Program #0075 for Wednesday, June 22, 2011: St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher

June 22, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Chip Hines, Pastor of St. Mary Parish, Wrentham, and co-host of CatholicTV’s “Spotlight”

Today’s topics: St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher

Summary of today’s show: Scot, Fr. Matt, and Fr. Chip Hines commemorate the feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher by discussing their martyrdom, especially in light of the movie of More’s life, “A Man for All Seasons.” They also discuss how More shows Catholics today how to be authentic witness with regard to politics and public life.

1st segment: Scot welcomes Fr. Matt back to the show. Fr. Matt is preparing a young adult retreat this weekend at St. Thecla’s in Billerica called “Life is Good in the Holy Spirit.” The young adults always come back strengthened in their faith. There are specific talks that build up to praying for the release of the Holy Spirit in a new way in their life. They also have Adoration, Mass, Confession, small group discussion, and plenty of fellowship. There are about 12 different team members running the weekend.

On today’s show, this is the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, Catholics who were beheaded for standing up for the Catholic faith against King Henry VIII, who was leading the Church of England away from the Church. Thomas More is one of Scot’s favorite saints. Fr. Matt said they help us to understand what it’s like to live as a Catholic in this world. Scot said the 1966 movie “A Man for All Seasons” is a good way to enter into the life of St. Thomas More.

2nd segment: Scot welcomes Fr. Chip back to the show. He’s been very busy at St. Mary in Wrentham with preparations for parish activities throughout the summer. With regard to the movie “A Man for All Seasons”, Fr. Chip said that it’s in his top-five movies of all time. It’s a classic and there’s nothing bad you can say about this movie. It’s engaging with great performances.

Scot said St. Thomas More was being pressured by King Henry VIII to accede to his wishes, to say that he was the supreme head of the church in England, and not the Pope. Many other leaders in England knuckled under to the pressure, but St. Thomas More resisted because of his faith. He is a model of courage under adversity. Fr. Chip said if you want to show this value to somebody, this movie is a perfect example. Thomas More did not waver in the end.

Fr. Chip said he did not become heroic overnight, but throughout his whole life, while this movie gives a snippet of that. It’s a great image of what it means to be a Catholic in public life..

The movie starts a few years before he became chancellor of England. He was a tremendous intellect and a lawyer. Fr. Matt said he loved his family and was a devoted father. He was deeply faith-filled and wasn’t afraid to let that affect his professional life. He was a judge who had a reputation for efficiency in adjudicating cases. Fr. Chip said he was known for his honesty as well. He couldn’t be bribed. Leading a heroic Catholic life, you need to be true to yourself and your faith and to God. He was a prolific writer as well.

Fr. Chip said being a good father figure was important to him. He even insisted that his daughters receive a good classical education.

He was born in 1477 and died on July 6, 1535, beheaded at the order of King Henry VIII. St. John Fisher was martyred on June 22, 1535. He was a bishop, the only one who did not sign the oath that King Henry VIII was demanding. They were beatified on the same day and canonized on the same day. They are heroes for standing up for their faith in the face of intense pressure.

3rd segment: Scot said “A Man for All Seasons” was one of the first movies on virtue and courage he’d seen.

Fr. Chip said the movie opens with a scene of a message being brought to St. Thomas More. It’s beautifully filmed so the viewer feels like they’re on the river. It sets the scene for what’s coming up. When you think about our lives today with instant communication, this was like the instant message of the 14th century. Fr. Chip said it’s a fun movie as well as having a great message. It won Best Movie and Best Actor at the Oscars in 1966.

In this first scene, Thomas More is asked to visit with Cardinal Wolsey, the chancellor of England at the time. Wolsey wanted to ask More how he can help the king have an heir. The king had already had a dispensation from the Pope to marry his cousin, but she did not produce a son so he wanted to divorce her to marry another woman. The cardinal was presented with the problem of trying to satisfy the king’s demand which was in conflict with Church teaching. Thomas More was clear that this wasn’t their business, but was up to the Holy Father.

There is a character called Richard Rich, a young man who wanted desperately to receive a position in the law with Thomas More. He eventually succeeded Thomas More as chancellor. Fr. Matt said the character is fascinating. More can see his strengths and weaknesses, how he could be tempted in greed or lust for power and seduced by his own intellect. More tried to encourage him into a field where he could be safe from such temptations and where he could live virtuously. Ultimately, Rich ends up joining More’s nemesis, Cromwell, and tells the lie that becomes the false evidence that convicts More of being disloyal to the throne. Scot said More sensed Rich’s potential as well as the danger of keeping him around, yet he still tried to mentor him and help him find his true vocation. Scot compared it to how Jesus knew Judas would betray him, yet kept him close and tried to form him so He could forgive him. More loved Rich loved him like a second father to the young man.

Fr. Chip said in the actor’s performance you can see More’s love and respect for Rich and how he saw the danger in his path. You see people like this in your own life, people who are traveling on a bad path and won’t respond to your prompting to go another direction. Fr. Matt said More was really being a friend to him. So often we hear that people will go along with what someone wants to do because that’s being their friend, when friendship considers what’s really good for him. It invites us to consider how important it is to be a good friend and to mentor, especially young people, in the faith, to help them discover the gifts that they have and encourage them in that direction. And not to be afraid to say that we don’t think this is not a good direction, speaking in love.

Fast-forwarding in the movie, upon Wolsey’s death, the king appoints Thomas More as his new chancellor. The heat on the chancellor to find a way for the king to divorce his wife and re-marry is turned up on Thomas. He tries to stay as distant from it as possible, until Henry comes to visit him. Fr. Chip said Henry is trying to use his friendship with More to convince him of the need to accede to the king’s desire. That unwavering faith in what the Church says is pretty adamant and strong in his personality and shown well through the actor’s performance. It becomes a battle of the wills and More isn’t the one to blink. He’s very careful not to say something that will result him in being beheaded.

King Henry knows that in all of England, Thomas More is respected for his integrity and honesty. And it’s because of that reputation that the king wants More’s support so that the people will be have confidence that the king is doing the right thing. The queen, Catherine, is not unpopular so the king wanted to win their support first.

More was between an all-powerful king as well as his well-meaning family who did not understand his strong stance, on the one hand, and his unwavering commitment to truth, integrity, and his faith on the other. All these years later, More retains the respect of people and is known for his honesty. Fr. Matt said he is authentic which happens when the outward appearance matches up with the who I am in the interior life.

Catholics are called to be witnesses by the way we live our lives with authenticity and integrity. You can take away many things from a man, but you can’t take away his witness. He can give it away, however. It takes great courage to live that witness.

4th segment: It’s time to announce the winner of the weekly WQOM Benefactor Raffle.

Our prize this week is a copy of the 2 audio CD set How Mary & the Rosary Can Change Your Life, by Marcellino D’Ambrosio.

This week’s winner is Brian & Marcia Kean from West Roxbury, Mass. Congratulations Brian and Marcia!

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

5th segment: Scot said More talks in the movie about the important role of conscience: When leaders forsake their private conscience in their public duties, they lead their countries on a short route to chaos. Fr. Matt said the conscience is the place where the Lord speaks to the soul and the Lord informs the conscience to make decisions in light of God’s plan for how He made the world to be. We need to have informed consciences when it comes to moral issues. It’s not just our conscience, but an informed conscience. The Church’s teachings are formed in rationality.

Fr. Chip said people in public life today will say, I’m personally opposed, but I can’t impose my conscience on someone else. But they’re not imposing. The conscience is informed by the truth, so why wouldn’t you spread the truth as opposed to spreading a lie.

Scot said the Holy Father has said that if your conscience rooted in the truth is not heeded, then someone else’s conscience is being imposed on you. Private conscience is rooted and based on principles. St. Thomas More is saying that a government official needs to have a well-rooted private conscience in order to lead and do their public duties. If they’re not rooted and instead put their fingers in the wind to do what’s popular, he says they are leading their country by a short route to chaos. Public officials aren’t elected just to vote on what the majority of their constituents want, but are elected because of their proper judgment and formation. We elect them in order to trust them to get into the details that we can’t in the rest of society and apply their good judgment, virtue, and values.

Fr. Chip said our system of government has turned into a system of polls and where people want us to go this day. To find corruption, all you have to see is three speakers of the House in the Mass. Legislature in a row convicted of felonies. What’s wrong with this picture? We keep sending the same sorts of people back to office and get the same result.

Scot said we, as voters, have allowed our system of government to be dumbed down. Politicians legislate by polls, because we as voters have allowed them to. There is a lot less expected of candidates in races, probably because we’re a soundbite media and because the voters have stopped demanding substance. Voters need to reward people for taking ethical stands, even if we disagree with them because we want people of true value and principle in office even if we agree with them only 80% or 90% of the time.

Fr. Matt said it reflects the lack of appreciation by voters for virtuous leadership. Politicians are a reflection of ourselves as a country. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. It takes courage to consistently stand for something. Thomas More was a man of authenticity. The king went to Thomas More because the people were watching him and saw him as a man if integrity. His lack of support hindered the king’s goals.

Fr. Chip said voters have to decide if the current system is what we want for the future. He’d rather stand with someone who stood for something rather than someone wavering in the wind.

Scot said More had a discussion with his future son-in-law, who pleaded with More to circumvent the law in order to fix the ills he saw in society. More asked him if he would cut down every law in England to get at the “devil” and the son-in-law said he would. And More said, And when the last law is cut down and the devil turns on you at last, where will you hide? This country is planted thick with laws and if you cut them down, do you think you’d stand upright in the winds that would buffet you? “Yes, I’d give the devil the benefit of the law for my own safety’s sake.”

Scot said most elected officials respect that we have a system of laws and if you don’t like the way things are, you change the law through the legislature and normal protocols. But recent examples of the undermining of the law include same-sex marriage in Massachusetts where the law was not changed legislatively, but through the courts and the voters weren’t given a chance to vote on it. Also, when Mass. voters have passed tax reforms in referenda, they were ignored. And when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed nationally, President Obama instructed the Justice Department not to advocate to defend the law.

There might be times when we’re on the side where the law doesn’t benefit us and if we encourage people on our side to ignore the rule of law, it’s to our own peril. It’s troubling when laws get circumvented either through the judiciary overstepping their bounds or the executive not enforcing the laws. Fr. Chip said it’s also troubling when those in power change the rules to stay in power and people who wish to serve can’t beat them in elections so keep having the same people over and over again. We have a judiciary that constantly oversteps its bounds and the Founding Fathers put the checks and balances in place for a reason. We see those checks and balances break down in the past decade and cowardice in the legislature, where they wouldn’t stand up and let the people be heard. Thomas More would not have stood for that.

Fr. Matt said it also speaks of the need for a new evangelization. The Church has to continue to find ways to help people whose hearts have grown cold in the faith. People are being more evangelized by the gospel of the culture than the Gospel of the Jesus Christ. It calls for the Church to reclaim her prophetic role of teaching, preaching, witnessing and evangelizing.

Scot said in the state of New York the legalization of gay marriage is before the state legislature and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has spoken up on the Church’s views and many folks have been attacking him from all sides. He has spoken the truth with courage and joviality and certainly it can’t be comfortable for anyone to read headlines calling him a bigot.

Scot said there’s no one better at articulating the Church’s teachings in the public sphere with the right tone and emphasis. Yet he still takes a beating in the press.

6th segment: In the end, Thomas More is martyred. Fr. Matt said the word comes from Greek and it means “witness.” They are witnesses by the shedding of their blood. They are willing to die for their belief in Christ. More was willing to die rather than compromise his faith in the Lord or be a false witness. Fr. Matt said it shows that faith is messy. St. Paul was a real men dealing with persecution, but we can forget that with a cursory reading of his letters. It’s not easy to live for Christ in the world.

Fr. Chip said we have a sanitized idea of Christianity. We see saints with halos in pictures and think everything is great, but we forget that they struggled heroically for the faith. Maybe we don’t talk about it enough. People who show heroic witness need to be exalted.

Scot said Americans of today don’t often encounter persecution for our faith, but there are martyrs around the world all the time. Just this year, there have been martyrs in Pakistan, Ivory Coast, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, and more.

Fr. Chip he hears people say they couldn’t make it to Mass because the parking lot was full, yet people in Latin America will walk miles to go to Sunday Mass, even if they can once per month.

Previous generations of American Catholics have suffered white martyrdom, which is suffering for the faith, but not physical violence. Fr. Matt said we endure martyrdom because we love Jesus, He’s worth dying for or even just losing our reputations. We need to pray for courage to live our faith intentionally. And my witness has an overflowing effect on other people because others see us living our faith.

Scot said St. Thomas was able to have this courage because he was a man of prayer. Fr. Chip said Thomas’ final words were, “I was the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” We need to remember that in our own lives. To be in service to God first. More even forgave the executioner and told him to do his duty.

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