One of my very favourite films is the adaptation of Robert Bolt’s play, A Man for All Seasons. It is set in Tudor England and is concerned with the final years of St Thomas More. I still have the copy that I bought when I was in the UVIth at School. I guess that the reason that I like it so much is to do with the fact that I really enjoy the history of Tudor England, but also because it portrays a man of Faith and principle; it portrays a man of conscience who was faithful to his King but who would not compromise it over the Act Of Supremacy that led his King to send to the block.
Robert Whittington a contemporary of More, wrote of him in 1520 that he (More) “is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.”
St Thomas More is venerated both in the Church of England as a Reformation Martyr and was canonised in 1935 by the Roman Catholic Church. He was an able statesman whose book Utopia was politically hundreds of years ahead of its time and gained admirers within the Soviet Union.
But it is his stance on conscience and the place of conscience in the life of the Christian that makes St Thomas More a spiritual colossus. Just before his head was severed from his body he was reported to have said to the axe man, “I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.” There may well be occasions though when we as Christian people, will, for conscience sake find ourselves taking a stance on some issue that will not make us popular and invite all sorts of criticism. It may also be at times when we need to acknowledge our own need for correction and forgiveness; it will require us to exercise our own conscience in relation to our own lives – and this will require humility.
The Prayer for July is from the pen of St Thomas More whose remembrance falls on the 6th of July and whose life as a man of great Christian conscience has inspired Popes’ and Kings’ as well as ordinary people of the Faith the world over.