obedient, meek, and forgiving. He gave counsel to all his fellow prisoners "Trust in the Immaculate!" "Forgive!" "Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors!" He was noted for his generosity in surrendering his food despite the ravages of starvation that he suffered, for always going to the end of the line of the infirmary, despite the acute tuberculosis afflicting him.

In the end, by the maternal mediation of the Virgin Mary, he received the grace to be intimately conformed to Christ in death. For on the night of August 3, 1941 a prisoner successfully escaped from the same section of the came in which St. Maximilian was detained. In reprisal, the commandant ordered death by starvation for 10 men chosen at random from the same section.

One of the condemned, Seargent Franciszek Gajowniczek, shouted out, lamenting that he would never see his wife and children again. In his stead, St. Maximilian Mary, who had remained standing all night long during the selection of the condemned, stepped forward and offered his own life in exchange for this man. Ten days later, having led the other 9 in prayers and hymns, St. Maximilian was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid, and passed into eternal glory.

Pope Paul VI beatified St. Maximilian in 1971 and Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1982 as a martyr of charity.

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe's life and work continues today in the religious institutes of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, at the Academy of the Immaculate, and in the movement known as the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix. www.marymediatrix.com , also by the Conventual Franciscan Friars - www.consecration.com  , through the Militia of the Immaculata movement, founded by St. Maximilian himself, and by the Fr. Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata, a secular institute of consecrated women - www.kolbemission.org .


SAINT OLAF of NORWAY
Martyr - AD 1030 (July 29)

Martyr and King of Norway (1015-30), b. 995; d. 29 July, 1030. He was a son of
King Harald Grenske of Norway. According to Snorre, he was baptized in 998 in
Norway, but more probably about 1010 in Rouen, France, by Archbishop Robert.
In his early youth he went as a viking to England, where he partook in many
battles and became earnestly interested in Christianity. After many difficulties he
was elected King of Norway, and made it his object to extirpate heathenism and
make the Christian religion the basis of his kingdom. He is the great Norwegian
legislator for the Church, and like his ancestor (Olaf Trygvesson), made frequent
severe attacks on the old faith and customs, demolishing the temples and
building Christian churches in their place. He brought many bishops and priests
from England, as King Saint Cnut later did to Denmark. Some few are known by
name (Grimkel, Sigfrid, Rudolf, Bernhard). He seems on the whole to have taken
the Anglo-Saxon conditions as a model for the ecclesiastical organization of his
kingdom. But at last the exasperation against him got so strong that the mighty
clans rose in rebellion against him and applied to King Cnut of Denmark and
England for help. This was willingly given, whereupon Olaf was expelled and Cnut
elected King of Norway. It must be remembered that the resentment against Olaf
was due not alone to his Christianity, but also in a high degree to his unflinching
struggle against the old constitution of shires and for the unity of Norway. He is
thus regarded by the Norwegians of our days as the great champion of national
independence, and Catholic and Protestant alike may find in Saint Olaf their
great idea. 

After two years' exile he returned to Norway with an army and met his rebellious
subjects at Stiklestad, where the celebrated battle took place 29 July, 1030.
Neither King Cnut nor the Danes took part at that battle. King Olaf fought with
great courage, but was mortally wounded and fell on the battlefield, praying "God
help me". Many miraculous occurrences are related in connection with his death
and his disinterment a year later, after belief in his sanctity had spread widely.
His friends, Bishop Grimkel and Earl Einar Tambeskjelver, laid the corpse in a
coffin and set it on the high-altar in the church of St. Clement in Nidaros (now
Trondhjem). Olaf has since been held as a saint, not only by the people of
Norway, but also by Rome. His cult spread widely in the Middle Ages, not only in
Norway, but also in Denmark and Sweden; even in London, there is on Hart
Street a St. Olave's Church, long dedicated to the canonized King of Norway. In
1856 a fine St. Olave's Church was erected in Christiania, the capital of Norway,
where a large relic of St. Olaf (a donation from the Danish Royal Museum) is
preserved and venerated. The arms of Norway are a lion with the battle-axe of St.
Olaf in the forepaws. 


SAINT PATRICK
Archbishop of Armagh, Apostle of Ireland - AD 461 (March 17)

IF the virtue of children reflects an honour on their parents, much more justly is the name of St. Patrick rendered illustrious by the innumerable lights of sanctity with which the church of Ireland, planted by his labours in the most remote corner of the then known world, shone during many ages; and by the colonies of saints with which it peopled many foreign countries; for, under God, its inhabitants derived from their glorious apostle the streams of that eminent sanctity by which they were long conspicuous to the whole world. St. Patrick was born in the decline of the fourth century, and, as he informs us in his "Confession," in a village called Bonaven Taberniae, which seems to be the town of Kilpatrick, on the mouth of the river Cluyd, in Scotland, between Dunbriton and Glasgow. He calls himself both a Briton and a Roman, or of a mixed extraction, and says his father was of a good family, named Calphurnius, and a denizen of a neighbouring city of the Romans, who not long after abandoned Britain, in 409. Some writers call his mother Conchessa, and say that she was niece to St. Martin of Tours. At fifteen years of age he committed a fault, which appears not to have been a great crime, yet was to him a subject of tears during the remainder of his life. He says that when he was sixteen he lived still ignorant of God, meaning of the devout knowledge and fervent love of God, for he was always a Christian; he never ceased to bewail this neglect, and wept when he remembered that he had been one moment of his life insensible of the divine love. In his sixteenth year he was carried into captivity by certain barbarians, together with many of his father's vassals and slaves taken upon his estate. They took him into Ireland, where he was obliged to keep cattle on the mountains and in the forests, in hunger and nakedness, amidst snows, rain, and ice. Whilst he lived in this suffering condition, God had pity on his soul, and quickened him to a sense of his duty by the impulse of a strong interior grace. The young man had recourse to him with his whole heart in fervent prayer and fasting; and from that time faith and the love of God acquired continually new strength in his tender soul. He prayed often in the day, and also many times in the night, breaking off his sleep to return to the divine praises. His afflictions were to him a source of heavenly benedictions, because he carried his cross with Christ, that is, with patience, resignation, and holy joy. St. Patrick, after six months spent in slavery under the same master, was admonished by God in a dream to return to his own country, and informed that a ship was then ready to sail thither. He repaired immediately to the sea­coast, though at a great distance, and found the vessel; but could not obtain his passage, probably for want of money. Thus new trials ever await the servants of God. The saint returned towards his hut, praying as he went; but the sailors, though pagans, called him back and took him on board. After three days' sail they made land, probably in the north of Scotland; but wandered twenty­seven days through deserts, and were a long while distressed for want of provisions, finding nothing to eat. Patrick had often entertained the company on the infinite power of God; they therefore asked him why he did not pray for relief. Animated by a strong faith, he assured them that if they would address themselves with their whole hearts to the true God, he would hear and succour them. They did so, and on the same day met with a herd of swine. From that time provisions never failed them, till, on the twenty­seventh day, they came into a country that was cultivated and inhabited. During their distress, Patrick refused to touch meats which had been offered to idols. One day a great stone from a rock happened to fall upon him, and had like to have crushed him to death, whilst he was laid down to take a little rest. But he invoked Elias, and was delivered from the danger. Some years afterwards he was again led captive, but recovered his liberty after two months. When he was at home with his parents, God manifested to him by divers visions that he destined him to the great work of the conversion of Ireland. He thought he saw all the children of that country from the wombs of their mothers stretching out their hands and piteously crying to him for relief.

Some think he had travelled into Gaul before he undertook his mission, and we find that, while he preached in Ireland, he had a great desire to visit his brethren in Gaul, and to see those whom he calls the saints of God, having been formerly acquainted with them. The authors of his life say that after his second captivity he travelled into Gaul and Italy, and had seen St. Martin, St. Germanus of Auxerre, and Pope Celestine, and that he received his mission and the apostolical benediction from this pope, who died in 432. But it seems, from his Confession, that he was ordained deacon, priest, and bishop for his mission in his own country. It is certain that he spent many years in preparing himself for those sacred functions. Great opposition was made, against his episcopal consecration and mission, both by his own relations and by the clergy. These made him great offers, in order to detain him among them, and endeavoured to affright him by exaggerating the dangers to which he exposed himself amidst the enemies of the Romans and Britons, who did not know God. Some objected, with the same view, the fault which he had committed thirty years before as an obstacle to his ordination. All these temptations threw the saint into great perplexities, and had like to have made him abandon the work of God. But the Lord, whose will he consulted by earnest prayer, supported him and comforted him by a vision-so that he persevered in his resolution. He forsook his family, sold, as he says, his birthright and dignity, to serve strangers, and consecrated his soul to God, to carry his name to the end of the earth.

He was determined to suffer all things for the accomplishment of his holy design, to receive in the same spirit both prosperity and adversity, and to return thanks to God equally for the one as for the other, desiring only that his name might be glorified, and his divine will accomplished to his own honour. In this disposition he passed into Ireland, to preach the gospel, where the worship of idols still generally reigned. He devoted himself entirely for the salvation of these barbarians, to be regarded as a stranger, to be contemned as the last of men, to suffer from the infidels imprisonment and all kinds of persecution, and to give his life with joy, if God should deem him worthy to shed his blood in his cause. He travelled over the whole island, penetrating into the remotest corners, without fearing any dangers, and often visited each province. Such was the fruit of his preachings and sufferings that he consecrated to God, by baptism, an infinite number of people, and laboured effectually that they might be perfected in his service by the practice of virtue. He ordained everywhere clergymen; induced women to live in holy widowhood and continence; consecrated virgins to Christ, and instituted monks. Great numbers embraced these states of perfection with extreme ardour. Many desired to confer earthly riches on him who had communicated to them the goods of heaven; but he made it a capital duty to decline all self­interest, and whatever might dishonour his ministry. He took nothing from the many thousands whom he baptized, and often gave back the little presents which some laid on the altar, choosing rather to mortify the fervent than to scandalize the weak or the infidels. On the contrary; he gave freely of his own, both to pagans and Christians, distributed large alms to the poor in the provinces where he passed, made presents to the kings-judging that necessary for the progress of the gospel-and maintained and educated many children, whom he trained up to serve at the altar. He always gave till he had no more to bestow, and rejoiced to see himself poor, with Jesus Christ, knowing poverty and afflictions to be more profitable to him than riches and pleasures. The happy success of his lab ours cost ­him many persecutions.

A certain prince named Corotick, a Christian, though in name only, disturbed the peace of his flock. He seems to have reigned in some part of Wales, after the Britons had been abandoned by the Romans. This tyrant, as the saint calls him, having made a descent into Ireland, plundered the country where St. Patrick had been just conferring the holy chrism, that is, confirmation, on a great number of Neophytes, who were yet in their white garments after baptism. Corotick, without paying any regard to justice or to the holy sacrament, massacred many, and carried away others, whom he sold to the infidel Picts or Scots. This probably happened at Easter or Whitsuntide. The next day the saint sent the barbarian a letter by a holy priest whom he had brought up from his infancy, entreating him to restore the Christian captives, and at least part of the booty he had taken, that the poor people might not perish for want, but was only answered by railleries, as if the Irish could not be the same Christians with the Britons; which arrogance and pride sunk those barbarous conquerors beneath the dignity of men, whilst by it they were puffed up above others in their own hearts. The saint, therefore, to prevent the scandal which such a flagrant enormity gave to his new converts, writ with his own hand a public circular letter. In it he styles himself a sinner and an ignorant man; for such is the sincere humility of the saints (most of all when they are obliged to exercise any acts of authority), contrary to the pompous titles which the world affects. He declares, nevertheless, that he is established Bishop of Ireland, and pronounces Corotick, and the other parricides and accomplices, separated from him and from Jesus Christ, whose place he holds, forbidding any to eat with them, or to receive their alms, till they should have satisfied God by the tears of sincere penance and restored the servants of Jesus Christ to their liberty. This letter expresses the most tender love for his flock and his grief for those who had been slain, yet mingled with joy because they reign with the prophets, apostles, and martyrs. Jocelin assures us that Corotick was overtaken by the divine vengeance. St. Patrick wrote his Confession as a testimony of his mission when he was old. It is solid, full of good sense and piety, expresses an extraordinary humility and a great desire of martyrdom, and is wrote with spirit. The author was perfectly versed in the holy scriptures. He confesses everywhere his own faults with a sincere humility, and extols the great mercies of God towards him in this world, who had exalted him, though the most undeserving of men; yet, to preserve him in humility, afforded him the advantage of meeting with extreme contempt from others, that is from the heathens. He confesses, for his humiliation, that, among other temptations, he felt a great desire to see again his own country, and to visit the saints of his acquaintance in Gaul, but durst not abandon his people; and says that the Holy Ghost had declared to him that to do it would be criminal. He tells us that a little before he wrote this, he himself and all his companions had been plundered and laid in irons for his having baptized the son of a certain king against the will of his father, but were released after fourteen days. He lived in the daily expectation of such accidents and of martyrdom, but feared nothing, having his hope as a firm anchor fixed in heaven, and reposing himself with an entire confidence in the arms of the Almighty. He says that he had lately baptized a very beautiful young lady of quality, who some days after came to tell him that she had been admonished by an angel to consecrate her virginity to Jesus Christ, that she might render herself the more acceptable to God. He gave God thanks, and she made her vows with extraordinary fervour six days before he wrote this letter.

St. Patrick held several councils to settle the discipline of the church which he had planted. The first, the acts of which are extant under his name in the editions of the councils, is certainly genuine. Its canons regulate several points of discipline, especially relating to penance. St. Bernard and the tradition of the country testify that St. Patrick fixed his metropolitan see at Armagh. He established some other bishops, as appears by his Council and other monuments. He not only converted the whole country by his preaching and wonderful miracles, but also cultivated this vineyard with so fruitful a benediction and increase from heaven as to render Ireland a most flourishing garden in the church of God and a country of saints. And those nations which had for many ages esteemed all others barbarians did not blush to receive from the utmost extremity of the uncivilized or barbarous world their most renowned teachers and guides in the greatest of all sciences, that of the saints.

Many particulars are related of the labours of St. Patrick, which we pass over. In the first year of his mission he attempted to preach Christ in the general assembly of the kings and states of all Ireland, held yearly at Taraghe, or Themoria, in East­Meath, the residence of the chief king, styled the monarch of the whole island, and the principal seat of the Druids or priests, and their paganish rites. The son of Neill, the chief monarch, declared himself against the preacher; however, he converted several, and, on his road to that place, the father of St. Benen, or Benignus his immediate successor in the see of Armagh. He afterwards converted and baptized the Kings of Dublin and Munster, and the seven sons of the King of Connaught, with the greatest part of their subjects, and before his death almost the whole island. He founded a monastery at Armagh; another called Domnach­Padraig, or Patrick's Church; also a third, named Sabhal­Padraig, and filled the country with churches and schools of piety and learning; the reputation of which, for the three succeeding centuries, drew many foreigners into Ireland. Nennius, Abbot of Bangor, in 620, in his history of the Britons,' published by the learned Thomas Gale, says that St. Patrick took that name only when he was ordained bishop, being before called Maun; that he continued his missions over all the provinces of Ireland during forty years; that he restored sight to many blind, health to the sick, and raised nine dead persons to life. He died and was buried at Down, in Ulster. His body was found there in a church of his name in 1185, and translated to another part of the same church. His festival is marked on the 17th of March in the Martyrology of Bede, &c.

The apostles of nations were all interior men, endowed with a sublime spirit of prayer. The salvation of souls being a supernatural end, the instruments ought to bear a proportion to it, and preaching proceed from a grace which is supernatural. To undertake this holy function without a competent stock of sacred learning, and without the necessary precautions of human prudence and industry, would be to tempt God. But sanctity of life and the union of the heart with God are a qualification far more essential than science, eloquence, and human talents. Many almost kill themselves with studying to compose elegant sermons, which flatter the ear ye. reap very little fruit. Their hearers applaud their parts, but very few are converted. Most preachers, now­a­days, have learning, but are not sufficiently grounded in true sanctity, and a spirit of devotion. Interior humility. purity of heart, recollection, and the spirit and the assiduous practice of holy prayer, are the principal preparation for the ministry of the word, and the true means of acquiring the science of the saints. A short devout meditation and fervent prayer, which kindle a fire in the affections, furnish more thoughts proper to move the hearts of the hearers, and inspire them with sentiments of truer virtue, than many years employed barely in reading and study. St. Patrick and other apostolic men were dead to themselves and the world, and animated with the spirit of perfect charity and humility, by which they were prepared by God to be such powerful instruments of his grace, as, by the miraculous change of so many hearts, to plant in entire barbarous nations not only the faith, but also the spirit of Christ. Preachers who have not attained to a disengagement and purity of heart suffer the petty interests of self­love secretly to mingle themselves in their zeal and charity, and have reason to suspect that they inflict deeper wounds in their own souls than they are aware, and produce not in others the good which they imagine.


SAINT STANISLAUS of CRACOW
Bishop & Martyr - AD 1079 (April 11)

Bishop and martyr, born at Szczepanów (hence called Szczepanowski), in the Diocese of Cracow, 26 July, 1030; died at Cracow, 8 May, 1079... In pictures he is given the episcopal insignia and the sword. Larger paintings represent him in a court or kneeling before the altar and receiving the fatal blow. No contemporary biography of the saint is in existence. At the time of his canonization a life appeared written by a Dominican Vincent(?) (Acta SS.,May, II, 196) which contains much legendary matter. His parents, Belislaus and Bogna, pious and noble Catholics, gave him a religious education. He made his studies at Gnesen and Paris(?). After the death of his parents he distributed his ample inheritance among the poor. Lambert Zula, Bishop of Cracow, ordained him priest and made him pastor of Czembocz near Cracow, canon and preacher at the cathedral, and later, vicar-general. After the death of Lambert he was elected bishop, but accepted only on explicit command of Pope Alexander II. He worked with his wonted energy for his diocese, and inveighed against vices among high and low, regardless of consequences. Boleslaw II had become King of Poland. the renown he had gained by his successful wars he now sullied by atrocious cruelty and unbridled lust. Moreover the bishop had several serious disputes with the king about a piece of land belonging to the Church which was unjustly claimed by Boleslaw, and about some nobles, who had left their homes to ward off various evils threatening their families and who were in consequence cruelly treated by the king. Stanislaus spared neither tears nor prayers and admonitions to bring the king to lead a more Christian life. All being in vain, Boleslaw was excommunicated and the canons of the cathedral were instructed to discontinue the Divine Offices in case the king should attempt to enter. Stanislaus retired to the Chapel of St. Michael in a suburb of Cracow. The king was furious and followed the bishop with his guards, some of whom he sent to kill the saint. These dared not obey, so Boleslaw slew him during the Holy Sacrifice. The body was at first buried in the chapel, but in 1088 it was transferred to the cathedral by Bishop Lambert II. St. Stanislaus was canonized 1253 by Innocent IV at Assisi.


SAINT STEPHEN OF HUNGARY
King & Founder - AD 1038 (2 September)

St Stephen was the first King of Hungary and is considered to be the founder of the Hungarian State. He was born in Esztergom between 970 and 975, the son of a Magyar chieftain, a member of the Árpád dynasty. His name was Vajk, until in his teens he was baptized a Christian and received the name of Stephen. In 996 he married Gisela, daughter of Duke Henry II of Bavaria, and succeeded his father in 997. His only surviving son, Emeric, for whom Stephen wrote the A Manual on Moral Formation for the Duke Emeric (Libellus de institutione morum ad Emericum, ducem), died in a hunting accident in 1031 at the age of 24.

He fought a pagan insurrection in his realm, and decisively defeated the rebels at Veszpré (998). On Christmas Day in the year 1000, he was crowned King of Hungary with the royal crown, which was a gift of Pope Sylvester II and is today a treasure symbolizing the Hungarian nation's identity. After the Second World War, to prevent it from being seized by advancing Soviet troops, this crown was given for safe keeping to a U.S. Army unit by a Hungarian honour guard. It remained in U.S. custody at Fort Knox until it was returned in 1978.

King Stephen's coronation signified Hungary's entry into the family of European Christian nations. The Pope granted him the title Apostolic King and the right to use the apostolic double cross, and all kings of Hungary called themselves "Apostolic" until 1918; the double cross still features in Hungary's flag.

The house of Árpád has given the Church five saints: two kings, Stephen and László, Prince Emeric (Imre in Hungarian), and two princesses, Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew II, and Margaret, daughter of Béla IV.

With the exception of an invasion by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II in 1030 and minor disputes with Poland and Bulgaria, Stephen's reign was peaceful. He founded two Archbishoprics, (Metropolitan Sees directly under Rome's jurisdiction), eight Bishoprics, and numerous Benedictine monasteries whose monks were entrusted with the task of converting the Hungarians. Parish churches were built in the towns and larger villages and, to encourage the populace to attend them, Stephen decreed that markets be held on Sundays in places with a church. He also established the practice of tithing.

He divided his semi-nomadic kingdom into Counties governed by royal officials, disregarding clan boundaries. No title other than the Crown was hereditary and he encouraged the integration of persons of non-Hungarian origins, even writing for his son Emeric's edification that a nation of one race is feeble. He issued decrees regulating every aspect of the administration, revenues and defence of the realm, as well as the rights and obligations of his subjects. The earliest Hungarian coins, silver denarii date from his reign. The Western Emperor was his brother-in-law, and having concluded a treaty of friendship with the Byzantine Emperor, he was able to consolidate a kingdom untroubled by foreign wars. He promoted agriculture, safeguarded private property with strict laws and organized a standing army. The Church was the principal pillar of Stephen's authority, and he dispatched missionaries throughout his realm.

Although the feast day of St Stephen, King of Hungary, is 2 September, Hungarians celebrate the translation of his relics to Buda on 20 August. He died on 15 August 1038, and when his tomb was opened for his canonization in 1083, his right hand was found to be incorrupt and is venerated as a relic to this day. The Legenda maior (The Greater Legend, late 11th century), the Legenda minor (The Lesser Legend, early 12th century) and Bishop Hartvik's 12th century biography of St Stephen, relate what is known of his life.

From L'Osservatore Romano, 22 August 2001, page 5


SAINT TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS
Virgin - AD 1942 (August 9)

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family was celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Day of Atonement. "More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother". Being born on this day was like a foreshadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.

Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she had just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hardworking and strong-willed woman, now had to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. "I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying", she said.

In 1911 she enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, but her real interest was philosophy and women's issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Suffrage. "When I was at school and during my first year at university", she wrote later, "I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions".

In 1913 Edith Stein transferred to Gottingen University, to study under Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: "back to things". Husserl's phenomenology unintentionally led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In Gottingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who turned her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her studies and took her degree with distinction in January 1915.

"I no longer have a life of my own", she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having taken a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, as she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theatre and saw young people die. When the hospital was closed in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to Freiburg, Germany, where she received her doctorate summa cum laude in 1917, after writing a thesis on "The Problem of Empathy".

Her first encounter with the Cross and its power

During this period she went to Frankfurt cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot". Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: "There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace". How could she come to such a conclusion?

Edith Stein had been a friend of Husserl's Gottingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife. When Reinach died in Flanders in November 1917, Edith went to Gottingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met a woman of faith. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on meChrist in the mystery of the Cross". Later, she wrote: "Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction thatfrom God's point of viewthere is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes".

In autumn 1918 Edith Stein left her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she talked with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: "Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust".

Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for women at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to women, I can recommend her wholeheartedly". Later, she was refused a professorship on account of being Jewish.

Baptized on the feast of the Circumcision

Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.

In the summer of 1921 she spent several weeks in Bergzabern at the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, another of Husserl's students. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: this is the truth". Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: "My longing for truth was a single prayer".

On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood at the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martius' white wedding cloak. Hedwig was her godmother. "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God". From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through blood. On the feast of the Purification of Maryanother day with an Old Testament connectionshe was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.

After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother", she said, "I am a Catholic". The two women wept. Hedwig Conrad-Martius wrote: "Behold, two Israelites in whom there is no guile!" (cf. Jn 1:47).

Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar General Schwind of Speyer and Erich Przywara, S.J., stopped her from doing so. Until Easter of 1931 she taught German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher-training college at St Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Archabbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues. "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world ... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to 'go beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it".

She translated the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy. Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works. She learnt that it was possible to "pursue scholarship as a service to God". To gain strength for her life and work, she frequently went to the Benedictine monastery of Beuron to celebrate the great feasts of the Church year.

 

In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavours were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite convent in Cologne she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological study, Finite and Eternal Being. But by then it was no longer possible to print the texts.

She successfully combined faith and scholarship

In 1932 she accepted a teaching post in the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Münster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and teaching, seeking to be a "tool of the Lord" in everything she taught. "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to him".

In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before, but now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on his people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine". The Nazis' Aryan Law made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. "If I cannot go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany", she wrote. "I had become a stranger in the world".

Archabbot Walzer of Beuron now no longer stopped her from entering Carmel. While in Speyer, she had already taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met the Prioress of the Carmelite convent in Cologne. "Human activity cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it".

Edith Stein went to Breslau for the last time, to say goodbye to her mother and her family. Her last day at home was her birthday, 12 October, which was also the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Edith went to the synagogue with her mother. It was a hard day for the two women. "Why did you become acquainted with it [Christianity]?", her mother asked. "I don't want to say anything against him. He may have been a very good person. But why did he make himself God?". Edith's mother cried. The following day Edith was on the train to Cologne. "I did not feel any passionate joy. What I had just experienced was too terrible. But I felt a profound peacein the safe haven of God's will". From now on she wrote to her mother every week, though she never received any replies. Instead, her sister Rosa sent her news from Breslau.

'A very poor and powerless little Esther'

Edith Stein entered the Carmelite convent of Cologne on 14 October and was clothed in the habit on 15 April 1934. The Mass was celebrated by the Archabbot of Beuron. Edith Stein was now known as Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. In 1938 she wrote: "I understood the Cross as the destiny of God's People, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). 1 felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord under the sign of the Cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery". On 21 April 1935 she took her temporary vows. On 14 September 1936 the renewal of her vows coincided with her mother's death in Breslau. " My mother held on to her faith to the last moment. But as her faith and her firm trust in her God ... were the last thing that was still alive in the throes of her death, I am confident that she will have met a very merciful judge and that she is now my most faithful helper, so that I can reach the goal as well".

When she took her perpetual vows on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: "Henceforth my only vocation is to love". Her final work would be devoted to this author.

Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. "Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost, to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede with God for everyone". In particular, she interceded with God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is a great comfort" (31 October 1938).

On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world. Synagogues were burnt and the Jewish people were terrorized. The Prioress of the Cologne Carmel did her utmost to take Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross abroad. On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite convent in Echt. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by his people and that his kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world".

In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942". In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)". Her study on St John of the Cross is entitled: Kreuzeswissenschaft "The Science of the Cross".

Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people".

Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the protest letter written by the Dutch Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented: "I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this.... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress". Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent".

On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, her sister and many others of her people were gassed.

When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, "who during the Nazi persecution remained united, as a Catholic, in fidelity and love to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ, and, as a Jew, to her people.


SAINT THERESE of LISIEUX
Virgin - AD 1897 (October 1)

The spread of the cult of St. Therese of Lisieux is one of the impressive religious manifestations of our time. During her few years on earth this young French Carmelite was scarcely to be distinguished from many another devoted nun, but her death brought an almost immediate awareness of her unique gifts. Through her letters, the word-of-mouth tradition originating with her fellow-nuns, and especially through the publication of Histoire d'un ame, Therese of the Child Jesus or "The Little Flower" soon came to mean a great deal to numberless people; she had shown them the way of perfection in the small things of every day. Miracles and graces were being attributed to her intercession, and within twenty-eight years after death, this simple young nun had been canonized. In 1936 a basilica in her honor at Lisieux was opened and blessed by Cardinal Pacelli; and it was he who, in 1944, as Pope, declared her the secondary patroness of France. "The Little Flower" was an admirer of St. Teresa of Avila, and a comparison at once suggests itself. Both were christened Teresa, both were Carmelites, and both left interesting autobiographies. Many temperamental and intellectual differences separate them, in addition to the differences of period and of race; but there are striking similarities. They both patiently endured severe physical sufferings; both had a capacity for intense religious experience; both led lives made radiant by the love of Christ.

The parents of the later saint were Louis Martin, a watchmaker of Alencon, France, son of an army officer, and Azelie-Marie Guerin, a lacemaker of the same town. Only five of their nine children lived to maturity; all five were daughters and all were to become nuns. Francoise-Marie Therese, the youngest, was born on January 2, 1873. Her childhood must have been normally happy, for her first memories, she writes, are of smiles and tender caresses. Although she was affectionate and had much natural charm, Therese gave no sign of precocity. When she was only four, the family was stricken by the sad blow of the mother's death. Monsieur Martin gave up his business and established himself at Lisieux, Normandy, where Madame Martin's brother lived with his wife and family. The Guerins, generous and loyal people, were able to ease the father's responsibilities through the years by giving to their five nieces practical counsel and deep affection.

The Martins were now and always united in the closest bonds. The eldest daughter, Marie, although only thirteen, took over the management of the household, and the second, Pauline, gave the girls religious instruction. When the group gathered around the fire on winter evenings, Pauline would read aloud works of piety, such as the Liturgical Year of Dom Gueranger. Their lives moved along quietly for some years, then came the first break in the little circle. Pauline entered the Carmelite convent of Lisieux. She was to advance steadily in her religious vocation, later becoming prioress. It is not astonishing that the youngest sister, then only nine, had a great desire to follow the one who had been her loving guide. Four years later, when Marie joined her sister at the Carmel, Therese's desire for a life in religion was intensified. Her education during these years was in the hands of the Benedictine nuns of the convent of Notre-Dame-du-Pre. She was confirmed there at the age of eleven.

In her autobiography Therese writes that her personality changed after her mother's death, and from being childishly merry she became withdrawn and shy. While Therese was indeed developing into a serious-minded girl, it does not appear that she became markedly sad. We have many evidences of liveliness and fun, and the oral tradition, as well as the many letters, reveal an outgoing nature, able to articulate the warmest expressions of love for her family, teachers, and friends.

On Christmas Eve, just a few days before Therese's fourteenth birthday, she underwent an experience which she ever after referred to as "my conversion." It was to exert a profound influence on her life. Let her tell of it—and its moral effect—in her own words: "On that blessed night the sweet infant Jesus, scarcely an hour old, filled the darkness of my soul with floods of light. By becoming weak and little, for love of me, He made me strong and brave: He put His own weapons into my hands so that I went on from strength to strength, beginning, if I may say so, 'to run as a giant.'" An indelible impression had been made on this attuned soul; she claimed that the Holy Child had healed her of undue sensitiveness and "girded her with His weapons." It was by reason of this vision that the saint was to become known as "Therese of the Child Jesus."

The next year she told her father of her wish to become a Carmelite. He readily consented, but both the Carmelite authorities and Bishop Hugonin of Bayeux refused to consider it while she was still so young. A few months later, in November, to her unbounded delight, her father took her and another daughter, Celine, to visit Notre-Dame des Victoires in Paris, then on pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. The party was accompanied by the Abbe Reverony of Bayeux. In a letter from Rome to her sister Pauline, who was now Sister Agnes of Jesus, Therese described the audience: "The Pope was sitting on a great chair; M. Reverony was near him; he watched the pilgrims kiss the Pope's foot and pass before him and spoke a word about some of them. Imagine how my heart beat as I saw my turn come: I didn't want to return without speaking to the Pope. I spoke, but I did not get it all said because M. Reverony did not give me time. He said immediately: 'Most Holy Father, she is a child who wants to enter Carmel at fifteen, but its superiors are considering the matter at the moment.' I would have liked to be able to explain my case, but there was no way. The Holy Father said to me simply: 'If the good God wills, you will enter.' Then I was made to pass on to another room. Pauline, I cannot tell you what I felt. It was like annihilation, I felt deserted.... Still God cannot be giving me trials beyond my strength. He gave me the courage to sustain this one."

Therese did not have to wait long in suspense. The Pope's blessing and the earnest prayers she offered at many shrines during the pilgrimage had the desired effect. At the end of the year Bishop Hugonin gave his permission, and on April 9, 1888, Therese joined her sisters in the Carmel at Lisieux. "From her entrance she astonished the community by her bearing, which was marked by a certain majesty that one would not expect in a child of fifteen." So testified her novice mistress at the time of Therese's beatification. During her novitiate Father Pichon, a Jesuit, gave a retreat, and he also testified to Therese's piety. "It was easy to direct that child. The Holy Spirit was leading her and I do not think that I ever had, either then or later, to warn her against illusions.... What struck me during the retreat were the spiritual trials through which God wished her to pass." Therese's presence among them filled the nuns with happiness. She was slight in build, and had fair hair, gray-blue eyes, and delicate features. With all the intensity of her ardent nature she loved the daily round of religious practices, the liturgical prayers, the reading of Scripture. After entering the Carmel she began to sign letters to her father and others, "Therese of the Child Jesus."

In 1889 the Martin sisters suffered a great shock. Their father, after two paralytic strokes, had a mental breakdown and had to be removed to a private sanitarium, where he remained for three years. Therese bore this grievous sorrow heroically.

On September 8, 1890, at the age of seventeen, Therese took final vows. In spite of poor health, she carried out from the first all the austerities of the stern Carmelite rule, except that she was not permitted to fast. "A soul of such mettle," said the prioress, "must not be treated like a child. Dispensations are not meant for her." The physical ordeal which she felt more than any other was the cold of the convent buildings in winter, but no one even suspected this until she confessed it on her death-bed. And by that time she was able to say, "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me."

In 1893, when she was twenty, she was appointed to assist the novice mistress, and was in fact mistress in all but name. She comments, "From afar it seems easy to do good to souls, to make them love God more, to mold them according to our own ideas and views. But coming closer we find, on the contrary, that to do good without God's help is as impossible as to make the sun shine at night."

In her twenty-third year, on order of the prioress, Therese began to write the memories of her childhood and of life at the convent; this material forms the first chapters of Histoire d'un ame, the History of a Soul. It is a unique and engaging document, written with a charming spontaneity, full of fresh turns of phrase, unconscious self-revelation, and, above all, giving evidence of deep spirituality. She describes her own prayers and thereby tells us much about herself. "With me prayer is a lifting up of the heart, a look towards Heaven, a cry of gratitude and love uttered equally in sorrow and in joy; in a word, something noble, supernatural, which enlarges my soul and unites it to God.... Except for the Divine Office, which in spite of my unworthiness is a daily joy, I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers. . . . I do as a child who has not learned to read, I just tell our Lord all that I want and he understands." She has natural psychological insight: "Each time that my enemy would provoke me to fight I behave like a brave soldier. I know that a duel is an act of cowardice, and so, without once looking him in the face, I turn my back on the foe, hasten to my Saviour, and vow that I am ready to shed my blood in witness of my belief in Heaven." She mentions her own patience humorously. During meditation in the choir, one of the sisters continually fidgeted with her rosary, until Therese was perspiring with irritation. At last, "instead of trying not to hear it, which was impossible, I set myself to listen as though it had been some delightful music, and my meditation, which was not the 'prayer of quiet,' passed in offering this music to our Lord." Her last chapter is a paean to divine love, and concludes, "I entreat Thee to let Thy divine eyes rest upon a vast number of little souls; I entreat Thee to choose in this world a legion of little victims of Thy love." She counted herself among these. "I am a very little soul, who can offer only very little things to the Lord."

In 1894 Louis Martin died, and soon Celine, who had of late been taking care of him, made the fourth sister from this family in the Carmel at Lisieux. Some years later, the fifth, Leonie, entered the convent of the Visitation at Caen.

Therese occupied herself with reading and writing almost up to the end of her life. That event loomed ever nearer as tuberculosis made a steady advance. During the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, 1896, she suffered a pulmonary haemorrhage. Although her bodily and spiritual sufferings were extreme, she wrote many letters, to members of her family and to distant friends, as well as continuing Histoire d'un ame. She carried on a correspondance with Carmelite sisters at Hanoi, China; they wished her to come out and join them, not realizing the seriousness of her ailment. She had a great yearning to respond to their appeal. At intervals moments of revelation came to her, and it was then that she penned those succinct reflections that are now repeated so widely. Here are three of them that give the flavor of her mind: "I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth." "I have never given the good God aught but love, and it is with love that He will repay." "My 'little way' is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute self-surrender."

A further insight is given us in a letter Therese wrote, shortly before she died, to Pere Roulland, a missionary in China. "Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises, in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles in the way and a host of illusions round about it, my poor little mind soon grows weary, I close the learned book, which leaves my head splitting and my heart parched, and I take the Holy Scriptures. Then all seems luminous, a single word opens up infinite horizons to my soul, perfection seems easy; I see that it is enough to realize one's nothingness, and give oneself wholly, like a child, into the arms of the good God. Leaving to great souls, great minds, the fine books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.’"

In June, 1897, Therese was removed to the infirmary of the convent. On September 30, with the words, "My God . . . I love Thee!" on her lips she died. The day before, her sister Celine, knowing the end was at hand, had asked for some word of farewell, and Therese, serene in spite of pain, murmured, "I have said all . . . all is consummated . . . only love counts."

The prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague, wrote in the convent register, alongside the saint's act of Profession: ". . . The nine and a half years she spent among us leave our souls fragrant with the most beautiful virtues with which the life of a Carmelite can be filled. A perfect model of humility, obedience, charity, prudence, detachment, and regularity, she fulfilled the difficult discipline of mistress of novices with a sagacity and affection which nothing could equal save her love for God...."

The Church was to recognize a profound and valuable teaching in 'the little way'—connoting a realistic awareness of one's limitations, and the wholehearted giving of what one has, however small the gift. Beginning in 1898, with the publication of a small edition of Histoire d'un ame, the cult of this saint of 'the little way' grew so swiftly that the Pope dispensed with the rule that a process for canonization must not be started until fifty years after death. Almost from childhood, it seems, Therese had consciously aspired to the heights, often saying to herself that God would not fill her with a desire that was unattainable. Only twenty-six years after her death she was beatified by Pope Pius XI, and in the year of Jubilee, 1925, he pronounced her a saint. Two years later she was named heavenly patroness of foreign missions along with St. Francis Xavier.


SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS
Doctor - AD 1274 (January 28)

The counts of Aquino, who have flourished in the kingdom of Naples these last ten centuries, derive their pedigree from a certain Lombard prince. They were allied to the kings of Sicily and Arragon, to St. Louis of France, and many other sovereign houses of Europe. Our saint's grandfather having married the sister of the Emperor Frederick I, he was himself grand-nephew to that prince, and second cousin to the Emperor Henry VI, and in the third degree to Frederick II. His father, Landulph, was Count of Aquino, and Lord of Loretto and Belcastro: his mother Theodora was daughter to the Count of Theate. The saint was born towards the end of the year 1225. St. Austin observes that the most tender age is subject to various passions, as of impatience, choler, jealousy, spite, and the like, which appear in children: no such thing was seen in Thomas. The serenity of his countenance, the constant evenness of his temper, his modesty and sweetness, were sensible marks that God prevented him with his early graces. The Count of Aquino conducted him to the Abbey of Mount Cassino, when he was but five years old, to be instructed by those good monks in the first principles of religion and learning; and his tutors soon saw with joy the rapidity of his progress, his great talents, and his happy dispositions to virtue. He was but ten years of age when the abbot told his father that it was time to send him to some university. The count, before he sent him to Naples, took him for some months to see his mother at his seat at Loretto, the place which about the end of that century grew famous for devotion to our Lady. Thomas was the admiration of the whole family. Amidst so much company, and so many servants, he appeared always as much recollected, and occupied on God, as he had been in the monastery; he spoke little, and always to the purpose; and he employed all his time in prayer, or serious and profitable exercises. His great delight seemed to be to intercede for, and to distribute, his parents' plentiful alms among the poor at the gate, whom he studied by a hundred ingenious contrivances to relieve. He robbed himself of his own victuals for that purpose; which his father having discovered, he gave him leave to distribute things at discretion, which liberty he made good use of for the little time he stayed. The countess, apprehensive of the dangers her son's innocence might be exposed to in an academy, desired that he should perform his studies with a private preceptor under her own eyes; but the father, knowing the great advantages of emulation and mutual communication in studies, was determined to send him to Naples, where the Emperor Frederick II, being exasperated against Bologna, had lately, in 1224, erected an university, forbidding students to resort to any other in Italy. This immediately drew thither great numbers of students, and with them disorder and licentiousness, like that described by St. Austin in the great schools of Carthage. Thomas soon perceived the dangers, and regretted the sanctuary of Mount Cassino: but by his extraordinary watchfulness, he lived here like the young Daniel in the midst of Babylon, or Toby in the infidel Ninive. He guarded his eyes with an extreme caution, shunned entirely all conversation with any woman whatever, and with any young men whose steady virtue did not render him perfectly secure as to their behaviour. Whilst others went to profane diversions, he retired into some church, or into his closet, making prayer and study his only pleasure. He learned rhetoric under Peter Martin, and philosophy under Peter of Hibernia, one of the most learned men of his age, and with such wonderful progress that he repeated the lessons more clearly than the master had explained them: yet his greater care was to advance daily in the science of the saints, by holy prayer, and all good works. His humility concealed them; but his charity and fervour sometimes betrayed his modesty, and discovered them, especially in his great alms, for which he deprived himself of almost all things, and in which he was careful to hide from his left hand what his right did.

The order of St. Dominic, who had been dead twenty-two years, then abounded with men full of the Spirit of God. The frequent conversations Thomas had with one of that body, a very interior holy man, filled his heart with heavenly devotion and comfort, and inflamed him daily with a more ardent love of God, which so burned in his breast that at his prayers his countenance seemed one day, as it were, to dart rays of light, and he conceived a vehement desire to consecrate himself wholly to God in that order. His tutor perceived his inclinations, and informed the count of the matter, who omitted neither threats nor promises to defeat such a design. But the saint, not listening to flesh and blood in the call of heaven, demanded with earnestness to be admitted into the order, and accordingly received the habit in the convent of Naples, in 1243, being then seventeen years old. The Countess Theodora his mother, being informed of it, set out for Naples to disengage him, if possible, from that state of life. Her son, on the first news of her journey, begged his superiors to remove him, as they did first to the convent of St. Sabina in Rome, and soon after to Paris, out of the reach of his relations. Two of his brothers, Landulph and Reynold, commanders in the emperor's army in Tuscany, by her direction so well guarded all the roads that he fell into their hands near Acqua-pendente. They endeavoured to pull off his habit, but he resisted them so violently that they conducted him in it to the seat of his parents, called Rocca-Secca. The mother, overjoyed at their success, made no doubt of overcoming her son's resolution. She endeavoured to persuade him that to embrace such an order against his parents' advice could not be the call of heaven; adding all manner of reasons, fond caresses, entreaties, and tears. Nature made her eloquent and pathetic. He appeared sensible of her affliction, but his constancy was not to be shaken. His answers were modest and respectful, but firm in showing his resolution to be the call of God, and ought consequently to take place of all other views whatsoever, even for his service any other way. At last, offended at his unexpected resistance, she expressed her displeasure in very choleric words, and ordered him to be more closely confined and guarded, and that no one should see him but his two sisters. The reiterated solicitations of the young ladies were a long and violent assault. They omitted nothing that flesh and blood could inspire on such an occasion, and represented to him the danger of causing the death of his mother by grief. He, on the contrary, spoke to them in so moving a manner on the contempt of the world, and the love of virtue, that they both yielded to the force of his reasons for his quitting the world, and, by his persuasion, devoted themselves to a sincere practice of piety.

This solitude furnished him with the most happy opportunity for holy contemplation and assiduous prayer. Some time after, his sisters conveyed to him some books, viz. a Bible, Aristotle's logics, and the works of the Master of the Sentences. During this interval his two brothers, Landulph and Reynold, returning home from the army, found their mother in the greatest affliction, and the young novice triumphant in his resolution. They would needs undertake to overcome him, and began their assault by shutting him up in a tower of the castle. They tore in pieces his habit on his back, and after bitter reproaches and dreadful threats, they left him, hoping his confinement and the mortifications every one strove to give him would shake his resolution. This not succeeding, the devil suggested to these two young officers a new artifice for diverting him from pursuing his vocation. They secretly introduced one of the most beautiful and most insinuating young strumpets of the country into his chamber, promising her a considerable reward in case she could draw him into sin. She employed all the arms of Satan to succeed in so detestable a design. The saint, alarmed and affrighted at the danger, profoundly humbled himself, and cried out to God most earnestly for his protection; then snatching up a firebrand, struck her with it, and drove her out of his chamber. After this victory, not moved with pride, but blushing with confusion for having been so basely assaulted, he fell on his knees and thanked God for his merciful preservation, consecrated to him anew his chastity, and redoubled his prayers, and the earnest cry of his heart with sighs and tears, to obtain the grace of being always faithful to his promises. Then falling into a slumber, as the most ancient historians of his life relate, he was visited by two angels, who seemed to gird him round the waist with a cord so tight that it awaked him, and made him to cry out. His guards ran in, but he kept his secret to himself It was only a little before his death that he disclosed this incident to F. Reynold, his confessor, adding that he had received this favour about thirty years before, from which time he had never been annoyed with temptations of the flesh; yet he constantly used the utmost caution and watchfulness against that enemy, and he would otherwise have deserved to forfeit that grace. One heroic victory sometimes obtains of God a recompense and triumph of this kind. Our saint having suffered in silence this imprisonment and persecution upwards of a twelvemonth, some say two years, at length, on the remonstrances of Pope Innocent IV and the Emperor Frederick, on account of so many acts of violence in his regard, both the countess and his brothers began to relent. The Dominicans of Naples being informed of this, and that his mother was disposed to connive at measures that might be taken to procure his escape, they hastened in disguise to Rocca-Secca, where his sister, knowing that the countess no longer opposed his escape, contrived his being let down out of his tower in a basket. He was received by his brethren in their arms, and carried with joy to Naples. The year following he there made his profession, looking on that day as the happiest of his whole life in which he made a sacrifice of his liberty that he might belong to God alone. But his mother and brothers renewed their complaints to Pope Innocent IV, who sent for Thomas to Rome, and examined him on the subject of his vocation to the state of religion, in their presence; and having received entire satisfaction on this head, the pope admired his virtue, and approved of his choice of that state of life, which from that time he was suffered to pursue in peace. Albertus Magnus, teaching then at Cologne, the general, John the Teutonic, took the saint with him from Rome to Paris, and thence to Cologne. Thomas gave all his time which was not employed in devotion and other duties to his studies, retrenching part of that which was allowed for his meals and sleep, not out of a vain passion, or the desire of applause, but for the advancement of God's honour and the interests of religion, according to what he himself teaches. His humility made him conceal his progress and deep penetration, insomuch that his school-fellows thought he learned nothing, and on account of his silence called him the Dumb Ox and the Great Sicilian Ox. But the brightness of his genius, his quick and deep penetration and learning were at last discovered, in spite of all his endeavours to conceal them: for his master, Albertus, having propounded to him several questions on the most knotty and obscure points, his answers, which the duty of obedience extorted, astonished the audience; and Albertus, not able to contain his joy and admiration, said, "We call him the Dumb Ox, but he will give such a bellow in learning as will be heard all over the world." This applause made no impression on the humble saint. He continued the same in simplicity, modesty, silence, and recollection, because his heart was the same; equally insensible to praises and humiliations, full of nothing but of God and his own insufficiency, never reflecting on his own qualifications, or on what was the opinion of others concerning him. In his first year, under Albertus Magnus, he wrote comments on Aristotle's Ethics. The general chapter of the Dominicans, held at Cologne in 1245, deputed Albertus to teach at Paris, in their College of St. James, which the university had given them; and it is from that college they are called in France Jacobins. St. Thomas was sent with him to continue his studies there. His school exercises did not interrupt his prayer. By an habitual sense of the divine presence, and devout aspirations, he kept his heart continually raised to God; and in difficult points redoubled with more earnestness his fervour in his prayers than his application to study. This he found attended with such success that he often said that he had learned less by books than before his crucifix or at the foot of the altar. His constant attention to God always filled his soul with joy, which appeared in his very countenance, and made his conversation altogether heavenly. He was so perfectly mortified, and dead to his senses, that he ate without reflecting either on the kind or quality of his food, so that after meals he often knew not what he had been eating.

In the year 1248, being twenty-two years of age, he was appointed by the general chapter to teach at Cologne, together with his old master Albertus, whose high reputation he equalled in his very first lessons. He then also began to publish his first works, which consist of comments on the Ethics, and other philosophical works of Aristotle. No one was more courteous and affable, but it was his principle to shun all unnecessary visits. To prepare himself for holy orders he redoubled his watchings, prayer, and other spiritual exercises. His devotion to the blessed sacrament was extraordinary. He spent several hours of the day, and part of the night, before the altar, humbling himself in acts of profound adoration, and melting with love in contemplation of the immense charity of that Man-God, whom he there adored. In saying mass he seemed to be in raptures, and often quite dissolved in tears; a glowing frequently appeared in his eyes and countenance, which showed the ardour with which his heart burnt within him. His devotion was most fervent during the precious moments after he had received the divine mysteries; and after saying mass he usually served at another, or at least heard one. This fire and zeal appeared also in his sermons, at Cologne, Paris, Rome, and in other cities of Italy. He was everywhere heard as an angel: even the Jews ran of their own accord to hear him, and many of them were converted. His zeal made him solicitous, in the first place, for the salvation of his relations. His example and exhortations induced them to an heroic practice of piety. His eldest sister consecrated herself to God in St. Mary's at Capua, and died abbess of that monastery: the younger, Theodora, married the Count of Marsico, and lived and died in great virtue; as did his mother. His two brothers, Landulph and Reynold, became sincere penitents. St. Thomas, after teaching four years at Cologne, was sent to Paris. His reputation for perspicuity and solidity drew immediately to his school a great number of auditors. St. Thomas, with great reluctancy, compelled by holy obedience, consented to be admitted doctor, on the 23rd of October, in 1257, being then thirty-one years old. The professors of the University of Paris being divided about the question of the accidents remaining really, or only in appearance, in the blessed sacrament of the altar, they agreed, in 1258, to consult our saint. The young doctor, not puffed up by such an honour, applied himself first to God by prayer, then he wrote upon that question the treatise still extant, and, carrying it to the church, laid it on the altar. The most ancient author of his life assures us, that while the saint remained in prayer on that occasion, some of the brethren who were present saw him raised a little above the ground.

The holy king, St. Louis, had so great an esteem for St. Thomas that he consulted him in affairs of state, and ordinarily informed him, the evening before, of any affair of importance that was to be treated of in council, that he might be the more ready to give advice on the point. The saint avoided the honour of dining with the king as often as he could excuse himself; and, when obliged to assist at court, appeared there as recollected as in his convent. One day at the king's table the saint cried out, "The argument is conclusive against the Manichees." His prior being with him, bade him remember where he was. The saint would have asked the king's pardon, but that good prince, fearing he should forget the argument that had occurred to his mind, caused his secretary to write it down for him. In the year 1259 St. Thomas assisted at the thirty-sixth general chapter of his order, held at Valenciennes, which deputed him, in conjunction with Albertus Magnus and three others, to draw up rules for studies, which are still extant in the acts of that chapter. In 1261, Urban IV called St. Thomas to Rome, and, by his order, the general appointed him to teach here. The pope, however, obliged him always to attend his person. Thus it happened that the saint taught and preached in all the towns where that pope ever resided, as in Rome, Viterbo, Orvieto, Fondi, and Perugia. He also taught at Bologna, Naples, etc.

The fruits of his preaching were no less wonderful than those of his pen. Whilst he was preaching on Good Friday on the love of God for man, and our ingratitude to him, his whole auditory melted into tears to such a degree that he was obliged to stop several times that they might recover themselves. His discourse on the following Sunday, concerning the glory of Christ, and the happiness of those who rise with him by grace, was no less pathetic and affecting. William of Tocco adds, that as the saint was coming out of St. Peter's Church the same day, a woman was cured of the bloody flux by touching the hem of his garment. The conversion of two considerable Rabbins seemed still a greater miracle. St. Thomas had held a long conference with them at a casual meeting in Cardinal Richard's villa, and they agreed to resume it the next day. The saint spent the foregoing night in prayer at the foot of the altar. The next morning these two most obstinate Jews came to him of their own accord, not to dispute, but to embrace the faith, and were followed by many others. In the year 1263 the Dominicans held their fortieth general chapter in London. The first part of his theological Summ, St. Thomas composed at Bologna: he was called thence to Naples. Here it was that, according to Tocco and others, Dominic Caserte beheld him, while in fervent prayer, raised from the ground, and heard a voice from the crucifix directed to him in these words: "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what recompense cost thou desire?" He answered, "No other than thyself, O Lord."

From the 6th of December in 1273 to the 7th of March following, the day of his death, he neither dictated nor wrote anything on theological matters. He from that time laid aside his studies to fix his thoughts and heart entirely on eternity, and to aspire with the greatest ardour and most languishing desires to the enjoyment of God in perfect love. Pope Gregory X had called a general council, the second of Lyons, with the view of extinguishing the Greek schism, and raising succours to defend the holy land against the Saracens. The ambassadors of the Emperor Michael Palaeologus, together with the Greek prelates, were to assist at it. The council was to meet on the 1st of May, in 1274. His holiness, by brief directed to our saint, ordered him to repair thither, and to prepare himself to defend the catholic cause against the Greek schismatics.

Though indisposed, he set out from Naples about the end of January. His dear friend, F. Reynold of Piperno, was appointed his companion, and ordered to take care that he did not neglect himself, which the saint was apt to do. St. Thomas on the road called at the Castle of Magenza, the seat of his niece Francisca of Aquino, married to the Count of Cecan. Here his distemper increased; this, however, did not hinder him from proceeding on his journey till, his fever increasing, he was forced to stop at Fossa-Nuova, a famous abbey of the Cistercians, in the diocese of Terracina, where formerly stood the city called Forum Appii. Entering the monastery, he went first to pray before the blessed sacrament, according to his custom. He poured forth his soul with extraordinary fervour, in the presence of Him who now called him to his kingdom. Passing thence into the cloister, which he never lived to go out of, he repeated these words: "This is my rest for ages without end." He was lodged in the abbot's apartment, where he lay ill for near a month. The good monks treated him with uncommon veneration and esteem, and as if he had been an angel from heaven. They would not employ any of their servants about him, but chose to serve him themselves in the meanest offices, as in cutting or carrying wood for him to burn, &c. His patience, humility, constant recollection, and prayer were equally their astonishment and edification.

The nearer he saw himself to the term of all his desires, the entering into the joy of his Lord, the more tender and inflamed were his longings after death. He had continually in his mouth these words of St. Austin, "Then shall I truly live, when I shall be quite filled with you alone, and your love; now I am a burden to myself, because I am not entirely full of you." In such pious transports of heavenly love he never ceased sighing after the glorious day of eternity. The monks begged he would dictate an exposition of the Book of Canticles, in imitation of St. Bernard. He answered, "Give me St. Bernard's spirit, and I will obey." But at last, to renounce perfectly his own will, he dictated the exposition of that most mysterious of all the divine books. It begins, "Solomon inspiratus." It is not what his erudition might have suggested, but what love inspired him with in his last moments, when his pure soul was hastening to break the chains of mortality, and drown itself in the ocean of God's immensity, and in the delights of eternity. The holy doctor at last finding himself too weak to dictate any more, begged the religious to withdraw, recommending himself to their prayers, and desiring their leave to employ the few precious moments he had to live with God alone. He accordingly spent them in fervent acts of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, humility, and repentance. He made a general confession of his whole life to F. Reynold, with abundance of tears for his imperfections and sins of frailty; for in the judgment of those to whom he had manifested his interior, he had never offended God by any mortal sin. And he said to F. Reynold, before his death, that he thanked God with his whole heart for having prevented him with his grace, and always conducted him as it were by the hand, and preserved him from any known sin that destroys charity in the soul; adding, that this was purely God's mercy, to which he was indebted for his preservation from every sin which he had not committed. Having received absolution in the sentiments of the most perfect penitent, he desired the Viaticum. Whilst the abbot and community were preparing to bring it, he begged to be taken off his bed, and laid upon ashes spread upon the floor. Thus lying on the ground, weak in body but vigorous in mind, he waited for the priest with tears of the most tender devotion. When he saw the host in the priest's hand, he said, "I firmly believe that Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is present in this august sacrament. I adore you, my God, and my Redeemer: I receive You, the price of my redemption, the Viaticum of my pilgrimage; for whose honour I have studied, laboured, preached, and taught. I hope I never advanced any tenet as your word which I had not learned from you. If through ignorance I have done otherwise, I revoke everything of that kind, and submit all my writings to the judgment of the holy Roman Church." Then recollecting himself, after other acts of faith, adoration, and love, he received the holy Viaticum; but remained on the ashes till he had finished his thanksgiving. Growing still weaker, amidst his transports of love, he desired extreme unction, which he received, answering himself to all the prayers. After this, he lay in peace and joy, as appeared by the serenity of his countenance; and he was heard to pronounce these aspirations: "Soon, soon will the God of all comfort complete his mercies on me, and fill all my desires. I shall shortly be satiated in him, and drink of the torrent of his delights: be inebriated from the abundance of his house, and in him who is the source of life I shall behold the true light." Seeing all in tears about him he comforted them, saying, Death was his gain and his joy. F. Reynold said he had hoped to see him triumph over the adversaries of the church in the council of Lyons, and placed in a rank in which he might do it some signal service. The saint answered, "I have begged of God, as the greatest favour, to die a simple religious man, and I now thank him for it. It is a greater benefit than he has granted to many of his holy servants, that he is pleased to call me out of this world so early to enter into his joy; wherefore grieve not for me who am overwhelmed with joy." He returned thanks to the abbot and monks of Fossa-Nuova for their charity to him. One of the community asked him by what means we might live always faithful to God's grace. He answered, "Be assured that he who shall always walk faithfully in his presence- always ready to give him an account of all his actions-shall never be separated from him by consenting to sin." These were his last words to men, after which he only spoke to God in prayer, and gave up the ghost, on the 7th of March, in 1274, a little after midnight: some say in the fiftieth year of his age; but Ptolemy of Lucca, and other contemporary authors, say expressly in his forty- eighth, which also agrees with his whole history. He was very tall, and every way proportioned.

The concourse of people at the saint's funeral was extraordinary: several monks of that house, and many other persons, were cured by his relics and intercession, of which many instances, judicially proved, are mentioned by William of Tocco, in the bull of his canonization, and other authors. The Bollandists give us other long authentic relations of the like miracles continued afterwards, especially in the translations of those holy relics. The University of Paris sent to the general and provincial of the Dominicans a letter of condolence upon his death, giving the highest commendations to the saint's learning and sanctity, and begging the treasure of his holy body. Naples, Rome, and many other universities, princes, and orders contended no less for it. One of his hands, uncorrupt, was cut off in. 1288, and given to his sister, the Countess Theodora, who kept it in her domestic chapel of San Severino. After her death it was given to the Dominicans' convent of Salerno. After several contestations, Pope Urban V, many years after his death, granted his body to the Dominicans to carry to Paris or Toulouse, as Italy already possessed the body of St. Dominic at Bologna. The sacred treasure was carried privately into France, and received at Toulouse in the most honourable manner: one hundred and fifty thousand people came to meet and conduct it into the city, having at their head Louis, Duke of Anjou, brother to King Charles V, the archbishops of Toulouse and Narbonne, and many bishops, abbots, and noblemen. It rests now in the Dominicans' church at Toulouse, in a rich shrine, with a stately mausoleum over it, which reaches almost up to the roof of the church, and hath four faces. An arm of the saint was at the same time sent to the great convent of the Dominicans at Paris, and placed in St. Thomas's chapel in their church, which the king declared a royal chapel. The faculty of theology meets to assist at a high mass there on the anniversary festival of the saint. The kingdom of Naples, after many pressing solicitations, obtained, in 1372, from the general chapter held at Toulouse, a bone of the other arm of St. Thomas. It was kept in the church of the Dominicans at Naples till 1603, when the city being delivered from a public calamity by his intercession, it was placed in the metropolitan church among the relics of the other patrons of the country. That kingdom by the briefs of Pius V in 1567, and of Clement VIII in 1603, confirmed by Paul V, honours him as a principal patron. He was solemnly canonized by Pope John XXII in 1323. Pope Pius V, in 1567, commanded his festival and office to be kept equal with those of the four doctors of the western church.

Many in their studies, as in other occupations, take great pains to little purpose, often to draw from them the poison of vanity or error; or at least to drain their affections, and rather to nourish pride and other vices in the heart than to promote true virtue. Sincere humility and simplicity of heart are essential conditions for the sanctification of studies, and for the improvement of virtue by them. Prayer must also both go before and accompany them. St. Thomas spoke much to God by prayer, that God might speak to him by enlightening his understanding in his reading and studies; and he received in this what he asked in the other exercise. This prodigy of human wit, this unparalleled genius, which penetrated the most knotty difficulties in all the sciences, whether sacred or profane, to which he applied himself, was accustomed to say that he learned more at the foot of the crucifix than in books. We ought never to set ourselves to read or study anything without having first made our morning meditation, and without imploring in particular the divine light in everything we read; and seasoning our studies by frequent aspirations to God in them, and by keeping our souls in an humble attention to his presence. In intricate difficulties we ought more earnestly prostrate at the foot of a crucifix, to ask of Christ the resolution of our doubts. We should thus receive, in the school of so good a master, that science which makes saints, by giving, with other sciences, the true knowledge of God and ourselves, and purifying and kindling in the will the fire of divine love with the sentiments of humility and other virtues. Prayer and true virtue even naturally conduce to the perfection of learning, in every branch; for purity of the heart, and the disengagement of the affections from all irregular passions, render the understanding clear, qualify the mind to judge impartially of truth in its researches, divest it of many prejudices, the fatal sources of errors, and inspire a modest distrust in a person's own abilities and lights. Thus virtue and learning mutually assist and improve each other.


SAINT THOMAS BECKET
Archbishop & Martyr - AD 1170 (December 29)

There is a romantic legend that the mother of Thomas Becket was a Saracen princess who followed his father, a pilgrim or crusader, back from the Holy Land, and wandered about Europe repeating the only English words she knew, "London" and "Becket," until she found him. There is no foundation for the story. According to a contemporary writer, Thomas Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, sheriff of London; another relates that both parents were of Norman blood. Whatever his parentage, we know with certainty that the future chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury was born on St. Thomas day, 1118, of a good family, and that he was educated at a school of canons regular at Merton Priory in Sussex, and later at the University of Paris. When Thomas returned from France, his parents had died. Obliged to make his way unaided, he obtained an appointment as clerk to the sheriff's court, where he showed great ability. All accounts describe him as a strongly built, spirited youth, a lover of field sports, who seems to have spent his leisure time in hawking and hunting. One day when he was out hunting with his falcon, the bird swooped down at a duck, and as the duck dived, plunged after it into the river. Thomas himself leapt in to save the valuable hawk, and the rapid stream swept him along to a mill, where only the accidental stopping of the wheel saved his life. The episode serves to illustrate the impetuous daring which characterized Becket all through his life.

At the age of twenty-four Thomas was given a post in the household of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and while there he apparently resolved on a career in the Church, for he took minor orders. To prepare himself further, he obtained the archbishop's permission to study canon law at the University of Bologna, continuing his studies at Auxerre, France. On coming back to England, he became provost of Beverley, and canon at Lincoln and St. Paul's cathedrals. His ordination as deacon occurred in 1154. Theobald appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office in England after a bishopric or an abbacy, and began to entrust him with the most intricate affairs; several times he was sent on important missions to Rome. It was Thomas' diplomacy that dissuaded Pope Eugenius III from sanctioning the coronation of Eustace, eldest son of Stephen, and when Henry of Anjou, great grandson of William the Conqueror, asserted his claim to the English crown and became King Henry II, it was not long before he appointed this gifted churchman as chancellor, that is, chief minister. An old chronicle describes Thomas as "slim of growth, and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face. Blithe of countenance was he, winning and lovable in conversation, frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner." Thomas discharged his duties as chancellor conscientiously and well.

Like the later chancellor of the realm, Thomas Moore, who also became a martyr and a saint, Thomas Becket was the close personal friend as well as the loyal servant of his young sovereign. They were said to have one heart and one mind between them, and it seems possible that to Becket's influence were due, in part, those reforms for which Henry is justly praised, that is, his measures to secure equitable dealing for all his subjects by a more uniform and efficient system of law. But it was not only their common interest in matters of state that bound them together. They were also boon companions and spent merry hours together. It was almost the only relaxation Thomas allowed himself, for he was an ambitious man. He had a taste for magnificence, and his household was as fine-if not finer-than the King's. When he was sent to France to negotiate a royal marriage, he took a personal retinue of two hundred men, with a train of several hundred more, knights and squires, clerics and servants, eight fine wagons, music and singers, hawks and hounds, monkeys and mastiffs. Little wonder that the French gaped in wonder and asked, "If this is the chancellor's state, what can the Ring's be like?" His entertainments, his gifts, and his liberality to the poor were also on a very lavish scale.

In 1159 King Henry raised an army of mercenaries in France to regain the province of Toulouse, a part of the inheritance of his wife, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine. Thomas served Henry in this war with a company of seven hundred knights of his own. Wearing armor like any other fighting man, he led assaults and engaged in single combat. Another churchman, meeting him, exclaimed: "What do you mean by wearing such a dress? You look more like a falconer than a cleric. Yet you are a cleric in person, and many times over in office-archdeacon of Canterbury, dean of Hastings, provost of Beverley, canon of this church and that, procurator of the archbishop, and like to be archbishop, too, the rumor goes!" Thomas received the rebuke with good humor.

Although he was proud, strong-willed, and irascible, and remained so all his life, he did not neglect to make seasonal retreats at Merton and took the discipline imposed on him there. His confessor during this time testified later to the blamelessness of his private life, under conditions of extreme temptation. If he sometimes went too far in those schemes of the King which tended to infringe on the ancient prerogatives and rights of the Church, at other times he opposed Henry with vigor.

In 1161 Archbishop Theobald died. King Henry was then in Normandy with Thomas, whom he resolved to make the next primate of England. When Henry annouced his intention, Thomas, demurring, told him: "Should God permit me to be the archbishop of Canterbury, I would soon lose your Majesty's favor, and the affection with which you honor me would be changed into hatred. For there are several things you do now in prejudice of the rights of the Church which make me fear you would require of me what I could not agree to; and envious persons would not fail to make it the occasion of endless strife between us." The King paid no heed to this remonstrance, and sent bishops and noblemen to the monks of Canterbury, ordering them to labor with the same zeal to set his chancellor in the see as they would to set the crown on the young prince's head. Thomas continued to refuse the promotion until the legate of the Holy See, Cardinal Henry of Pisa, overrode his scruples. The election took place in May, 1162. Young Prince Henry, then in London, gave the necessary consent in his father's name. Thomas, now forty-four years old, rode to Canterbury and was first ordained priest by Walter, bishop of Rochester, and then on the octave of Pentecost was consecrated archbishop by the bishop of Winchester. Shortly afterwards he received the pallium sent by Pope Alexander III.

From this day worldly grandeur no longer marked Thomas' way of life. Next his skin he wore a hairshirt, and his customary dress was a plain black cassock, a linen surplice, and a sacerdotal stole about his neck. He lived ascetically, spent much time in the distribution of alms, in reading and discussing the Scriptures with Herbert of Bosham, in visiting the infirmary, and supervising the monks at their work. He took special care in selecting candidates for Holy Orders. As ecclesiastical judge, he was rigorously just.

Although as archbishop Thomas had resigned the chancellorship, against the King's wish, the relations between the two men seemed to be unchanged for a time. But a host of troubles was brewing, and the crux of all of them was the relationship between Church and state. In the past the landowners, among which the Church was one of the largest, for each hide of land they held, had paid annually two shillings to the King's officers, who in return undertook to protect them from the rapacity of minor tax- gatherers. This was actually a flagrant form of graft and the Ring now ordered the money paid into his own exchequer. The archbishop protested, and there were hot words between him and the Ring. Thenceforth the King's demands were directed solely against the clergy, with no mention of other landholders who were equally involved.

Then came the affair of Philip de Brois, a canon accused of murdering a soldier. According to a long-established law, as a cleric he was tried in an ecclesiastical court, where he was acquitted by the judge, the bishop of Lincoln, but ordered to pay a fine to the deceased man's relations. A king's justice then made an effort to bring him before his civil court, but he could not be tried again upon that indictment and told the king's justice so in insulting terms. Thereat Henry ordered him tried again both for the original murder charge-and for his later misdemeanor. Thomas now pressed to have the case referred to his own archiepiscopal court; the King reluctantly agreed, and appointed both lay and clerical assessors. Philip's plea of a previous acquittal was accepted as far as the murder was concerned, but he was punished for his contempt of a royal court. The King thought the sentence too mild and remained dissatisfied. In October, 1163, the King called the bishops of his realm to a council at Westminster, at which he demanded their assent to an edict that thenceforth clergy proved guilty of crimes against the civil law should be handed over to the civil courts for punishment. Thomas stiffened the bishops against yielding. But finally, at the council of Westminster they assented reluctantly to the instrument known as the Constitutions of Clarendon, which embodied the royal "customs" in Church matters, and including some additional points, making sixteen in all. It was a revolutionary document: it provided that no prelate should leave the kingdom without royal permission, which would serve to prevent appeals to the Pope; that no tenant-in-chief should be excommunicated against the Ring's will; that the royal court was to decide in which court clerics accused of civil offenses should be tried; that the custody of vacant Church benefices and their revenues should go to the King. Other provisions were equally damaging to the authority and prestige of the Church. The bishops gave their assent only with a reservation, "saving their order," which was tantamount to a refusal.

Thomas was now full of remorse for having weakened, thus setting a bad example to the bishops, but at the same time he did not wish to widen the breach between himself and the King. He made a futile effort to cross the Channel and put the case before the Pope. On his part, the Ring was bent on vengeance for what he considered the disloyalty and ingratitude of the archbishop. He ordered Thomas to give up certain castles and honors which he held from him, and began a campaign to persecute and discredit him. Various charges of chicanery and financial dishonesty were brought against Thomas, dating from the time he was chancellor. The bishop of Winchester pleaded the archbishop's discharge. The plea was disallowed; Thomas offered a voluntary payment of his own money, and that was refused.

The affair was building up to a crisis, when, on October 13, 1164, the King called another great council at Northampton. Thomas went, after celebrating Mass, carrying his archbishop's cross in his hand. The Earl of Leicester came out with a message from the King: "The King commands you to render your accounts. Otherwise you must hear his judgment." "Judgment?" exclaimed Thomas. "I was given the church of Canterbury free from temporal obligations. I am therefore not liable and will not plead with regard to them. Neither law nor reason allows children to judge and condemn their fathers. Wherefore I refuse the King's judgment and yours and everyone's. Under God, I will be judged by the Pope alone."

Determined to stand out against the Ring, Thomas left Northampton that night, and soon thereafter embarked secretly for Flanders. Louis VII, Ring of France, invited Thomas into his dominions. Meanwhile King Henry forbade anyone to give him aid. Gilbert, abbot of Sempringham, was accused of having sent him some relief. Although the abbot had done nothing, he refused to swear he had not, because, he said, it would have been a good deed and he would say nothing that might seem to brand it as a criminal act. Henry quickly dispatched several bishops and others to put his case before Pope Alexander, who was then at Sens. Thomas also presented himself to the Pope and showed him the Constitutions of Clarendon, some of which Alexander pronounced intolerable, others impossible. He rebuked Thomas for ever having considered accepting them. The next day Thomas confessed that he had, though unwillingly, received the see of Canterbury by an election somewhat irregular and uncanonical, and had acquitted himself badly in it. He resigned his office, returned the episcopal ring to the Pope, and withdrew. After deliberation, the Pope called him back and reinstated him, with orders not to abandon his office, for to do so would be to abandon the cause of God. He then recommended Thomas to the Cistercian abbot at Pontigny.

Thomas then put on a monk's habit, and submitted himself to the strict rule of the monastery. Over in England King Henry was busy confiscating the goods of all the friends, relations, and servants of the archbishop, and banishing them, first binding them by oath to go to Thomas at Pontigny, that the sight of their distress might move him. Troops of these exiles soon appeared at the abbey. Then Henry notified the Cistercians that if they continued to harbor his enemy he would sequestrate all their houses in his dominions. After this, the abbot hinted that Thomas was no longer welcome in his abbey. The archbishop found refuge as the guest of King Louis at the royal abbey of St. Columba, near Sens.

This historic quarrel dragged on for three years. Thomas was named by the Pope as his legate for all England except York, whereupon Thomas excommunicated several of his adversaries; yet at times he showed himself conciliatory towards the King. The French king was also drawn into the struggle, and the two kings had a conference in 1169 at Montmirail. King Louis was inclined to take Thomas' side. A reconciliation was finally effected between Thomas and Henry, although the lines of power were not too clearly drawn. The archbishop now made preparations to return to his see. With a premonition of his fate, he remarked to the bishop of Paris in parting, "I am going to England to die." On December 1, 1172, he disembarked at Sandwich, and on the journey to Canterbury the way was lined with cheering people, welcoming him home. As he rode into the cathedral city at the head of a triumphal procession, every bell was ringing. Yet in spite of the public demonstration, there was an atmosphere of foreboding.

At the reconciliation in France, Henry had agreed to the punishment of Roger, archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had assisted at the coronation of Henry's son, despite the long-established right of the archbishop of Canterbury to perform this ceremony and in defiance of the Pope's explicit instructions. It had been another attempt to lower the prestige of the primate's see. Thomas had sent on in advance of his return the papal letters suspending Roger and confirming the excommunication of the two bishops involved. On the eve of his arrival a deputation waited on him to ask for the withdrawal of these sentences. He agreed on condition that the three would swear thenceforth to obey the Pope. This they refused to do, and together went to rejoin King Henry, who was visiting his domains in France.

At Canterbury Thomas was subjected to insult by one Ranulf de Broc, from whom he had demanded the restoration of Saltwood Castle, a manor previously belonging to the archbishop's see. After a week's stay there he went up to London, where Henry's son, "the young King," refused to see him. He arrived back in Canterbury on or about his fifty-second birthday. Meanwhile the three bishops had laid their complaints before the King at Bur, near Bayeux, and someone had exclaimed aloud that there would be no peace for the realm while Becket lived. At this, the King, in a fit of rage, pronounced some words which several of his hearers took as a rebuke to them for allowing Becket to continue to live and thereby disturb him. Four of his knights at once set off for England and made their way to the irate family at Saltwood. Their names were Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Bret.

On St. John's day Thomas received a letter warning him of danger, and all southeast Kent was in a state of ferment. On the afternoon of December 29, the four knights came to see him in his episcopal palace. During the interview they made several demands, in particular that Thomas remove the censures on the three bishops. The knights withdrew, uttering threats and oaths. A few minutes later there were loud outcries, a shattering of doors and clashing of arms, and the archbishop, urged on by his attendants, began moving slowly through the cloister passage to the cathedral. It was now twilight and vespers were being sung. At the door of the north transept he was met by some terrified monks, whom he commanded to get back to the choir. They withdrew a little and he entered the church, but the knights were seen behind him in the dim light. The monks slammed the door on them and bolted it. In their confusion they shut out several of their own brethren, who began beating loudly on the door. Becket turned and cried, "Away, you cowards ! A church is not a castle." He reopened the door himself, then went towards the choir, accompanied by Robert de Merton, his aged teacher and confessor, William Fitzstephen, a cleric in his household, and a monk, Edward Grim. The others fled to the crypt and other hiding places, and Grim alone remained. At this point the knights broke in shouting, "Where is Thomas the traitor?" "Where is the archbishop?" "Here I am," he replied, "no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God!" He came down the steps to stand between the altars of Our Lady and St. Benedict.

The knights clamored at him to absolve the bishops, and Thomas answered firmly, "I cannot do other than I have done. Reginald, you have received many favors from me. Why do you come into my church armed?" Fitzurse made a threatening gesture with his axe. "I am ready to die," said Thomas, "but God's curse on you if you harm my people." There was some scuffling as they tried to carry Thomas outside bodily. Fitzurse flung down his axe and drew his sword. "You pander, you owe me fealty and submission!" exclaimed the archbishop. Fitzurse shouted back, "I owe no fealty contrary to the King ! " and knocked off Thomas' cap. At this, Thomas covered his face and called aloud on God and the saints. Tracy struck a blow, which Grim intercepted with his own arm, but it grazed Thomas' skull and blood ran down into his eyes. He wiped the stain away and cried, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" Another blow from Tracy beat him to his knees, and he pitched forward onto his face, murmuring, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church I am willing to die." With a vigorous thrust Le Bret struck deep into his head, breaking his sword against the pavement, and Hugh of Horsea added a blow, although the archbishop was now dying. Hugh de Morville stood by but struck no blow. The murderers, brandishing their swords, now dashed away through the cloisters, shouting "The King's men! The King's men!" The cathedral itself was filling with people unaware of the catastrophe, and a thunderstorm was breaking overhead.[2] The archbishop's body lay in the middle of the transept, and for a time no one dared approach it. A deed of such sacrilege was bound to be regarded with horror and indignation. When the news was brought to the King, he shut himself up and fasted for forty days, for he knew that his chance remark had sped the courtiers to England bent on vengeance. He later performed public penance in Canterbury Cathedral and in 1172 received absolution from the papal delegates.

Within three years of his death the archbishop had been canonized as a martyr. Though far from a faultless character, Thomas Becket, when his time of testing came, had the courage to lay down his life to defend the ancient rights of the Church against an aggressive state. The discovery of his hairshirt and other evidences of austerity, and the many miracles which were reported at his tomb, increased the veneration in which he was held. The shrine of the "holy blessed martyr," as Chaucer called him, soon became famous, and the old Roman road running from London to Canterbury known as "Pilgrim's Way." His tomb was magnificently adorned with gold, silver, and jewels, only to be despoiled by Henry VIII; the fate of his relics is uncertain. They may have been destroyed as a part of Henry's policy to subordinate the English Church to the civil authority. Mementoes of this saint are preserved at the cathedral of Sens. The feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury is now kept throughout the Roman Catholic Church, and in England he is regarded as the protector of the secular clergy.


SAINT THOMAS MORE
Martyr - AD 1535 (July 9)

Twice in the history of England there appears the figure of a great martyr who was also chancellor of the realm. Thomas Becket, whose story appears earlier in this volume, gave his life to keep the English Church safe from royal aggression; Thomas More gave his in a vain effort to preserve it from further aggression. Each was a royal favorite who loved God more than his king. The coincidence is striking, although on closer comparison the differences are also striking; first, those of time and status, between the high ecclesiastic of the late twelfth century and the layman of the Renaissance; and, more importantly, the differences in character and way of life.

Thomas More's father was a highly-esteemed citizen of London, Sir John More, lawyer and judge; his mother was Agnes, daughter of Thomas Grainger. He was born on Milk Street, Cheapside, on February 7, 1478. As a child he was sent to St. Anthony's School in Threadneedle Street, whose director, Nicholas Holt, a fine Latin scholar, taught boys of good family their classics. At the age of thirteen Thomas was taken into the household of John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, who was soon to become a cardinal. It had long been a custom for promising youths to be placed in the homes of noblemen and ranking churchmen to learn the ways of great gentlefolk.

Thomas admired Morton and he, fortunately, liked the boy, and was instrumental in having him sent on to Canterbury College, Oxford Sir John More was very strict with his son, allowing him money only for necessities. Later in life Thomas admitted that his father's parsimony during this period had the good effect of keeping him at the studies which he really loved. Linacre, the finest Greek scholar in England, was his tutor and inspired him with such a zest for Greek literature that his father feared for the legal career he had planned for his son, and called him home after only two years at the university. By this time Thomas knew Greek, French, and mathematics, spoke Latin as well as English, and could play the lute and the viol-all proper accomplishments for a young gentleman of that day.

In February, 1496, he was admitted as a student to Lincoln's Inn; in 1501, at twenty- three, he was called to the bar, and for three years thereafter was reader in law at Furnival's Inn; then he entered Parliament. He was already a close friend of the eminent Dutch humanist, Desiderius Erasmus, who had been teaching Greek at Cambridge and Oxford. Among other friends were Colet, the scholarly dean of St. Paul's, and William Lilly, with whom he composed epigrams in Latin from the Greek Anthology. He lectured on St. Augustine's City of God at the church of St. Lawrence Jewry, of which William Grocyn was rector. All in all, Thomas More was a versatile, brilliant, and successful young man, as well as extremely popular and charming. Of his sense of humor, Erasmus wrote, "From childhood he had such a love for witty jests that he seemed to have been sent into the world for the sole purpose of coining them; he never descends to buffoonery, but gravity and dignity were never made for him. He is always amiable and good-tempered, and puts everyone who meets him in a happy frame of mind."

More was seriously perplexed as to his vocation. He was strongly attracted by the austere life of the Carthusian monks, and had some leaning too towards the Friars Minor of the Observance; but there seemed to be no real call to either the monastic life or the secular priesthood. Though he remained a man of the world, he kept throughout life certain ascetic practices; for many years he wore a hair shirt next his skin, and followed the rules of Church discipline for Fridays and vigils; every day he assisted at a Mass and recited the Little Office of Our Lady.

At about this time More met a certain John Colt of Essex, and became acquainted with his family, which included three daughters. More now took the decisive step of marriage, choosing the eldest daughter, Jane. According to his son-in-law, William Roper, he thought the second daughter fairest, "yet when he considered it would be both great grief and some shame also to the eldest to see her younger sister preferred before her in marriage, he then, of a certain pity, framed his fancy towards her, and soon after married her." He and Jane were nevertheless very happy together; he set himself to teach her the literary and musical accomplishments which the wife of a man in More's position needed to have.

Four children were born to them, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecily, and John. In addition, several children of friends were reared in their household, and here More tried out his original ideas in education. The house was for years a center of learning and culture, and of high good spirits as well. The girls were taught as carefully as the boys, a practice for which More had the authority of "prudent and holy ancients," such as St. Jerome and St. Augustine. At mealtime a passage from the Scriptures, with a short commentary, was read aloud by one of the children; afterwards there was singing and merry conversation; cards and dicing were forbidden. Family and servants met together for evening prayers. More himself built and endowed a chapel in his parish church of Chelsea, and even when he had attained the rank of Lord Chancellor he sang in the choir, dressed in the ordinary surplice.

He was extremely sensitive to the sufferings of others. "More was used," wrote a friend, "whenever in his house or in the village he lived in there was a woman in labor, to begin praying, and so continue until news was brought him that the delivery had come happily to pass.... His charity was without bounds, as is proved by the frequent and abundant alms he poured without distinction among all unfortunate persons. He used himself to go through the back lanes and inquire into the state of poor families.... He often invited to his table his poorer neighbors, receiving them . . . familiarly and joyously; he rarely invited the rich, and scarcely ever the nobility.... In his parish of Chelsea he hired a house in which he gathered many infirm, poor, and old people, and maintained them at his own expense." But if the rich were rarely seen at his house, his friends Grocyn, Linacre, Colet, Lilly, and Fisher, all distinguished for scholarship and virtue, were frequent visitors; and famous men from across the Channel sought him out-Erasmus, whom we have spoken of, and Holbein, who has left us a fine portrait of More as well as a beautiful drawing of the More family group.

The first years of his married life were spent in Bucklersbury. Here in spare time More translated from Latin into English the life of the Italian humanist, Pico della Mirandola, and, with Erasmus, some Dialogues of the second-century satirist, Lucian of Samosata, from Greek into Latin. In 1508 he was abroad visiting the Universities of Louvain and Paris. He may also have had a hand in Erasmus' most popular work, The Praise of Folly, written in More's house that same year. More had led the opposition in Parliament to excessive royal taxation, and brought the king's ire down on himself and his father, old Sir John More, who was imprisoned in the Tower for a time and fined a hundred pounds. In 1509 King Henry VII died, and the accession of the youthful Henry VIII meant a rise in worldly favor and fortune for the More family. The following year Thomas was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn and appointed undersheriff for the city of London, an office of considerable importance.

At almost the same time, his "little Utopia," as More called the family group, was sadly shaken by the death of his dutiful young wife. Since More was preoccupied with many diverse interests and duties, he needed someone to care for the four children. Within a short time, therefore, he married Alice Middleton, a widow seven years his senior, a practical and kindly woman. Erasmus wrote of this marriage: "A few months after his wife's death, he married a widow.... She was neither young nor fair, as he would say laughingly, but an active and vigilant housewife, with whom he lived as pleasantly and sweetly as if she had all the charms of youth. You will scarcely find a husband who by authority or severity has gained such ready compliance as More by playful flattery."

Some years later More bought a new house and garden in Chelsea, then a small country village. It was his home until his death. In 1515 he was away for six months in Flanders, as a member of an English delegation to negotiate new trade agreements with the merchants of the Hanseatic League. In the intervals of leisure between business trips to Antwerp, he now worked on the famous Utopia, which he published the following year. There is no space here to discuss fully the significance of this remarkable book. It is proof both of More's thoughtful reading of Plato and of his profound interest in the social, economic, and political problems of his own time. As undersheriff since 1510, he had been brought into contact with much suffering, destitution, injustice, and unemployment. His picture of a commonwealth that was happier and radically different from the realm of England, one that was free from poverty and inequality, was both a challenge to constructive political thinking on the part of the statesmen of Europe and a plea for a better life for people in general. He wrote the book in Latin, that it might be read by the educated everywhere, and since it was both brilliant and provocative, it produced strong reactions- amusement, horror, or admiration. Within three years after its first appearance in Louvain it was published in Paris, Basle, Florence, Vienna, and Venice. It is Utopia that gives More his high place in the fields of social philosophy and letters.

The king and Cardinal Wolsey were now set on having More's services at the court. More had no illusions about Henry or court life, and knew that he could do little to remedy the vices which prevailed in the royal circle. Yet his conscience told him that that was no reason for "forsaking the commonwealth," and that which he could not turn to good, he must "so order that it be not very bad." In the year Utopia was published he was obliged to accept from the king an annual pension of a hundred pounds; in 1517 he became a member of the King's Council and a judge in the Court of Requests. As a member of the Council he accompanied Henry to the "Field of the Cloth of Gold," where the kings of England and France vied with one another in magnificence and in making promises that were soon broken. He was taken as Wolsey's confidant on a diplomatic mission to Calais and Bruges. In 1521 he was appointed under-treasurer, and privy-councilor, and raised to knighthood. His awards and honors make a long catalogue: grants of land in Oxfordshire and Kent; Latin orator in 1523, when the Emperor Charles V paid a state visit to London; speaker of the House of Commons, and author of the answer to Martin Luther's attack on the king's book, Defense of the Seven Sacraments; steward of Oxford University in 1524 and of Cambridge University in 1525, and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; again, in 1527, with Wolsey to France, and two years later with Bishop Tunstal of London to Cambrai to sign the treaty which meant a temporary pause in the wars of Europe. In October, 1529, Henry chose him as chancellor to succeed Wolsey, who had roused the king's wrath by opposing his scheme for nullifying his marriage. Thomas More was the first layman to hold the office.

Erasmus gives us a picture of More at this period: "In serious matters no man's advice is more prized, while if the king wishes to recreate himself, no man's conversation is gayer. Often there are deep and intricate matters that demand a grave and prudent judge. More unravels them in such a way that he satisfies both sides. No one, however, has ever prevailed on him to receive a gift for his decision. Happy the commonwealth where kings appoint such officials! His elevation has brought with it no pride.... You would say that he had been appointed public guardian of those in need." Another tribute from More's confessor speaks of his remarkable purity and devotion. But in spite of his many honors and achievements, the public esteem which he enjoyed, and the many tokens of the royal regard, More knew well that there was no security in his position. "Son Roper," he once said to his son-in-law, "I may tell thee I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head would win him a castle in France, it should not fail to go."

Although Henry's relations with the Pope had by this time become strained, More's time and thought were largely taken up with the general movement against Church authority in England. He composed answers to Protestant attacks and dealt with problems of heresy. Tyndale, then the leading English Protestant, was his ablest opponent. This scholar and reformer had left England for the Continent, in order to find freedom for the work he wished to do. At Worms he published the first Protestant translation of the New Testament from the Greek text, and at Marburg a translation of the Pentateuch. Tyndale was a better popular debater than More; the Chancellor was moderate and fair, and could top off his scholarly arguments with a shaft of wit, but his style was less vigorous and trenchant. As a controversial writer his chief work was A Dialogue . . . Wherein he treated Divers Matters, as of the Veneration and Worship of Images and Relics, Praying to Saints, and Going on Pilgrimage. With many other things touching the pestilent sect of Luther and Tyndale. . . (London, 1529.) Tyndale replied in 153I, and two years later More published a Confutation, a discursive treatise in which he touched incidentally on the doctrine of the Pope's infallibility.

In his Apology and again in The Debellation of Salem and Bizance (both in 1533) he defended the principle of punishment of heresy by secular power on the ground that it threatened the peace and safety of the commonwealth. As Chancellor it was his duty to administer the civil laws of England, which prescribed the death penalty for obstinate heretics. Nevertheless, during his term of office only four, it seems, were burned, and these were relapsed persons, whom he had no power to reprieve. Actually, it was heresy and not the heretics that More tried to get rid of.

One of Tyndale's vehement charges against the Catholics was what he called their failure to give the complete Bible to the people in a language they understood. His own translations were being smuggled into England from the Continent and avidly read. More favored the dissemination of selected books of Scripture in the vernacular; the reading of other books, he thought, should be at the discretion of every man's bishop, who would probably "suffer some to read the Acts of the Apostles whom he would not suffer to meddle with the Apocalypse." More added that some of the best minds among the Catholic clergy were also of this opinion.

When at length the break between King Henry and the Pope became open and the English clergy were commanded by Henry to acknowledge him as "Protector and Supreme Head of the Church of England, . . . so far as the law of Christ allows," More wished to resign his office, but was persuaded to retain it and turn his attention to Henry's "great matter"-his petition for a nullification of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, on the ground that she had previously been the wife of his dead brother Arthur. The actual reason behind the petition was Henry's desire for a male heir and his infatuation with a young woman of the court, Anne Boleyn. The idea had been mooted first in 1527, and the failure in 1529 of a papal commission under Cardinal Campeggio to grant Henry's request, had been the cause of the downfall of Wolsey, who, the King thought, might have persuaded Campeggio to decide in his favor.

This drawn-out affair, which shook Christendom to its very foundations, was indeed so involved, both as to fact and law, that men of good will might well disagree on it. More, after much study of Church authorities, had become convinced of the validity of Henry's marriage to Catherine, but, as a layman, had been allowed to refrain from taking sides publicly. When, in March, 1531, he reported to Parliament on the state of the case, he was asked for his opinion and refused to give it. In 1532 came the "submission of the clergy," who were now forced to promise to make no new laws without the King's consent and to submit the laws they had to a commission for revision. Later in the year an Act of Parliament prohibited the payment of annates, or first year's income from Church appointments, to the Holy See. At this More could no longer stand by in silence. To Henry's exasperation, he opposed the measure openly, and on May 16 offered his resignation as chancellor. He had held the office for less than three years.

The loss of his office and its perquisites reduced More to comparative poverty. Gathering his family around him he cheerfully explained the situation, adding, "Then we may yet with bags and wallets go a-begging together, and hoping that for pity some good folk will give us their charity, at every man's door to sing Salve Regina, and so keep company and be merry together." For the next eighteen months he lived very quietly, occupied with writing. He declined to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn, though by the King's order three bishops wrote asking him to come and sent him money to pay for the necessary robes. He kept the money and stayed at home, explaining to the bishops that his honor would not allow him to grant their request, but that he accepted the money with gratitude and without scruple, since they were rich and he was poor.

More was not permitted to escape the royal displeasure. The case of the so-called "Holy Maid of Kent" served as a means of incriminating him. This woman, a Benedictine nun by the name of Elizabeth Barton, had for some time been creating a sensation by falling into trances and seeing visions, on the strength of which she warned evildoers of terrors to come. Eventually she was prevailed upon to condemn Henry's treatment of Catherine and prophesy his early death. In consequence she was seized, imprisoned in the Tower, and in April, 1534, executed for treason. In the bill of attainder drawn up against her were included, as sharers in her guilt, the saintly bishop of Rochester, John Fisher, and Thomas More. Fisher had been impressed by the nun's revelations, and More had seen and spoken to her, and at first given some countenance to her claims, though he ended by calling her a "false, deceiving hypocrite." The Lords expressed a wish to hear More for themselves in his own defense. Henry, knowing well that More had many stanch friends in Parliament, had the charge against him withdrawn.

In March Pope Clement VII formally pronounced the marriage of Henry and Catherine valid and therefore not to be annulled. A week later an Act of Succession was pushed through Parliament, requiring all the king's subjects to take oath to the effect that his union with Catherine had been no lawful marriage, that his union with Anne Boleyn was a true marriage, and that their offspring would be legitimate heirs to the throne, regardless of the objections of "any foreign authority, prince, or potentate." Opposition to this Act was declared high treason. On April 13 More and Fisher were offered the oath before a royal commission at Lambeth; they accepted the new line of royal succession established by the Act but refused to subscribe to it as a whole, since it was a clear defiance of the Pope's authority to decide a question involving a sacrament of the Church. Thereupon Thomas More was committed to the custody of one of the commissioners, William Benson, abbot of Westminster. Henry's new favorite, Thomas Cranmer, urged the King to compromise, but he would not. The oath was again tendered and again refused, and More was imprisoned in the Tower.

The fifteen months that he spent in prison were borne with a serene spirit; the tender love of his wife and children, especially that of his daughter Margaret, comforted him. He rejected all efforts of wife and friends to induce him to take the oath and so pacify Henry. Visitors were forbidden towards the end, and in his solitude he wrote the noblest of his religious works, the Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation.

In November he was formally charged with the crime of treason, and all the lands and honors granted him by the Crown were forfeited. Save for a small pension from the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, his family was almost penniless; Lady More sold her fine clothing to buy necessaries for him, and twice she petitioned the king for his release on the plea of sickness and poverty. In February, 1535, the Act of Supremacy came into operation; this conferred the title of Supreme Head of the Church of England, without qualification, on the king, and made it treason to refuse it. In April, Thomas Cromwell, Henry's hardfisted new secretary and councilor, called on More to elicit from him his opinion of this Act, but he would not give it. Margaret visited him on May 4 for the last time, and from the window of his cell they watched three Carthusian priors and one Bridgittine, who would not acknowledge a civil supremacy over the Church, go to their execution. "Lo, dost thou not see, Meg," he said, "that these blessed fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage? . . .

Whereas thy silly father, Meg, that like a most wicked caitiff hath passed the whole course of his miserable life most sinfully, God, thinking him not worthy so soon to come to that eternal felicity, leaving him here yet still in the world, further to be plagued and turmoiled with misery." A few days later Cromwell with other officials questioned him again and taunted him for his silence. "I have not," he said gently, "been a man of such holy living as I might be bold to offer myself to death, lest God for my presumption might suffer me to fall."

On June 22 Bishop John Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill. Nine days later More himself was formally indicted and tried in Westminster Hall. By this time he was so weak that he was permitted to sit during the proceedings. He was charged with having opposed the Act of Supremacy, both in conversation with members of the Council who had visited him in prison, and in an alleged discussion with Rich, the solicitor-general.

More maintained that he had always refrained from talking with anyone on the subject and that Rich was swearing falsely. However, he was found guilty and condemned to death. Then at last he spoke out his mind firmly.

No temporal lord, he said, could or ought to be head of the spirituality. But even as St. Paul persecuted St. Stephen "and yet be they now both twain holy saints in Heaven, and shall continue there friends for ever, so I verily trust, and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your lordships have now here in earth been judges of my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in Heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation."

On his way back to the Tower he said farewell to Margaret, who broke through the guard to reach him, and four days later, now deprived of pen and ink, he wrote her his last letter with a piece of coal, sending with it his hair shirt, a relic now in care of the Canonesses Regular of Newton Abbot. Early in the morning of July 7, Sir Thomas Pope, a friend, came to inform him that he was to die that day at nine o'clock. More thanked him, said he would pray for the king, and with talk of a joyful meeting in Heaven strove to cheer up his weeping friend. When the hour came he walked out to Tower Hill, and mounted the scaffold, with a jest for the lieutenant who helped him climb it.

To the bystanders he spoke briefly, asking for their prayers and their witness that he died in faith of the Holy Catholic Church and as the king's loyal subject. He then knelt and repeated the psalm Miserere; after which he encouraged the executioner, though warning him that his neck was very short and he must take heed to "strike not awry." So saying, he laid down his head and was beheaded at one stroke. His body was buried in the church of St. Peter-ad-Vincula within the Tower; his head, after being exposed on London Bridge, was given to Margaret and laid in the Roper vault in the church of St. Dunstan, outside the West Gate of Canterbury. There, presumably, it still is, beneath the floor under the organ, at the east end of the south aisle.

More was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, along with other English martyrs, and canonized in 1935. Had he never met death for the faith he still would have been a candidate for canonization as a confessor. From first to last his life was singularly pure, lived in the spirit of his own prayer: "Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with Thee; not for the avoiding of the calamities of this wicked world, nor so much for the avoiding of the pains of purgatory, nor the pains of Hell neither, nor so much for the attaining of the joys of Heaven in respect of mine own commodity, as even for a very love of Thee."

[St. Thomas was proclaimed Patron of Statesmen and Politicians, 31 October 2000, by Pope John Paul II.]


Sources include the Catholic Encyclopedia, Butler's Lives of the Saints, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Church and L'Osservatore Romano.

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