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Thomas More's Legacy

Cardinal Raymond Burke recalls Christian witness of June 22's saint.


| Posted 6/22/11 at 6:16 PM


ROME (CNA/EWTN News) — Cardinal Raymond Burke spoke with CNA about the inspiration he draws from the life and work of St. Thomas More, the patron of lawyers, whose feast day is June 22.

“I’ve always found him a font of courage,” said Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, the Vatican’s highest court.

“Oftentimes as a Christian — and especially as a priest or bishop — one is tempted by pressures to conform to society’s expectations instead of modeling oneself on the expectations of Our Lord.

“So St. Thomas More is really the example of how we need to — if we really want to do what is good and right — act according to Our Lord’s way and not simply in a way that’s pleasing to others.”

Sir Thomas More was a distinguished lawyer, philosopher and statesmen who served King Henry VIII of England as Lord Chancellor in the early 16th century. It was his opposition to the king’s attempt to sever England from the Catholic Church, however, that cost Sir Thomas his life. He was found guilty of treason and executed at London’s Tower Hill in 1532. In his final words he explained to those assembled how he died “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

“To me, this feast day is an occasion to return to the font of the law, which, in the divine law, and to the example of St. Thomas More — to the integrity with which he served the administration of justice,” said Cardinal Burke whose job involves the administration of the Church’s internal system of justice. 

“In those final words of his, he so clearly explains how he serves his king best and serves the law best by serving God.”

“So, that’s the mediation for me today: I pray for all those who have responsibility for the administration of justice, whether in the Church or in the state — that they will find in St. Thomas More an inspiration and an example for them.”

St. Thomas More was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 along with his fellow English Reformation martyr, Cardinal John Fisher. St. Thomas’ life was famously re-enacted in the 1966 Oscar-winning film A Man for All Seasons

Cardinal Burke noted that the “primary lesson” for lawyers today is “to see the need for an absolute coherence between one’s own personal faith and life and one’s service of society as a minister of justice — so that the law then shines forth in its fundamental importance for life in society by the way in which lawyers and judges serve the law.”