Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SAINTATHON 2014: Day 2 - Saint Thomas More

Welcome, one and all, to Unpleasant Accents' first annual Saintathon! To commemorate our anniversary, which falls on All Saints Day, our team is posting about their favourite Saints throughout the week. We continue our series with Saint Thomas More:

"Yes? Did someone call for me?"
Sir Thomas More is an undeniable badass. There, I said it. He's recognized as a martyr in the Catholic Church, among the first to have been targeted by the mad king Henry VIII during the Protestant Reformation. He isn't exactly a gunslinging action hero  rather, he is a pillar of virtue in a tempestuous world. A political insider in his day, he served in Parliament as well as other small positions in the English government leading up to his appointment as Lord Chancellor. It is fitting that he was named the Patron Saint of Politicians and Statesmen by Pope Saint John Paul II.

The fantastic play A Man for all Seasons by Robert Bolt, and the subsequent movie based on the play, were the first encounters that I had had with Thomas More. One of the intriguing elements of More's character in the play is his silence. This is a distinguishing characteristic that sets More apart from politicians known for speechmaking and filibusters, and further relates to his being the Patron Saint of Politicians. He is a model public servant in whose footsteps contemporary politicians should follow; Saint Thomas More is needed more than ever today.

Steely Gaze, Pursed Lips: Now More Than Ever
His tactful, fearless engagements with political enemies in an unsteady, dangerous time are worthy of study and imitation. The finest example of More's indefatigable nature is his famous quote, which he uttered as he mounted the scaffold where he would die a martyr's death:

« I die the king's good servant, but God's first. »

In A Man for all Seasons, Bolt presents the audience with another side of More, the side of a family man who maintains a healthy sense of humor and a razor-sharp wit. Even when confronted with the blatant, perjurious lies of Richard Rich, who falsifies testimony against him in order to become Attorney General of Wales, More responds with the quip:

« It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales, Richard? »

When I think of Thomas More and his exemplary life and then consider modern politicians, especially those who claim to be Catholic and unabashedly repudiate Church teachings, I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton's excellent quote:

« It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged. »

Today is Election Day in the United States, and Americans must choose which public officials will ostensibly represent them in years to come. We must ask: Is voting always necessary? Is voting always the right thing to do?

Frank Underwood: The Anti-More
I see two extremes of thought when it comes to voting: The Wilsonian view is that democracy solves every problem. The alternative is that of the perfectionist — that the only vote worth casting is a vote for the POD (Pious and Overly Devotional) Catholic politician. A problem inherent in a system of government which revolves around the votes of the populace is that the pursuit of Truth is not the ultimate goal of government. Consider democracy, a system whereby it is accepted that there are two competing sides, and that they are neither intrinsically right or wrong. It would be more ideal if government were ordered towards the Final End of its citizenry — namely, salvation.

Until that day arrives, voting will not always be right, and it will not always be necessary, yet we can still participate and achieve good things. Much hay is made of the notion of voting being our "civic duty." However, we must recall that the life we live outside the voting booth is what really matters, more so than ticking a box on a ballot. As Catholics, we are well-equipped to improve our culture by following the example of More's life of virtue in our own way through prayer, humility, fasting, and almsgiving.

Saint Stats:

Born: February 7, 1478

Died: July 6, 1535

Beatified: December 29, 1886

Canonized: May 19, 1935

Feast Day: June 22

Patronage: Adopted children, civil servants, court clerks, difficult marriages, large families, lawyers, politicians, statesmen, stepparents, widowers

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