A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
St Thomas More (1478-1535). Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre Feast Day, with St John Fisher (1469-1535), for the English Catholic bishop and Cardinal, a wealthy London lawyer, judge, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist, who was called in 1503 to follow the Carthusian lifestyle of simple piety but decided to remain in the secular world and enter Parliament in 1504. He continued to live a life of atonement and repentance, as a man of tremendous integrity, deep piety, asceticism and voluntary self-discipline. From 1510, More served as one of the two Undersheriffs of the City of London and he became Master of Requests in 1514, in the same year being appointed Privy Counsellor. Finding favour with King Henry VIII in 1517, More undertook a diplomatic mission to Calais and Bruges to meet the Holy Roman Emperor with Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York. More was knighted and in 1521 made Under-treasurer of the Exchequer and then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which gave him authority in northern England on behalf of the King. More served as a liaison between the King and Lord Chancellor Wolsey and on Wolsey’s recommendation, the House of Commons elected More its Speaker. When Wolsey fell from grace, More became Lord High Chancellor of England in 1529, and prosecuted those accused of heresy, working tirelessly to defend the Catholic faith in England. More considered the Protestant Reformation to be heresy, a threat to the unity of both Church and society, and saw Martin Luther’s call to destroy the Catholic Church as a call to war. More considered the Tyndale Bible heretical and seditious and said that it challenged Catholic doctrine. When Henry sought annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, More refused to sign a letter to the Pope requesting this and the relationship between More and Henry became strained. Nor could More support Henry’s separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as the supreme head of the Church of England, and in 1534 he was arrested, imprisoned in the Tower of London, convicted of high treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, although as a final act of mercy Henry commuted More’s punishment to mere decapitation. On the scaffold, More proclaimed that he was: “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.” His body was buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains) at the Tower of London but his skull is believed to rest in the Roper Vault of St Dunstan’s Church, Canterbury. Most major humanists were prolific letter writers and Thomas More was no exception. More’s 1516 best-known and most controversial work, Utopia, is a frame narrative written in Latin, describing the political arrangements of the imaginary island country of Utopia and contrasting the contentious social life of European states with the perfectly orderly and reasonable social arrangements of Utopia and its environs. Venerated in Catholic Church. In 1980, despite their opposing the English Reformation, More and St John Fisher were added as martyrs of the reformation to the Church of England’s calendar of Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church, to be commemorated every 6 July (the date of More’s execution). Patron of adopted children, lawyers, civil servants, politicians and difficult marriages. Image: sacredhearthook.org.
St Cyril (The Pillar of Faith, Seal of all the Fathers) (c376-444). Anniversary of start by this Nile Delta Archbishop of Alexandria of the sessions of the 431 Third Ecumenical Council, with only 200 bishops present. The illustrious and pious Cyril was a Confessor and Teacher of the Faith, a distinguished champion of Orthodoxy who, in his youth, had entered the monastery of Macarius in Wadi El Natrun, where he stayed for six years, was ordained a deacon and entrusted to preach. In 412, Cyril was unanimously elevated to the patriarchal throne of the Alexandrian Church and led the struggle against the spread in Alexandria of the Novatian heresy, which taught that any Christian who had fallen away from the Church during a time of persecution could not be received back into it. To wipe out remnants of paganism, Cyril cast out the devils from an ancient pagan temple at Menuthis near Canopus and present-day Abu Qir, established in the town the cultus of the Wonderworking Unmercenaries Sts Cyrus and John, and translated their relics on 28 June 414 to the Church of the Four Evangelists there. However, a more difficult struggle awaited with the emergence of the Nestorian heresy when Nestorius, a presbyter of the Antiochian Church, was chosen in 428 for the see of Constantinople and taught against the two natures in the Person of Jesus Christ, starting an open persecution against of anyone who would call the Most Holy Virgin Mary the Theotokos (Mother of God). It became necessary to call the Ecumenical Council in Ephesus but Bishop John of Antioch and other Syrian bishops were delayed and the Fathers of the Council began the sessions without them, Cyril presiding. Nestorius was condemned as a heretic and Bishop John opened a robber council that decreed Cyril a heretic. Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria and Archbishop Memnon of Ephesus were imprisoned and Nestorius was deposed but Cyril and Memnon were freed and the sessions of the Council continued, its decrees being signed by the Bishops. Nestorius was exiled to the Libyan wilderness where he died. Cyril guided the Alexandrian Church for 32 years and the flock was cleansed of heretics before his death in Alexandria. Among Cyril’s works are the Discussions, with the moving and edifying Discourse on the Exodus of the Soul, inserted in the Slavonic Following Psalter. Venerated in Latin Christianity, Eastern Catholicism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Lutheranism. Orthodox commemoration 9 June for the repose of this great Father of the Church. He is also remembered: 18 January and 9 June Eastern Orthodox Church; 27 June Coptic Church, Catholic Church as a Doctor of the Church, Lutheranism; 28 June Church of England; 9 February Western Rite Orthodox Church. Patron of Alexandria. Image: livingwithchrist.africa.
St Alban (First Martyr of Britain ) (c250-c304). Feast Day commemorating the death of the pagan Roman soldier who gave shelter to a Christian priest who was fleeing arrest and who converted Alban. When officers came to find the priest, Alban met them wearing the priest’s cloak and they mistook him for the priest and arrested him. He refused to renounce his new faith and was beheaded. He thus became the first recorded Christian martyr in Britain, although there were Christians in Britain in the First Century. The second Christian martyr was the executioner who was to kill Alban but heard his testimony and was so impressed that he immediately became a Christian and refused to kill Alban. The third martyr was the priest who, when he learned that Alban had been arrested in his stead, hurried to the court in the forlorn hope of saving Alban by confessing. The place of their deaths is near the site of the present St Alban’s Cathedral. Image: aidanharticons.com.
Prayer Almighty God, by Whose grace and power Thy holy martyr Alban was faithful to Thee, even unto death, grant that we who now remember him with thanksgiving may always be so faithful in our witness to Thee in this world that we may triumph over suffering and receive with him the crown of life eternal. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen