The Sublime Words of St. Thomas More Before His Execution
Goodness: The courage of a saint.
Thomas More was the Chancellor of England (essentially Prime Minister) when King Henry VIII declared himself Head of the Church and entered into an illegitimate marriage. More resigned his office rather than condone these offenses against Christ’s law and his beloved Catholic Church.
Nonetheless, Henry forced all bishops and public officials to assent to the Act of Supremacy (1534) which declared Henry Head of the Church. But when Thomas More refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy, the king had him imprisoned and ultimately beheaded for his refusal.
More’s co-martyr, Bishop John Fisher, was the only one of about 30 bishops in England who refused to sign the Oath. He also lost his head.
This grace-filled passage is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to the condemned prisoner. It is part of the History of the Passion that More wrote in prison and that was interrupted by his execution on July 6, 1535.
Here is Thomas More’s truly inspired discourse:
Pluck up thy courage faint heart and despair never a deal. What though thou be fearful, sorry, and weary and standest in great dread of most painful tormentry that is like to fall upon thee; be of good comfort for all that for I myself have vanquished the whole world, and yet felt I far more fear, sorrow, weariness and much more inward anguish too, when I considered my most bitter, painful passion to press so far upon me. He that is strong-hearted may find a thousand glorious valiant martyrs, whose example he may right joyfully follow. But now timorous and weak, silly sheep, think it sufficient for thee to walk after me which am thy Shepherd and governor, and so mistrust thyself and put thy trust in me. For this self-same dreadful passage lo! have I myself passed before thee.