Leaders of this Age: Where are your Successors? And Finally, who cares?

Christian Martyrs of Rome, pray for us.

Christian Martyrs of Rome, pray for us.

The Catholic Church is on the wrong side of History. Those who remain under her shelter are Obstinate Fools, who prefer their Hate to the promises of the Age.

This narrative — along with evermore strident charges of bigotry ennobled by the mantle of constitutionality — is widely expected to deliver the silence of remaining dissent, or at the very least a new calm to the “marketplace of ideas”.

The Crucifix, along with the triregnum and crossed keys, are nothing more than anachronistic flags of another (hateful, hypocritical) confederacy. It is promised that whatever follows is so that all this hate can be swallowed up by rainbows. Then (and only then) will true peace prevail.

St. Stephen, pray for us.

St. Stephen, pray for us.

It matters not, say the benevolent, that never before in the history of human civilization has there been a definition for marriage as anything other than between man and woman. Take note: it is entirely possible, simple fools, to recast objective and fundamental reality. In fact, this is required so that #LoveWins.

Can we be very surprised by any of this? After all, it was Pontius Pilate who asked Jesus, “What is Truth?” and by this expression he showed himself to be a partaker in the same invincible ignorance suffered today. It was Pilate who first personified the notion that Truth is fungible, unascertainable, or relative.

Aggravating such ignorance is that the Question is never in earnest, but rather (mostly) rhetorical, offered as terms of surrender to one’s fallen nature. It is almost as though the worst offenders know their own idiocy, but are already too burned (or burdened) by acedia to do anything other than submit to the demands of the crowd. We might even feel justified in righteous indignation — because it is all so dumb, but that too is part of the Mystery of the freedom God gives us.

Sts. Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Barbara and Cecilia, pray for us!

Sts. Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Barbara and Cecilia, pray for us!

Do not be tempted to forget that the Word is yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our Lord says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake” — He is, at this moment in history, speaking to us. Do not discount the supreme Gift of such a blessing! Rich is the reward for those blessed by the Lord!

In Fr. Robert Barron’s book Catholicism, he quotes the late Francis Cardinal George concerning the appearance of the cardinals on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica in April of 2005 following the announcement of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. According to Barron, “the news cameras caught the remarkably pensive expression on the face” of Cardinal George, and when reporters asked him later what he was thinking, George responded:

“I was gazing over toward the Circus Maximus, toward the Palatine Hill where the Roman Emperors once resided and reigned and looked down upon the persecution of Christians, and I thought, ‘Where are their successors? Where is the successor of Caesar Augustus? Where is the successor of Marcus Aurelius? And finally, who cares? But if you want to see the successor of Peter, he is right next to me, smiling and waving at the crowds.’ “

St. Sebastian, pray for us.

St. Sebastian, pray for us.

Joyfully walking with Jesus means that we can follow the Cardinal’s example and accept that many will call us bigots, and worse. They will tell us we hate whilst spewing their own invective. Spit on our priests. Troll our blogs. Vandalize our churches. Disrupt our liturgies. Remove us from secular public life. We can and must love those who do these things. We can and must forgive them as Jesus forgives us. Everything to follow has already happened countless times before — and He told us not to worry about it. 

Meanwhile, to the Leaders of this Age, where are your successors, and finally, who cares?

Quartermaster of the Barque turned 2 Years Old Yesterday…..

14586634820_151eda79f3_oAnd I missed it! What was I doing, and how did I forget?

Thank you for your readership! In the past two years, there have been 688 posts (not including this one), nearly 300,000 individual visitors and we’re approaching a half million page views. By hits, the all-time most popular post remains this one.

Articles from Quartermaster of the Barque have appeared in National Catholic RegisterNewAdvent.org, BigPulpit.com, Pewsitter.com, CatholicCrossing.com, Aleteia.org, SpiritDaily.com, Spirit-Digest.com, and others. Thank you to the individuals who devote countless hours to maintaining those sites, which truly are a great gift to all of us.

Also a big thanks to Mark Shea (Catholic and Enjoying It!) for letting me shill for Quartermaster of the Barque, over and over and over and again and over and again and again and again. In the high-stakes dog-eat-dog world of Catholic blogging, he’s a generous guy to let others ride on his coattails, especially because writing, blogging and speaking is how he makes his living, meaning that when Mark is sharing his platform, he’s also sharing his daily bread.

To honor the “auspicious occasion”, I re-post the first blog on Quartermaster of the Barque, concerning the SCOTUS decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned DOMA. It remains timely.


Regarding the SCOTUS Decisions on Gay Marriage (originally posted June 29, 2015)

Marriage has fallen, and with it, we see the near end of Christendom. Christians shouldn’t blame gay people for redefining marriage. The redefinition began long before the idea of “gay marriage” ever took hold. It didn’t happen just this week, or last month, or last year, or even a decade ago. It happened (inter alia):
  1. When Christians embraced no-fault divorce.
  2. At the seventh Lambeth Conference when artificial contraceptives were approved by the Anglican communion under certain circumstances.
  3. When Christians embraced Griswold v. Connecticut.
  4. When pro-life Christians fell into consequentialism and supported abortion in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk.
  5. Whenever Christians made use of IVF, had a selective abortion, or supported embryonic stem cell research.
  6. Every time a Christian engaged in sexual activity outside marriage.
  7. Every time a Christian remarried after divorce.
  8. Every time a Christian used artificial contraception.

Christians who oppose the redefinition of marriage MUST stop with the focus on labels, and strategy, and “winning the war”. We’ve lost. It’s over.

What’s the difference between a contracepting, divorced and remarried straight couple and a SSA “married” couple? Almost nothing. [6/30/15 NOTE: By “almost nothing”, I mean that the principal difference is simply that same-sex activity is contrary to nature and the Natural Law. Therefore, qualitatively speaking, there is a difference. The “almost nothing” does matter, but it does not (IMO) justify discriminating in a particular way against SSA individuals]. The fact that one sin is more visible than another is not a valid basis for keeping the focus on the visible sin while ignoring the other less visible (and potentially personal) sins. Upping the harsh rhetoric makes ignoring this fact easier than admitting the actual reason for the failure. If we feel comfortable condemning same-sex marriage but we would not tell a friend or family member that it’s wrong to get married for a third time, then we need to shut up. It’s hypocrisy and it’s killing our “message”.

It’s time to save our souls by living as Christians, loving one another, caring for the least of these, speaking the truth in charity when prompted by the Holy Spirit. It’s time to actually live marriage so that our words match our examples. It’s time to stop expecting the civil law to privilege a concept that we fail to uphold in our own actions. The expectation that we should have it both ways is part of what has led to this failure.

My prayer is not to be the guy who tells people that gay marriage is wrong, but to be the father and husband who — by his hospitality and love — shows people what marriage actually is. If we can’t give them an example, we might as well describe color to the blind.

A Round-Up of Articles I’ve been Meaning to Blog About

Things have been a little extra frenetic lately, and I haven’t had a chance to cover some of these items that I found of interest:

Apple’s co-founder: We’re all going to be robots’ pets one day – From Fortune Magazine. Somehow, the Woz isn’t too worried about it.

Historic meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox head ‘getting closer’ – From The Independent (UK). For a millennia-long schism, “getting closer” could still mean decades (or centuries) before actual movement.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.11.41 PMSpaceships That Could Eat Star Destroyers for Breakfast – From Slate.com; someone took every sci-fi ship from every television and movie series and drew them to scale in one giant diagram. So you can see how the various incarnations of the U.S.S. Enterprise would look in a confrontation against say, the Battlestar Galactica.

From Shea’s Blog, The Prophet GKC on the Culture of Polymorphous Perversity – In case you were thinking that there is something novel or surprising about recent events:

“THE next great heresy is going to be simply an attack on morality; and especially on sexual morality. And it is coming, not from a few Socialists surviving from the Fabian Society, but from the living exultant energy of the rich resolved to enjoy themselves at last, with neither Popery nor Puritanism nor Socialism to hold them back… The roots of the new heresy, God knows, are as deep as nature itself, whose flower is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life. I say that the man who cannot see this cannot see the signs of the times; cannot see even the skysigns in the street that are the new sort of signs in heaven. The madness of tomorrow is not in Moscow but much more in Manhattan — but most of what was in Broadway is already in Piccadilly.” ~G.K. Chesterton: “G.K.’s Weekly,” June 19, 1926.

“The reign of God has really begun; but we know now who God is.”

“Mother,” said the girl, “let me tell you again. Do you not understand that all which Jesus Christ promised has come true, though in another way? The reign of God has really begun; but we know now who God is. You said just now you wanted the Forgiveness of Sins; well, you have that; we all have it, because there is no such thing as sin. There is only Crime. And, then Communion. You used to believe that that made you a partaker of God; well, we are all partakers of God, because we are human beings.” – Lord of the World, Benson, R.H. (1907).

It will be but a footnote that the Court which delivered today’s decision concerning marriage also, in previous generations, declared that no Black person, whether slave or free, could ever be a citizen of the United States (Dred Scott), or that “separate but equal” discrimination was constitutional (Plessy v. Ferguson). We Catholics know that Roe v. Wade and its progeny also belongs in this category, while others view the Right to Abortion as part of the New Enlightenment.

14765607092_f6e3d419d2_oInasmuch as prior times were capable of bringing about flawed determinations of law, the cultural and social apex from which we now perch has deigned in its benevolence to deliver the Infallible. Humanity, we are told, is finally in its Wisdom.

Today’s decision will be lauded by the mainstream and the fliers of flags of rainbow-colored irony. Brilliantly uncatechized turncoat “catholics,” inhaling the same vapors and bedazzled by their millstones, will blush with embarrassment over the welcome given them. Meanwhile, the Faithful will be treated like the must caught in the wine press.  The Church will speak of the rights and dignity of children, only to be pilloried with memes about pedophilia and hypocrisy.

Truly, as far as social secular order is concerned, there is no longer sin, only crime. And there is no longer morality, only legality. What follows is yet to be seen, although there is prophecy, and precedent. Rome fell when, for all its decadence and hedonism, it did not attempt to redefine the nature of marriage.

We have been outflanked. What could not be foreseen until a short while ago is demonstrable proof for the overwhelming Force at work. Benson saw only euthanasia but not abortion, and he left marriage and stable natural families intact at the End. Arguably it was assumed that these institutions were so sacrosanct that they required no active defense.

But now that such assumption is erased from the page, there is no need for further pretension. A crowd of voices demands a quickening of the movement to appease the craven. All need for patience is mooted. The careful gradualism that delivered us here has finally served its purpose:

These Justices [delivering the Majority Opinion of the Court] know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution. – Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), Scalia, J., dissenting.

Benson puts the meaning of this in perspective:

“Therefore, this new decree was as logical as [the antichrist] Himself — it was a judicial act on the part of an united world against a tiny majority that threatened the principle of life and faith: and it was to be carried out with supreme mercy; there was no revenge or passion or partisan spirit in it from the beginning to end; no more than a man is revengeful or passionate when he amputates a diseased limb…”

God help us, and dear friends, He will. He is doing so at this very moment, but we are called to be Faithful even if our suffering is in sight. As Benson would say, the time for self-regarding is passed. What will come at last to each of us who hold sight of God and His Commandments is “…that superb tranquility, possible only when the senses are physically awake, with which God, perhaps once in a lifetime, rewards the aspiring trustful soul — that point of complete rest in the heart of the Fount of all existence with which one day He will reward eternally the spirits of His children.”

FullSizeRender 18As for intercession, let’s remember that St. Thomas More was martyred for his solidarity with us in this very same fight. It is our privilege to don this hair shirt with him. He continues to pray for us in Heaven and that God’s will be done. Let us follow his example, and pray as he did, pro rege, or rather pro res publica, even when king and country turn from the Truth. After all, we are all — in some fashion — converts, and no matter what “law” is enacted, Holy Church teaches that we are always free to choose the good.

Laudato Si': Surprise! They Don’t Get It

The Editors of the National Review, et al., don’t get Pope Francis’ encyclical. There is much accusation that Francis employs a simplistic approach to economic matters — a “pot calling the kettle black” scenario if ever there were one — since the writers are guilty of doing the very same thing (i.e., asserting without basis that the surest way for developing countries to improve living conditions is to increase their economies).

The Invisible Hand is an economic theory. It is not, in practice, infallible, any more than any other theory can be infallible. Something even greater than economic theory is the anthropological reality that people act chiefly out of self-interest. Christianity is the only true remedy to this reality.

It is not a given to state that the market is “self-correcting” and therefore any and all regulation is superfluous. Rather, that particular argument is a red herring now that we have examples of how unrestrained capitalism (read consumerism) AND communism — at their respective extreme polarities — are both capable of enslavement. Self-correction is not the same as “self-preservation”.

While there are now thousands of billionaires, there are billions of nothingaires. But stop counting. What resonates clearly in this encyclical, and what is desperately needed to respond to threats of a New Economic World Order, is that humanity is at the center of creation, and any economic or political system that intentionally violates the rights and dignity of even a single human being is not fully tenable in its current form.

Universal recognition of this clearly-defined principle (which is not at all novel when viewed through the lens of Church teaching) would actually solve the problem, in which case, no need for any other “Power” or “Authority”, and therefore no need for scary music or harsh lighting to emphasize the point. “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

There’s far more at stake than global warming. The “science” on that issue can be easily set aside for now. What about (a) pesticides harming people (and honeybees!), (b) hormones in municipal water supplies, (c) devastations to animal populations, (d) people living atop landfills, (e) “food” being sold, primarily to the poor, that isn’t really food, and (f) toxic pollutants in the air that people breathe? Are these not important to life and health?

Humans are chiefly responsible for these symptoms, even if climate itself is a far more tenuous connection. We are reminded by Pope Francis that to “fill the earth and subdue it” is not license to destroy and ruin for posterity. We are stewards, not masters.

A Special Prayer Intention for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

14783420723_1300a7f49b_oBefore he was born, the parents of my godson (not yet a year old, born with a chromosomal abnormality), perhaps by special graces, selected St. John the Baptist as his patron in baptism. The Baptist has the distinction of having TWO solemnities each year. Today is the solemnity of his nativity, a fitting day to ask you to pray for this wee boy.

Recently, it was determined by medical professionals that our little John indeed has some limitation with his hearing, but that (with fairly minimal intervention) this limitation can be treated and improved! Praise God! Please keep praying for him and his parents!

Last night, while praying the office for the vigil of this solemnity, I was struck by the words of an ancient 8th-century hymn composed by Venerable Bede:

John, still unborn, yet gave aright
His witness to the coming light;
And Christ, the sun of all the earth,
Fulfilled that witness at his birth.

Of woman-born shall never be
A greater prophet than was he,
Whose mighty deeds exalt his fame
To greater than a prophet’s name.

I wonder if there is something particular about having the Forerunner as the patron of a boy with special needs. The Baptist is “witness to the coming light,” who shines faintly (as a reflection) of the Sun. He demonstrates our human dignity which, encumbered by original sin, is not yet in its fully resplendent glory. He is “flawed”, yet never was a greater prophet than he.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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Dear Fellow Hirsute Flabmeisters: A Call to Action

As self-appointed President of the Hirsute Flabmeisters of America (HFA, pronounced “Heifer”), I object to anyone — especially a bishop of the Holy Roman Catholic Church — using our beloved adjectives in such a violent fashion.

I am aggrieved by this micro-aggression that we have been forced to endure. Why should everyone else be “affirmed” for who they are and not us!? Doesn’t Jesus love us too?!

It’s so convenient for His Excellency to complain about others when his own wardrobe full of fancy bishop robes and pointy hats (lovingly maintained by staff) is right next to the sanctuary. All *he* has to do is put on his *uniform* for mass, whereas we must select apparel that fits properly, doesn’t strangle us by overheat and constriction, isn’t stained by food or the upchuck/poop/pee/snot/boogers/drool of little children, and does not offend or distract anyone (which is difficult to do given that we aren’t usually “easy on the eyes” to begin with).

Have you noticed how much clothes COST? A pair of short pants costs at least $5 less than trousers! Dungarees are through the roof! And don’t get me started on overalls. His Excellency and those who agree with him must hate thrift! We flabmeisters get charged extra for all the additional material (and double-stitching!) required to make our garments! It’s unaffordable and demeaning!

14595937887_e784ea4aff_oPrior to the bishop’s “rant”, I was already suffering from at least one emotional debility secondary to this problem. Now I have a full-blown condition that should qualify me for permanent and total disability.

Haven’t you read the news? Beards are FILTHY! We should be praised simply for using hot water and soap! After all, it takes a village to clean just one elephant, especially when monkeys are throwing turds at it the whole time.

And, how can we maintain our flabmeistery-ness if we’re expected to leave our Mega Ultra Big Gulps in our minivans for an entire hour!?! So the incense huffers get a free pass but we’re required to let our ice melt?!? It’s discriminatory!

We (especially our pastors) should recognize that sometimes we are called by the Lord when, by appearances, we don’t FIT into what others expect. Would John the Baptist — with his hirsutism, redoubtable odor, and camel-based clothing — be among those that His Excellency is so keen to rashly and harshly condemn?

Burn. Woot. C’mon people, the time is now. FTW.

Love, your President

Vintage 2015: Vineyard Update

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We are in the midst of a terrifically serious drought here in northern California, and my “Vineyard Project” is now doubling as a “Drought Resistant Vineyard Pilot Project”, which means that I am “training” my Syrah vines not to expect much water this summer.

In fact, I haven’t watered the vines at all yet this season. They received the scant rainfall that came courtesy of the nimbi overhead in the spring and early summer, and that’s it.

FullSizeRender 17I spent some time about a month ago trimming the vines (and reducing the number of tiny pre-grape clusters). They need to be trimmed again, in fact. I have nice full bunches of green grapes, and the leaves on the vines remain a strong green. The roots of these vines must be “going deep” in order to sustain the growth that we have this year.

With the thinning of the vines and clusters, I hope to obtain some deep, well-concentrated berries with which to make a true to style Mediterranean red wine, high in gravity, spicy and intense in flavor.

Last year’s wine was more “new” in style, due in part to the fact that birds were rapidly laying waste to the grapes since I lacked any netting to protect them (I was caught by surprise) and so I elected to harvest early. Vintage 2014 yielded a whole third of a case of wine, which was drinkable (we opened it for Thanksgiving and Christmas and everyone got to have a taste) and I expect at least double that with this vintage. Once this vineyard reaches full production (5 years), I might expect a quarter to half-barrel, eventually.

I am hoping that the vines will be “challenged” with the scarcity of water, so that, in contrast to the extreme heat we are experiencing, there will also be good acid development, which is key for any dark red wine.

FullSizeRender 16Just a note: this remains very much a hobby project. I passed exactly one Viticulture and Enology class under my belt, and while I did take that class at UC Davis (which offers one of the most esteemed winemaking programs in the world), I took it nearly two decades ago while I was in college, at a time when I was much more interested in “appreciating” wine than making it.

Basically, I’m doing what I want (experimenting as I go, on an extremely ad hoc basis) and not making much of a fuss (or being tremendously careful). Ironically, I take the beer making much more seriously, whereas this wine project is just about having fun. If nothing else, I think a vineyard — even a slightly messy, unkept one — is beautiful.

San Francisco’s Cathedral: Monstrously Ugly

After the past year, we’ve all learned that the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, truly is lion-hearted when it comes to defending Catholic teaching. San Francisco must be one of the most otherworldly places in the United States for faithful Catholics who reside there, which is why it is truly disappointing that it lacks a cathedral that inspires with beauty and tradition.

Abstract stained glass, an incomprehensible chandelier, and vaulting from Star Wars combine to make one of the ugliest churches on the planet

Abstract stained glass, an incomprehensible chandelier, the absence of a central crucifix, and vaulting from Star Wars combine to make one of the ugliest churches on the planet

Instead, the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption is irredeemably and monstrously ugly. In fact, it may be the most ghastly (Catholic) cathedral I have ever visited, although I am told that Los Angeles’ cathedral may compare.

I can only sympathize with His Excellency the Archbishop if, upon receiving word from the Vatican that Pope Benedict appointed him to San Francisco, he might have considered asking the Holy Father for permission to say, tear down the cathedral and build a new one, or, possibly even better, purchase Grace Cathedral from the dwindling to nothing Episcopal Diocese of California. Heck, just give the Episcopalians the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in trade for their French Gothic Nob Hill masterpiece.

C’mon, which building looks more Catholic to you?

Grace_Cathedral

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Rob Summers

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And things don’t get any better once you enter the interior of the Cathedral. For starters, at the corners of the square base of the structure are transparent windows that look out onto the parking lot and surrounding buildings.

A worshipper trying to maintain focus on the ineffable mysteries of the Mass may simultaneously glimpse the far more pedestrian goings-on outside, such as people who leave before the final blessing fumbling for their keys in the parking lot on their way to their vehicles.

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For the Archbishop or…. Loki? Thanos? Some other movie villain?

Another nit is the Archbishop’s cathedra, which looks more like something designed as a movie set piece for the latest comic book blockbuster than anything for a successor of the apostles.

I’ve stated my opinion: I hate church buildings in the style of this cathedral. I think this style of modern architecture are horrid. What do you think?

Review: Thomas More’s Prayer Book

Hans_Holbein,_the_Younger_-_Sir_Thomas_More_-_Google_Art_ProjectToday, June 22, is the feast day for St. Thomas More, “the King’s good servant, but God’s first,” who is my patron saint in confirmation, the patron saint of lawyers and statesmen, and the patron in baptism for our first son. In other words, St. Thomas More is important in our house, as an exemplar for how to persevere in the cause for religious liberty, and for steadfast Catholic faithfulness in a culture that is awash in relativism. And, he’s English.

Recently I was able to lay hands on a copy of the out of print book published by Yale University Press entitled Thomas More’s Prayer Book: A Facsimile Reproduction of the Annotated Pages (1969). This book is a treasure. Not only does it contain a facsimile of every (surviving) page from More’s breviary which he used to pray the office while imprisoned in the Tower of London prior to his martyrdom, but it is also annotated by a rather expanded scholarly introduction, and contains for its final section a transcription and translation of More’s notations in the margins of his prayer book.

FullSizeRender 14The Introduction explains that More’s prayer book is actually two books bound together — a liturgical psalter and book of hours — dating from sometime between 1530 and 1540. The text is in Latin, and the printing includes a series of fine woodcuts of various scenes that illuminate the pages, and which are well reproduced (and beautiful).

Short of making the necessary arrangements to view the original breviary (which I believe is still in the possession of Yale University), the facsimile pages provide a very tangible connection with the saint. His notes are shown throughout the book, and he composed a prayer in paired lines above and below the pages in the book of hours, sometimes referred to as More’s “Godly Meditation“:

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;

FullSizeRender 13Not 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 [vileness] 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 in 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 by 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 [thoughts] 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.

More composed his Godly Meditation in English, but most of More’s writings in the margins of the psalter of his prayer book are in Latin, and brief, but valuable too.

For example, alongside Psalm 70:6 (“Thou hast upheld me from birth, thou hast guarded me ever since I left my mother’s womb; ever in thee was my trust”), More writes, “in tribulation with disgrace” and at verse 9 (“Do not cast me off now, in my old age; slowly my strength ebbs, do not thou forsake me.”) he writes, “senectus segnis est / old age is sluggish”. We get, in addition to More’s piety, a glimpse of his sense of humor as well.

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Throughout the psalter we are invited to spy the mind and soul of More, and his favorite references to certain psalms for specific prayers or prayer intentions. At Psalm 41, which begins “O God, my whole soul longs for thee, as a deer for running water…”, More writes, “Happy the man who can say this from his soul.” He also notes psalms useful pro rege, or “for the king,” who in More’s case, was the same king who had him imprisoned there in the Tower.

There are entries on facing tribulation and false accusation, specific prayers against the torment of demons, dealing with scruples in confession, having faith, hope and trust, and an array of others. I find these notations so valuable, that I’ve undertaken to systematically begin inserting them into my own breviary as I pray it each day, so that I am not far from my patron as he prayed the same psalms that we pray today.

When we consider martyrs, we are frequently presented an image of a person with unquenchable faith, by which the faithful (but unsaintly) people of God are somewhat challenged, because we do not recognize such capacity for martyrdom in ourselves. We are fearful and suspicious that our faith will not carry us through any such final test.

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Anecdotally, we know that St. Thomas More was willing to die for Christ, but afraid that his human weakness, suffering under pain, would break him (“…that I wot well my lewdness hath been such that I know myself well worthy that God should let me slip, yet can I not but trust in His merciful goodness that… if I shall suffer, His grace shall give me the strength to take it patiently…”). We too, can benefit from seeing the struggle that accompanies such a path to Heaven.

Without a doubt, St. Thomas More’s prayer book belonged to a saint, but an entirely fallible human one, who struggled under much the same types of oppressions, who feared for his well-being and his family, but surrendered these fears to God through earnest prayer. I am comforted to think that as he suffered, he continued his prayers for the king and the system that unjustly accused and martyred him, as he no doubt continues to do today as the fight continues here on earth. We would do well to follow his example in much the same way.