Spiritual Life/St. Thomas More Biography

  • Spiritual Life

    Rooted in the Catholic faith traditions, St. Thomas More School seeks to engage students' spiritual life, some of whom come to us from varied religious backgrounds. We are guided by the words of our patron Saint Thomas More, who stated, “The whole fruit of their [educational] endeavors should consist in the testimony of God and a good conscience. Thus they will be inwardly calm and at peace and neither stirred by praise of flatterers nor stung by the follies of unlearned mockers of learning.” — Letter to William Gonell, his children’s tutor, May 22, 1518. 

      About St. Thomas More

    ImageSaint Thomas More was born in London on February 7, circa 1477. Thomas More is an example of the individual who placed conscience above the claims of secular authority. It was because of these strong beliefs and his martyrdom that the Catholic Church declared him a saint in 1935.

    The son of Sir John More, a barrister and judge, Thomas More studied at Oxford University to train for a legal career in 1494. While studying law he found himself drawn to the monastic life and entered a Carthusian monastery. The habits of prayer, fasting and penance stayed with him the rest of his life, but his desire to serve his country became too strong. He returned to his law studies and entered the bar in 1501.

    After serving in Parliament, he became an under-sheriff of London in 1510. As under-sheriff he built a reputation for fairness and support of the poor. In 1515 he rose in reputation as a member of a delegation to Flanders sent by the king to settle disputes in the wool trade. By 1518 he had entered the service of King Henry VIII as royal councilor and ambassador. He was knighted and made under-treasurer in 1521. Henry VIII sought More's assistance in writing Defence of the Seven Sacraments, a repudiation of Martin Luther. When Luther replied, it was More who wrote the response under a pseudonym. In 1523 he was made Speaker of the House of Commons and later was named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster serving from 1525 to 1529.

    Despite More's refusal to endorse the king's petition to the Pope for annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon in 1527, he became Lord Chancellor after Cardinal Wolsey was dismissed late in 1529. He was the first layman to hold the title. Each year since 1527, Henry VIII's dispute with the Roman Catholic Church had become more antagonistic and in 1532 More resigned claiming to be of ill health. It is more likely that he was unable to support the king's desire to break with the Church. In June 1533, Henry VIII noted that More refused to attend the coronation of his new wife Anne Boleyn, and soon he found himself listed among the king's Catholic enemies.

    In April 1534, More was imprisoned for refusing to swear to the Oath of Supremacy, the preamble to a law called the Act of Succession. The oath stated that Henry VIII ranked above all foreign rulers, including the Pope. More was convicted of high treason on perjured evidence and was beheaded outside the Tower of London on July 6, 1535. His final words were, "The King's good servant, but God's First."

    More's personality combined intense concern for the problems of his day and spiritual detachment from worldly affairs. He was a devoted family man, and lived a plain and simple private life. He was famed for his merry wit. Yet to the people of his day, More was a contradictory figure - merriest when he seemed saddest and saddest when he appeared most happy. He was also a patron of the arts. His friends included the humanist Erasmus and the artist Han Hoblein.

    More's sympathetic philosophy is best reflected in his book Utopia (written in Latin in 1516,) an account of an ideal society with justice and equality for all citizens.