Faith, Hope and Good Humour by St Thomas More, Good Humour Prayer, Tower of London

Faith and Hope of Thomas More, Patron Saint of Politicians 

The battle that achieves peace is the struggle of each person within himself, to think of others. The rulers who recognize and abandon their self-centeredness truly serve. 

Prayer with the patron saint of politicians can stop the war in Ukraine.

Imprisoned in the Tower of London, Judge Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) awaited the verdict of his own legal case. Until recently he had been Grand Chancellor to King Henry VIII. He now found himself captive and under pressure to endorse the monarch as supreme ruler of the Church of England, and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

He had held the highest dignities in the realm. He was passionate about the good things of the world. So many memories of his beloved family come to his mind, and so many moments of contemplation of nature and animals, which he used to observe with attention. Everything is now darkness.

From that ephemeral darkness, Thomas More leaves us the shining example of a joyful, hopeful and loyal life. He knew how to detach himself from worldliness, from charlatanism, and from his own self, without taking himself too seriously. He was, as the stunning film of his life says, A Man for All Seasons.

St Thomas More's Sense of Humour

His fine sense of humour reflected an ability to step outside himself, to abandon self-centredness or egocentrism and the dangerous pride of one who "cannot bear to be made fun of", as he wrote.

Perhaps for all this, the Prayer of Good Humour, which is by a more recent anonymous writer, and was found in Chester Cathedral, is attributed to St Thomas.

In the Tower of London, in his last days, we imagine him recalling the words of the psalm on which he had commented: "Those who on their way to the house of heaven sow the seed with tears, on the day of judgment will return with their bodies and a great smile that will last forever" (The Dialogue of Comfort in Tribulation).

The decisive moment has come and he is condemned to death for refusing to sign the oath of supremacy. These were his last words: "I die a faithful servant of the King, and first of all of God".

And this is how Chesterton described that final moment of St Thomas More: "He did not want to die at all, being the sort of person who tries to enjoy life to the end, but in the end he died instead, and in surrendering his soul to the creator, he died laughing".

From the tower of London we can read and almost hear this prayer which we transcribe.

A Godly Meditation written by St Thomas More in the Tower of London (1534)

Give me thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought [regard as nothing];

To set my mind fast [steadfastly] upon thee,
And not to hang upon the blast
of men's mouths;

To be content to be solitary,
Not to long for worldly company

Little and [by] little utterly to cast off the world,
And rid my mind of all the
business thereof;

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly fantasies
may be to me displeasant;

Gladly to be thinking of God;
Piteously to call for his help;
To lean unto the comfort of God;
Busily to labor to love him;

To know mine own vilty and wretchedness:
To humble and meeken myself under the
mighty hand of God;

To bewail my sins passed;
For the purging of them, patiently to
suffer adversity;

Gladly to bear my purgatory here;
To be joyful of tribulations;

To walk the narrow way that leaden to life;
To bear the cross with Christ;

To have the last things in remembrance;
To have ever afore mine eye 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 come;
To have continually in mind the Passion that
Christ suffered for me;

For his benefits incessantly to give him thanks;
To buy [redeem] the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain confabulations;
To eschew [avoid] light foolish mirth and gladness;

Recreations not necessary, to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life,
and all-to set the loss at right nought for
the winning of Christ;

To think my most [greatest, worst] enemies my best Friends,
for the brethren of Joseph [Gn 37,41] could never
have done him so much good with their
love and favor as they did him with their
malice and hatred.

These minds [thoughts, intentions, dispositions] are more to be desired of every
man than all the treasure of all the princes and
kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered
and laid together all upon one heap.

Source: The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St Thomas More, volume 13, p. 227.

For more information: Carlo De Marchi, Breve storia del sorriso en Studi Cattolici, 632 (2013), pp. 685-687.


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