DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     November 4, 1999     vol. 10, no. 209


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO

      Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat reminds us of two saints whose virtues are applicable for our times. Having just celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, we remember that addage "To live with the saints in Heaven, oh what glory; to live with the saints on earth, that's another story!" But we doubt one would have found it difficult to live with Saint Francis of Assisi or Saint Thomas More because of their sincere humility and obedience to all God commanded. Pat shows how one turned his back on material power, and the other turned his back on political power for there was a far greater prize awaiting them in the Heavenly kingdom. It is a reminder for all of us during these times when we are inundated by the lure of riches and status what is really important to us. That is the gist of Pat's column today, Two special saints for our times!

    If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at KnightsCross@aol.com

Two special saints for our times!

        Every saint in Heaven, and on earth, are worthy of remembrance. Not only as models of those who have gone before us as examples as to how to live our lives for the Lord, but also because of the various ways they did so. Many times we use the lives of the saints to see how they handled similar situations in our own lives. When I think of the times we live in, I feel drawn to the lives of two saints whose lives and times mirror our own. They are St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas More.

        St. Francis saw the rise of the middle class, the merchants. Where many of the noble families lived in poverty, the rising merchant class lived in relative luxury. As a young man dreaming of knighthood, St. Francis gave a noble knight his new, expensive armor for the knight's poor, rusted pieces. His times were rocked by those who felt that the Church and the world was too involved in riches. One heretical sect went so far as to kill religious who they felt didn't enforce others to 'share' the wealth. When St. Francis' conversion was complete, he and his companions went from town to town preaching how good repentance was.

        "When the people heard them, they said: "Who are these men, and why do they speak like this?" They made this comment because at that time the fear and love of God had died out in the country and no one spoke of penance which indeed was considered as folly. This attitude was caused by the temptations of the flesh, the cupidity of the world, and the pride of life; the whole of mankind seemed engulfed in these three evil forces." (Legend of the Three Companions; St. Francis of Assisi; Omnibus of Sources; pg 922)

        Today, we see much the same attitudes. To speak of sin, penance and conversion is deemed foolish. The notion that sin is only what one considers a sin, etc. This attitude, then as now, stems from a loss of the fear and love of God. After all, if, as they feel, God loves them regardless, then there is no need to follow His commands, whether out of love for Him, or out of fear of punishment. This attitude either comes from, or contributes to, sin. Pride of life, temptations of the flesh, cupidity, all lead to sin, and in some cases smother the love of God we are to have.

        As Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe noted, when sin becomes the center of one's life, they tend to keep away from the Church, who could give them comfort and relief. Some go so far as to even oppose and attack the Church. St. Francis' answer to the challenges was simple. Obedience. He wrote: "...what is more hopeless than a religious who spurns obedience?" (Celano's Second Life CXIII, Omnibus, pg. 485)

        "Take a lifeless body and place it were you will. You will see that it does not resist being moved, it does not murmur about its position, it does not cry out if it is allowed to lie there. ...'This' he said,' is a truly obedient man; he does not ask why he is moved, he cares not where he is placed, he does not insist on being changed elsewhere." (Ibid. chap CXII., pg. 484)

        "Holy Obedience puts to shame all natural and selfish desires," (The Praise of the Virtues.) "Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to his holiness Pope Honorius and his lawfully elected successors and to the Church of Rome." (The Rule of 1223; Omnibus of Sources, pg. 57)

        Through obedience to God and His Vicar on earth, St. Francis of Assisi lit a flame of faith that illumined the Church for centuries.

        St. Thomas More was opposed to the corruption and abuses found in the Church of his day. Many religious seemed more intent on gaining earthly honors and wealth than serving God. Though he admired Cardinal Wolsey as a statesman, no doubt, he wished he was a better servant of God. Politics and religion, who many see as unable to reconcile, were Thomas More's life. He was often found deep in prayer and fair and just in his duties as a judge. He would say that when a statesman forgoes his conscience for the sake of his public duties, he leads his nation, on a short route, to chaos. Today, we hear Catholics such as ex-Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Ted Kennedy (and many others) say that they personally are against abortion, but...

        Thomas More recognized that the King was appointed by God to care for the people of his realm, to see to their secular needs, whereas the Pope was responsible for their spiritual needs. When these two worked in concert with one another, their people flourished. More was appointed Henry VIII's Chancellor, the highest office in England beside the King, and was well received. "The King was known to put his arm around More. This growing favour, by which many men would have been carried away," writes the Encyclopedia Britannica, "did not impose upon More. He discouraged the king's advances, showed reluctance to go to the palace and seemed constrained when he was there. Then the King began to come to More's house and would dine with him without previous notice." (The Trial of Sir Thomas More)

        However, unlike Cardinal Wolsey before him, when King Henry opposed the Pope in trying to secure a divorce, More was not one to 'forgo his conscience for the sake of his public duty'. When, to secure their holdings, some of the English bishops renounced their obedience to the Pope, More resigned as Chancellor, claiming ill health.

        From then on, though he never made any comments against the King, he was hounded and persecuted. "He was summoned to the court to answer an obscure charge of accepting a bribe while Lord Chancellor. When his daughter brought him news that the charge was dismissed, he said 'quod differtur, non aufertur' or 'that which is postponed is not dropped.' Sir Thomas More was a marked man. In 1534, Henry enacted a law which declared him supreme ruler [in England], bar none, including the Pope. All citizens were to accept this by oath." (Ibid) With this in hand, Henry could grant himself a divorce. The refusal of such prominent men as Bishop John Fisher (now a saint) and Thomas More cast a shadow on this self proclaimed supremacy. Neither called for Henry to be overthrown, just that the King was not able to do what he did. "If the world were flat, would the king's command make it round? Or flatten it if it were round?"

        On May 17th, 1535, after 14 months of harsh imprisonment in the Tower of London, he was brought to trial. No sound evidence was found to convict him of treason until: "The King's solicitor general was sworn in as witness and testified that More has 'confessed' to him, in a private conversation in the Tower of London several months earlier. According to Richard Rich, More had linked the King's supposed 'supremacy' with the right of Parliament to depose of the sovereign. How, then, could Parliament depose of a King if he were supreme, More had allegedly asked? This was sensational testimony and would suffice to convict More." (Ibid)

        Richard Rich's perjury sealed More's fate. "The sentence for treason was then handed down: That he should be carried back to the Tower of London and from thence drawn on a hurdle through the City of London to Tyburn there to be hanged till he should be half dead; that then he should be cut down alive, his privy parts cut off, his belly ripped, his bowels burnt, his four quarters set up over four gates of the City, and his head upon London Bridge...Henry the 8th later commuted the sentence to a quick beheading." (Ibid)

        Thomas More never set out to be a martyr. But his faith in God wouldn't allow him to compromise the truth for political expediency. Of his accusers he said, "albeit your lordships have been my judges to condemnation, yet we may hereafter meet joyfully together in Heaven to our everlasting salvation." (Ibid)

        Again, faith and obedience were the keys. After his sentence was read St. Thomas More spoke: "I will now in discharge of my conscience speak my mind plainly and freely touching my indictment and your Statute withal. And forasmuch as this indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament directly repugnant to the laws of God and His holy Church, the supreme government of which . . . may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual preeminence by the mouth of Our Saviour Himself . . . only to St. Peter and his successors bishops of the same See... Very and pure necessity . . . enforces me to speak so much. Wherein I call and appeal to God, whose only sight pierces into the very depth of man's heart, to be my witness . . . the Church is one and indivisible, and you have no authority to make a law which infringes Christian unity." (St. Thomas More, Catholic Encyclopedia)

        As he stood on the executioners scaffold, on July 6th, he forgave his executioner and asked him to "bear witness that he . . . suffered death in and for the faith of the Holy Catholic Church." His last words were reportedly, "I die the King's good servant...but God's first."

        One year to the day, Anne Boleyn climbed the same scaffold, and shared his fate to further satisfy the appetite and desires of Henry VIII.

        The Communion of Saints are with all of us all the time. They join with us to give glory and praise to God, and join their prayers to ours for our needs and supplications. But I can think of no better saints when faced with a world where truth is distorted for expediency, worldly gain, and/or selfish desire.

        Both Francis and Thomas More gave up lives of affluence, comfort and power, to follow the real power. One gave up material comfort, the other political. Both gave up their lives for God. One symbolically by donning the garments of a beggar, the other, literally.

        "Then Jesus told His disciples, 'If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?'" (Matthew 16:24-26).

        To the world, both men were fools who gave up wealth, power, and fame for a foolish notion. But to God, no doubt as Jesus said, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master...Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:21;34).

        For both, obedience to God was first.

    Pax Christi, Pat

November 4, 1999       volume 10, no. 209


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