Sunday, January 04, 2015

Book Review: How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods Jr., PhD

Woods, Thomas E. Jr. PhD. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2005. 280 pp

“Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, has called anti-Catholicism the one remaining acceptable prejudice in America. His assessment is difficult to dispute. ... My own students, to the extent that they know anything at all about the Church, are typically familiar only with alleged Church “corruption,” of which they heard ceaseless tales of varying credibility from their high school teachers. The story of Catholicism, as far as they know, is one of ignorance, repression, and stagnation.” So Thomas E. Woods, himself an historian, economist, professor and noted author, begins his book on ‘How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization’. (page 1)
In contrast to these biases, Woods proceeds to demonstrate that in the areas of science, economics, education, art, philosophy, law and charity it is the Catholic Church that has been their most important source in the Western world.
Scientific Achievements
In the area of Science, Woods makes the claim that those who worship creation itself cannot investigate it in a scientific way. This idea was put forth by Stanley Jaki, a Catholic priest who has doctorates in physics and theology, in his book, The Saviour of Science (2000). For example, someone who worships a tree cannot look into what elements make up the tree or what causes it to grow. The Jewish Scriptures, on the other hand, show creation to be rational and orderly and a reflection of God’s wisdom, goodness and beauty. God has ordered all things by measure, number and weight (Wisdom 11:21). Creation, not treated as something ‘divine’ itself, can then be investigated. Jaki does not deny that other cultures made contributions to science but says that “sustained scientific inquiry” (Woods, p. 77) and the scientific method emerged from Catholic thought.
Woods dismantles the ‘Galileo case’ as it has been misrepresented to the public demonstrating that science, itself, was not what the Church found problematic. In fact, Jesuits were involved in the study of astronomy at that time and still are. The misrepresentations are widespread: one of my former students in Grade 5 had learned somewhere that Galileo was tortured to death by the Catholic Church. He was surprised to hear from me that Galileo had only been put under house arrest, had all his needs cared for and died a natural death at the age of 77.
Triumphs in Education
Education is another area in which the Catholic Church has made a significant contribution, Woods claims. The great universities of Europe began as Cathedral schools or gatherings of Masters and students under the patrimony of the Church. It was during the Middle Ages that the universities of Bologna, Paris and Oxford were instituted and the papacy played an important role in their establishment. For example, Pope Innocent IV granted the privilege of awarding degrees to Oxford in 1254.
Charity and Hospitals
Woods also shows how charitable acts, although not unknown in early Greek and Roman cultures, were unique in Christianity. He shows this by quotations from writers such as the Stoic, Seneca and others. Even though the Stoics taught that man should do good to his fellow-man without expecting anything in return, they also taught that they were to remain indifferent to everything and everyone. A problem in some the teaching of some world religions is that illness and other misfortunes are the results of the individual’s sin (in this life or in a previous one) and any help given to the individual interferes with his future re-incarnations. If this is true, people reasoned, it is better not to give charity.
Others religions believe that individuals have no free-will and God is the only cause of everything. This God does not act with ‘reason’ and no matter what happens, it is ‘God’s will’. Even that which we would ordinarily call ‘evil’ is caused by God. With this kind of ‘unreasonable’ God, science and education do not advance but stagnate.
In Alexandria, in the third century, pagans were said to ‘thrust aside anyone who began to be sick, and kept aloof even from dearest friends’, whereas Christians ‘visited the sick without thought of their own peril ... drawing upon themselves their neighbours’ diseases’ (page 175). He demonstrates how hospitals were established in the major cities by the fourth century. Fabiola, a Christian matron, established the first large, public hospital in Rome and St. Basil the Great established a hospital in Caeserea. Also mentioned are the military Orders, established during the Crusades, such as the Knights of St. John.
International Law
It has become popular in recent years to show Christopher Columbus, and the Spanish who came with him, as those who invaded peaceful places and forced the native people to accept Christianity all the while mistreating them. Although these stories are often exaggerated, Woods points out that reports of the mistreatment of peoples in the New World caused a ‘crisis of conscience’ amongst Spanish theologians and philosophers at that time as well. This, he says, is unusual in history and wonders if Attila the Hun had any moral qualms about his conquests. Or did the human sacrifices of the Aztecs themselves cause any ‘philosophical reflection’ on their part? Woods says that the outcries of such Spaniards as Dominican friar, Antonio de Montesinos, and Father Francisco de Vitoria were the beginnings of international law. In fact, Father de Vitoria is called the ‘father of international law’ but how many of us have ever heard of him? Another Spaniard, a bishop, Bartolome de Las Casas, suggested that the natives “... be attracted gently, in accordance with Christ’s doctrine” and said that Aristotle’s views on slavery as being natural to some should be rejected because “... we have in our favour Christ’s mandate: love your neighbour as yourself.” (quoted on page 143).
Legal Tradition of the Western World
Regarding law, Woods shows that Rome introduced systemized law in their Empire and the so-called ‘barbarians’ had laws of their own that dealt with ownership, dowries, rights and crime. The laws of these ‘barbarians’ sometimes based guilt and innocence on superstition, such as the ‘floating or sinking test’ to prove guilt of a crime. It was Canon or Church Law that many of our best and fairest laws today have as their basis. For example, the Church stated that marriage could take place only with the consent of both parties. This is significant since people in earlier centuries did not consider that women should have a voice in important matters, even those that affected them greatly. Some pre-Christian cultures approved of arranged marriages between infants and the will of the individuals was not considered, only that of their parents. Many cultures today do not take into consideration the consent of women. In contrast the Church will still annul a marriage if one or both parties of the couple did not give their free consent to the marriage.
These are just a few examples of how Woods defends his thesis that the Catholic Church built Western civilization. He cites numerous examples in economy, law, agriculture and in science (which is often the thought to be at odds with the Church) where Catholic philosophers, monks, priests and Bishops have made important contributions to modern Western society. For those who think that he has not given enough credibility to other cultures (for example, the inventions of the Chinese and the mathematics of the Arabs), remember, that Woods has used ‘Western Civilization’ in the title.
The book is easy and interesting to read and is not just a gathering of facts. Woods tell the stories of the people who shaped our modern society, many of whom most of us have never heard. He manages to do this with honesty, truth and good writing style. I have to admit it is my favourite non-fiction book and I recommend it as a book for your `must read`list.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity

The history of Bethlehem goes back to the time of Jacob and Rachel. The town is important to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Bethlehem is situated eight kilometers (five miles) south of Jerusalem in the Judean hills and is 2361 feet above sea level. Today it is a Palestinian territory with both Muslims and Christians seeing themselves as Palestinians.
Bethlehem means ‘house of bread,’ in Hebrew and ‘house of meat,’ in Arabic. ‘House of Bread’ is meaningful to Christians who believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life. For Catholics and Orthodox Christians, the Eucharist (the bread shared in Communion) after consecration is the real body of Jesus.
'I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh' John 6:51

Not far away is Rachel’s Tomb, revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians. Rachel was Jacob’s most beloved wife and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin.
“So Rachel died and was buried on the road to Ephrath, at Bethlehem.” Gen 35:19

Ruth, the Moabite Woman
We also read of Bethlehem in Scripture in the Book of Ruth, a story that takes place during the time of the Judges. Ruth, a Moabite woman, was the daughter-in-law of Naomi. Naomi and her husband had fled Bethlehem in the land of Judah during a famine. After her husband and sons died, Naomi returned to Bethlehem and Ruth went with her, accepting her mother-in-law’s country and God as her own. Ruth married again, this time to an important landowner of Bethlehem, Boaz, and they became the ancestors of King David and eventually, Jesus.
“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife ... and she bore a son ... and they named him Obed. This was the father of David’s father, Jesse.” Ruth 4:13 ff
The City of David
Bethlehem was King David’s birthplace and is called ‘The city of David’. David was the second King of Israel in c.1000 BC.
“David was the son of an Ephrathite from Bethlehem of Judah whose name was Jesse.” I Sam 17:12

Years later, the prophet Micah, who lived in the 8th century BC, prophesied that a ruler would be born in the small, and by then, unimportant town of Bethlehem.
“But you Bethlehem, Ephrath, the least of all the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel.” Micah 5:2

Birthplace of Jesus
The Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, report that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, even though Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth in Galilee, in the north. The Romans had called for a census and everyone was to travel to his ancestral city to be registered.
“So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and traveled up to Judea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” Luke 2:3
Two Church Fathers attest to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Justin Martyr (c. 100- 165 AD) and Origen (185-c.254).
“Joseph took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth Christ and placed Him in a manger and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him.” Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho. chapter LXXVIII)
“In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshipped and reverenced by the Christians.” (Origen Contra Celsum. book I, chapter LI)

The Church of the Holy Nativity
St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, travelled to the Holy Land to find places which had been significant in the life of Jesus. She had the grotto, where people said Jesus had been born, made into a chapel and in AD 333 construction was completed on the basilica. This structure was destroyed by fire in AD529 during the Samaritan Revolt and the present Basilica was built in AD565. The entrance to the Basilica is a very low doorway known as the Door of Humility. Some say that the real purpose of the low door was to prevent enemies riding their horses into the sacred place,
The actual place that is believed to be the site of Jesus' birth is marked by a 14-point silver star set in marble on which are written the words Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus est (Here the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ). The Church is now administered by Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic (Franciscans) and Armenian Apostolic authorities and is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year from all over the world.
Bethlehem Today
Today the town of Bethlehem is under the control of The Palestinian Authority and has been since 1995. The present mayor is a Christian woman, Vera Baboun. Both Christians and Muslims count themselves as Palestinian but the majority are Arab Muslims. Many of the Christian Arabs have left in the past few years depleting the population of Christians. The total population of Bethlehem is 27,000.
Citizens of Bethlehem, including Muslims, depend on tourism and Christian pilgrimages for their livelihood.

The New Jerusalem Bible New York: Doubleday & company, Inc. 1970.
The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version.
Website of BBC News Church with a Turbulent History. 4 April 2002. Accessed December 14, 2010.
Website of New Advent – Catholic Encyclopedia. article on Bethlehem accessed December 15, 2010.
Website of Wikipedia – article on Bethlehem. accessed December 15, 2010.
Terra Sancta, Documentary (2009) by the Franciscan Media Centre aired on Salt and Light Television, December 17, 2013.
Photos by L. Shelstad

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Immaculate Conception: what does it mean?

Meeting at the Golden Gate, Giotto.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8, is often confused with the Virgin Birth. What does it mean?
Some think that the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit. Jesus being conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary without a human father is known as the Virgin Birth, not the Immaculate Conception.
Neither does the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception mean that Mary was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit or that her own birth was a ‘virgin birth’. In the 4th century there was a popular belief that Mary’s birth was a virgin birth and in the 16th century the belief that she was born of the Holy Spirit circulated. The Church condemned both of these beliefs as error in 1677.
The famous painting, “The Meeting at the Golden Gate”, by Giotto, depicts Joachim kissing his wife, Anna as they celebrate the knowledge that they will be parents. Some interpreted the kiss as the moment of conception. The actual Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception does not say anything about the generative act of Mary’s mother and father. Most theologians, today, believe that Mary was conceived in the usual manner.

In the proclamation, Ineffabilis Deus of December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX defined the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as follows: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was from the first moment of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted of almighty God, and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

Some object to the doctrine because it seems to contradict St. Paul who says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Did Paul mean that everyone actually commits sins - even infants? Or could he have meant that everyone is subject to original sin, which then does not contradict the fact of Mary’s being preserved from original sin.
Examining the doctrine of the Catholic Church more closely, we see that like all descendants of Adam, Mary by her humanity, was subject to original sin. Because she was to be the mother of the Christ, God intervened in a special way and preserved her soul from the stain of that sin and its consequences. This intervention was ‘in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race”. Mary was then, saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus, as are all believers, but in ‘anticipation’ of those events. She said, ‘yes’ to God and accepted His will for her life. Because she was redeemed by Christ, she could declare in her Magnificat, “My spirit rejoices in Christ, my Saviour” (Luke 1:47).

The angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary, "Hail, Mary, full of grace", (Luke 1:26) is said to point to her sinlessness ie fullness of grace.

Others point out that this is a doctrine that sprang up out of nowhere when it was declared in 1854 and was not believed by the early church. An examination of the writings of the Church Fathers in the very early years of the Church will show:
- that the Church Fathers spoke of the Virgin Mary’s “exemption from defilement” (Hippolytus, “Ontt. in illud, Dominus pascit me”) Hippolytus ?-AD236
-that she was “worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate” (Origen, “Homily i, in diversa”) Origen AD185-254
-that she was “immune through grace from every stain of sin (Ambrose, “Sermon xxii in Psalm cxviii). Ambrose c. AD337-397.
The theologian, Duns Scotus, developed the idea: "Decuit, potuit, ergo fecit, it was becoming that the Mother of the Redeemer should have been free from the power of sin and from the first moment of her existence; God could give her this privilege, therefore He gave it to her".
We see from this small sample of early theologians, that the doctrine of Mary’s preservation from sin was believed very early in the Church.
Early writers also referred to Mary as the ‘Second Eve’. Eve was created without original sin but sinned when she disobeyed God. Like Eve, Mary was without original sin, but unlike Eve, Mary agreed to do God’s will. She is the fulfillment of the proto-evangelium in Genesis 3:15 -16 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.”

In the Catholic Church, Dogmas are defined when there is a controversy over them or when emphasis of a belief already in existence will help the faithful. In other words the belief is not new but is ‘defined’. In the case of the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, there was no controversy at the time it was defined, but Pius IX felt it would help the faithful by inspiring devotion to the Virgin.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Brother Andre: The Humble Doorman

St. Joseph's Oratory Montreal, Quebec.

In Montreal's district of Côte-des-Neiges, The Oratory of St. Joseph rises on the north slope of Mount Royal. Its construction began in 1924, but it was not inaugurated until March 19, 1955.
At 124 m., it is higher than both St. Paul's in London (111 m) and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (90 m). In 2005 the Oratory was added to the List of National Historic Sites of Canada on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. But the story of the man behind the Oratory is even more amazing.
Alfred Bessette's Early Life
Alfred Bessette was born August 9, 1845 in Saint-Grégoire d'Iberville, a small town southeast of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He was the eighth child in a family of twelve and both his parents died when he was still a child. Little Alfred, now an orphan, found work in villages nearby and later went to work in the mills of New England.
After returning to Canada in 1867 (the year of Canada's Confederation) he joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross. At first, the Congregation, a teaching order, was somewhat reluctant to accept the frail and uneducated Alfred but in the end they did. He took the name of Brother André and was given the job of doorman (or porter) at Notre Dame College. He also rang the school bells and helped in the laundry and the infirmary. Throughout his life he suffered from stomach pains and was unable to eat much of the food served at the school but he never complained.
A Doorman at Notre Dame College
As a doorman he had the opportunity to meet many people and when talking to them they often gave him prayer requests. He would lay these prayers before St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary's husband, and many were cured of their illnesses. Brother André became well-known because of these cures even though he insisted, "It is not me, God is responsible, Saint Joseph is responsible."
The Chapel is Built
In 1904 Brother André and his friends built a small chapel across the street from the College in honour of St. Joseph. For twenty-five years Brother André received visitors in his tiny office connected to the chapel. The chapel and Brother André's room nearby are still there and are visited by over two million people each year.
Construction of the Basilica
Eventually the chapel was too small for the daily stream of sick and needy people coming to see the doorman for prayer. After several expansions of the chapel, work on a crypt was begun and in 1924 workers began to construct the basilica.
When the Depression hit in 1936, many felt the work should be stopped. Brother André, however, declared that, since it was not his work but that of St. Joseph, they should place the statue of St. Joseph in the unfinished shrine. "If he wishes to be covered, he'll take care of it." In two months people had given enough money to continue construction.
Brother Andre's Death
Brother André died two months later on January 6, 1937 and nearly a million people lined up to pay respects to the little doorman of Notre Dame College.
In 1978, Brother André was declared venerable and in 1982, Pope John Paul II declared him blessed. On October 17, 2010 the 'humble doorman' was canonized (the final step of sainthood) by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
Dubuc, Jean-Guy Brother André and Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal. Strasboug, France: Editions du Signe. 1995.
Turcotte, Jean-Claude Cardinal. Montreal's Porter and Heaven's Gatekeeper. in Lampstand. Toronto: Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. Fall, 2010.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Woman's Right to Her Own Body

If a woman has a right to her own body, which of the actions below does a woman have a right to do? Is it legal (in your country)? Does it only affect the woman herself or does it harm others?

- use heroin?

- not use a seatbelt when driving?

- wear a hijab?

- abort her baby?

Using heroin is destructive to your body but does it hurt anyone else? It can be harmful to others if you encourage others to use heroin or sell it to others, you steal to support the habit or you drive when you are high and kill someone. But most of all you hurt yourself. However, in most countries, using heroin is illegal and rightly so.

Not wearing a seatbelt when you are driving is also illegal in many countries. It is illegal in Canada to drive a car and not have your seatbelt on. But if you are in an accident and you aren't wearing a seatbelt and you get hurt or are killed - you only did damage to yourself. No one else (except those who love you) was hurt by you not wearing a seatbelt. And yet it is illegal to do so and rightly so.

What about wearing a hijab or scarf? It seems many people get very upset about women wearing a hijab even though it harms no one. If a woman covers her face and cannot be seen it could be argued that this is a security risk - she could not be identified after a crime, for example. The argument that a weapon could be hidden while wearing a hijab does not hold water because you could hide a weapon under a cap or hat more easily than a light scarf. And non-Muslim women wear scarves that are not the hjiab. Covering one's head is something that both women and men do in cold weather and there is no uproar about it. Some argue that women may not want to wear a hijab and are forced to do so by their father or husband. They should be free not to wear a hijab but we would have to admit that there are women who do want to wear it. There are also women who are forced to do other culturally based actions by other people that they may not choose to do on their own. If women can wear a hijab it should follow that women for whom this is not part of their faith should be free of not having to cover their heads - even in countries where they are a minority.
What about having an abortion? It is true that women should be free to do what they want with their own bodies. However a baby in utero is not part of a woman's body. The baby is dependent on the mother's body but it is not part of the mother's body. The baby may have a different blood type than the mother and the baby has a unique DNA. Having an abortion is, in many countries, legal. Of all these examples it is the only one that does harm to another. And yet it is legal.

Strange, isn't it?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan Martyrs

The White Fathers, a congregation of priests from Europe, began to preach the Christian faith in Uganda in 1879. They were received peacefully by King Mutesa, the ruler of Uganda. A number of young men who were pages in the King’s court believed in Jesus and the priests began preparing them for baptism by teaching them the Christian faith.

It was during this time that King Mutesa died and his son, Mwanga, became king. Mwanga was a man of corrupt morals who used the young pages for his sexual pleasure. Joseph Mukasa, the chief page who was a Catholic, tried desperately to protect the young pages in his care from the king. At this time King Mwanga had a visiting Anglican Bishop murdered and Joseph Mukasa denounced the King’s action and was beheaded for his bravery on November 15, 1885.

Charles Lwanga, who was 25 years old, was appointed Chief Page in Mukasa’s place. Lwanga was a dedicated Christian and protected the boys from the King just as Mukasa had done. On the night that Mukasa was killed Lwanga and others went to the White Fathers to ask for baptism as they knew their lives would be in danger. In the following week another 100 boys were baptized.

When King Mwanga learned that fifteen of the pages were studying the Catholic catechism he was furious. He lined them up and asked those who were Christians to step forward and fifteen boys, ages 13 to 25 came forward. When the King asked if they would recant or keep their faith they answered, “Until death.” Their hands were bound and they were taken to Namugongo a two day walk away. One of the boys cried out, “God will rescue me. But you will not see how because he will take my soul and leave only my body.” The men cut him to pieces and left his body on the road.
On the Feast of the Ascension, June 3, 1886 Charles Lwanga was taken and burned at the stake. Just before he died he cried out, “My God!”
King Mwanga continued to persecute Christians and 100 more people, Catholics and Protestants, were tortured and killed.

Charles Lwanga and his companions were beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. Charles Lwanga is the patron saint of African Catholic Youth Action.

Today 41.9% of Ugandans are Roman Catholic, 35.9% are Anglican, 4.6% are Pentecostals and 12.1% are Muslim. The remaining belong to other Protestant denominations or tribal religions. (

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

St. Thomas More: A Man For All Seasons

Thomas More was born in London, England on February 7, 1477, the only son of Sir John More, barrister and judge and his wife, Agnes. When he was thirteen years old, More went to live in the household of Cardinal Morton, who was then the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop noticed his young protégée's superior intellect and sent him to study at Oxford. In 1494 he began to study law.
More considered entering the priesthood but discerned he was not called to the priesthood when he realized that he desired married life. At the age of 28 he married Jane Colte with whom he had three daughters and one son. In 1511, when the children were still very young, Jane died. Soon after More married a widow, Alice Middleton, who was seven years older than him. It was said that she was 'without beauty or education' but she was devoted to the children and More and the marriage seemed to have been a happy one.
More's fame as a lawyer grew and he was chosen by Cardinal Wolsey to go to Flanders to protect the interests of the English merchants there. It was during this time that he began to write his most famous book, Utopia, which was published in 1516.
In October, 1529, More succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Chancellor of England, a post never before held by a layman. King Henry VIII considered More his friend and would often visit him at his home in Chelsea. He enjoyed More's conversation and admired his character.
Shortly after his first speech as chancellor in 1529, a royal proclamation ordered the clergy to acknowledge Henry as 'Supreme Head of the Church' in England. More resigned his post and firmly opposed Henry's divorce (which had been prohibited by the Pope) and as well as his usurping the role of the Pope as Head of the Church.
Shortly after Henry's marriage to Ann Boleyn in 1533, the Act of Succession was passed and persons of the court and parliament were required to take an oath that the children of Henry and Anne would be the legitimate heirs to the throne. This ignored Mary, the daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, who had remained a faithful Catholic, as a legitimate heir to the English throne. More refused to take the oath and to acknowledge the King as the head of the Church and was consequently sent to the Tower of London. While there he continued to joke with his family and friends when they were allowed to visit but when he was alone he spent his time in prayer.
On July 1, 1535, More was indicted for high treason and perjury at Westminster Hall. Although he denied the charges, he was found guilty and was beheaded on Tower Hill July 6, 1535.
His last words were, "I die the King's servant, but God's first." He is one of several Patron Saints of lawyers and politicians.
Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, was raised a Protestant and eventually became Queen Elizabeth and head of the Church of England. Although she is remembered as ‘Good Queen Bess’ she had many Catholic priests hunted down and killed for celebrating the forbidden Catholic Mass. Mary for a short time was also Queen and because she had Protestant noblemen killed is known as ‘Bloody Mary’.
The story of Thomas More's life has been excellently told in the movie, A Man for all Seasons (1966), starring Paul Scofield as More. It was directed by Fred Zinnemann. The film won six Academy Awards.