Msgr. Thomas Morgan, a retired pastor of Saint Thomas More Parish, Cherry Hill, delivered the following remarks at the parish’s 50th anniversary Communion Breakfast on April 15.
On Oct. 29, 1968 Bishop George Guilfoyle named the new parish on the east side of Cherry Hill, Saint Thomas More Parish. He chose a patron saint whom we can emulate today. This saint was relevant in the 16th century and is relevant for all of us in the 21st century.
Saint Thomas More was a man of prayer and a man of holiness. And he gradually grew in holiness not by withdrawing from the world but by engaging with it. He was fully engaged as a loving husband and caring father and a skilled lawyer.
Saint Thomas More and his wife Jane Colt wanted their four children to grow up as healthy, happy, confident and co-operative human beings. They wanted their children to have a sense of God; a sense of prayer; a sense of morality; a sense of conscience and a sense of self-responsibility.
Saint Thomas More was a skilled lawyer. He practiced law with an enlightened and moral conscience. He practiced law with a mature sense of what is right and what is wrong. He was a wise legal counselor to King Henry VIII.
King Henry VIII held Thomas in high esteem and high regard. However, things changed when Saint Thomas More opposed the king. He disagreed with the king when he wanted to break away from Rome; when he wanted to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon; and when he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn.
It was clear Saint Thomas More lived his life with great moral clarity. There was no moral confusion in the way he parented and in the manner in which he advised his clients on legal matters. There was no moral conflict whatsoever. And it was his moral courage and moral strength that empowered him to speak truth to power.
Saint Thomas More’s private life and his public life were always in sync. His public behavior gave voice to his inner moral beliefs. He communicated to the king his deep inner moral convictions.
He projected on to the king his inner sense of right and wrong; his inner sense of good and bad. And tells us that we too are called to live with consciences that are moral and enlightened; that are educated and mature.
Surely, Saint Thomas More is a courageous and inspirational figure for us today. Even though we live in the most affluent age in human history, our levels of moral confusion and ambiguity are rising.
He was accused of treason. He was condemned for speaking truth to power. While on the scaffold before he died he again declared publicly, “I am the king’s good servant but God’s first.” Then with permission he knelt down and prayed psalm 51 asking for mercy. What a role model.