In some modern scholarship, Thomas seems to have been a horrible person and Cromwell a saint, but I look at the people around him, his family and contemporaries, and see a different picture. Certainly some of his duties as Chancellor seem harsh to us but then after his death it was no better, so I am not so sure it was a character flaw. I see that his children looked to him for and followed his spiritual advice; his portrait painter, Hans Holbein the Younger, who lived in his house, painted a picture of a man not with harsh edges and features but of soft thoughtful continence. And I have to ask myself, if he were not such a man of influence as to be admired, then why did Henry care so much about his opinion?
It is hard to know which portrait is truer, but suffice it to say that he was a man of wit and deep Faith and conviction and that he was deeply loved by those around him.
John, bishop that he was, enjoyed none of the niceties that Thomas knew in prison and compared to Thomas was even more of a hero to his Catholic contemporaries, not caught up as Thomas was in the complexities and compromises of the English court, things which he strenuously avoided preferring to concentrate to theology and the care of his flock. Still they died at the same time for the same reason: they both opposed Henry's divorce and separation from Rome, though John was much more vocal about it.
John and Thomas especially sought reform into the image of Christ from within the Church and were troubled by those who would undermine such efforts by re-forming the church in their own image.
Sometimes we walk a line between being true to the Faith and challenging others to be so and compassionately trying to change others hearts quietly. Thomas and John give us examples of both and of what can happen either way.
A prayer for our enemies
Almighty God, have mercy on N. [and N.], and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine together by such easy, tender, merciful means as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in Heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen.
Lord, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to thine, that I may truly say:
“Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra”*.
The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labor for. Amen.
* Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
-- Thomas More
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