The man who defied King Henry VIII in defense of the Holy Catholic Church and suffered martyrdom outside the Tower of London is a personal hero, and my patron in Confirmation. James Monti’s title for his biography on More is after one of the last things spoken before his execution. At pg. 449, Monti writes that “After pleading for prayers that the King might receive ‘good counsel’, he declared ‘that he died the King’s good servant but God’s first.'” He then knelt down on the scaffold platform and recited the Miserere from Psalm 51.
St. Thomas More had an exceedingly sharp wit, and the fact that he was about to be executed did little to dampen his sense of humor. Monti writes that “When the ex-Lord Chancellor reached the scaffold an officer lent him a hand as he mounted the stairs, More jesting, ‘When I come down again, let me shift for myself as well as I can.'”
What I failed to appreciate before today is that St. Thomas had been locked up for a year in the Tower, and so he would not have shaved. He went to the scaffold with…. a beard. And one of his last earthly acts was to joke about it! Monti writes: “Blindfolding himself, he laid his head down on the chopping block but pulled his beard aside, telling the hangman, ‘I pray you let me lay my beard over the block lest ye should cut it.'” At legend, he purportedly quipped, “This hath not offended the king.”
Beards, jokes, and saints. Orthodox Catholic Joy!