Saint Thomas More
Our parish patron, Saint Thomas More, entered the English parliament in 1504. His home was an intellectual center, filled with enthusiasm for medieval and renaissance thought. He had been a tutor to the young Henry VIII. When Henry became king, he pressed More into service, sending him on diplomatic missions to Flanders and France, appointing him to the Royal Council in 1517 and knighting him in 1521.
Thomas More served as high steward of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and was several times consulted about the king's proposed divorce. In 1529 he succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Chancellor. When the question of dismissing Catherine of Aragon arose in parliament, More refused to sign Henry's request to the Pope. He openly opposed a series of measures against the Catholic Church, and in 1532 tendered his resignation. He retired to his home in Chelsea, practically poverty-stricken by his loss of income. He then devoted himself to writing. In 1534 he was ordered to recognize the child of Henry and Anne Boleyn as the lawful successor to the throne. This required acknowledgment of Henry's supremacy as head of the church and repudiation of the Pope. More refused and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1535 he was tried for treason for opposing the Act of Supremacy and was beheaded. Before his execution, he uttered the memorable words: "I've been the King's good servant, but God's first."
The death of England's leading humanist shocked Europe. The Catholic Church declared Thomas More a saint in 1935.