Prayer to St. Thomas More

Many dioceses around the United States are celebrating the annual Red Mass during this time of year.

The Red mass is an historical tradition within the Catholic Church that dates back to the thirteenth century when the Mass officially opened the term of the court for most European countries. It is currently celebrated in dioceses throughout the United States to invoke God’s blessing upon all those involved in the passage and administration of laws, including members of the judiciary, lawyers, legislators, and law enforcement and governmental personnel.

We celebrated the Red Mass earlier this week at the Law School. After communion, the law school dean, Rob Vischer, led us in the Prayer to St. Thomas More, patron saint of the lawyers. Here is the prayer:

I pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, that I, with you, St. Thomas More, may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients’ tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.

Pray for me, and with me, that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain – their good servant, but God’s first. Amen.

Thomas More

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers and politicians, among others. More, referred to as “a man for all seasons” because of his wide scholarship and knowledge, is known by many through the play of the same name.

More, as most people know, was killed because he refused to support King Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn and because he would not acknowledge Henry as the supreme head of the Church in England. For More, this was a decision of conscience on which he could not compromise.

More reminds us that there can be a high cost to discipleship and that following the demand of conscience is not always easy.

As I was thinking about More, I came across a passage from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy that could have been written with More as the model for one who follows Paul’s instruction. Paul wrote:

Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.

A good description of Thomas More, who we celebrate today.

St. Thomas More

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Thomas More, who, among other patronages, is the patron saint of lawyers. More was beheaded in 1535 for refusing to sign an oath declaring the king to be the head of the Church in England.

More was a deeply prayerful person and in his writings he encourages others to take time in quiet prayer and meditation. Here is a prayer he wrote while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. It contains some petitions we might all ask our God to grant to us:

Give me the grace, Good Lord
To set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men’s mouths.
To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.
Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.
Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.
To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.
Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.
To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.
To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.
To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.
Amen