Monday, June 22, 2015

Thomas More's Priorities

Today is the feast of St. Thomas More.  Seeing as how he's one of my favorite saints, I've written about him before and shared some clips from the excellent film, A Man for All Seasons.  

Today I wanted to share a short poem or prayer - a psalm, he called it - that he wrote in his final days.  It hangs on my cubicle wall at the office, as a reminder of the importance of the eternal things and the vanity of this passing life.  If the tone sounds a bit dour, remember that this was written while More faced the prospect of death.  But also recall that More was a man prone to jokes and laughter.  If there is seriousness here, it is the fruit not of a melancholy personality, but of deep reflection by a man who had come to understand his utter dependence on God.

Tower of London, 1534-35 

Give me thy grace, good Lord: 
To set the world at nought; 

To set my mind fast 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 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 phantasies 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 vility 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 leadeth to life, 
To bear the cross with Christ; 

To have the last thing 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 uncessantly to give him thanks, 
To buy the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain confabulations, 
To eschew 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 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 treasure of all the princes and kings,
     Christian and heathen, were it gathered and 
     laid together all upon one heap.

Today's icon comes from Monastery Icons.  And a tip of the hat to the Center for Thomas More Studies at the University of Dallas, which provided the text.