St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More: Lessons for Today

One of the many blessings of being Catholic is the incredible variety of saints we can turn to in every situation. Saints like St. Joseph, St. Anthony, and St. Francis are often called upon for their intercession in our daily lives. Among the saints, there are two whose lives, though centuries apart, intersect in a profound way: St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More. 

Their stories, full of courage and conviction, offer powerful lessons for us today.

The Bold Forerunner: St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist holds a unique place in the Gospels as the one who prepares the way for Jesus. Born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, his life was marked by divine purpose even before his birth. John chose a life of radical simplicity and devotion, living in the desert, wearing camel’s hair, and eating locusts and wild honey. His mission was to call people to repentance and prepare them for the coming of the Messiah.

John’s fearless proclamation of the truth eventually led to his martyrdom. 

He boldly condemned the illicit relationship between Herod Antipas and Herodias, which resulted in his imprisonment and execution. John’s unwavering commitment to God’s truth, even in the face of death, is a testament to his extraordinary courage.

The Principled Statesman: St. Thomas More

In a different era, St. Thomas More stood as a beacon of integrity and faithfulness. 

Born in 1478, More was a man of exceptional intellect and deep faith. He served as a close advisor to King Henry VIII and became the Lord Chancellor of England. Despite his success, More’s primary allegiance was to his Catholic faith.

More’s defining moment came when he refused to endorse King Henry VIII’s separation from the Catholic Church to secure a divorce and remarry. His refusal to support the Act of Supremacy, which declared the King as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, led to his arrest and execution. 

More’s final words, “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first,” encapsulate his profound commitment to his conscience and faith.

Feast Days: A Time of Reflection and Celebration

Interestingly, the feast days of St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More are close together on the liturgical calendar, providing a unique opportunity for reflection on their lives. St. John the Baptist’s feast day is celebrated today on June 24th, marking his nativity, and again on August 29th, commemorating his martyrdom. St. Thomas More’s feast day is on June 22nd, just two days before the nativity feast of St. John the Baptist. The month of June invites the faithful to contemplate the virtues of these two remarkable saints within the same liturgical season.

Lessons for Today

The lives of St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More offer rich lessons that are particularly relevant in our modern world.

1. Courage in Adversity

John and More exemplify extraordinary courage in the face of danger. 

John’s denunciation of Herod’s immoral actions and More’s refusal to compromise his principles for political gain highlight the importance of standing firm in one’s convictions, even when it leads to personal loss. Today, as we navigate a society where moral relativism often prevails, their examples remind us to remain steadfast in our faith and values.

2. Commitment to Truth

The unwavering commitment to truth is a central theme in the lives of these saints. John’s call to repentance and More’s defense of the Church’s authority underscore the necessity of upholding truth in our lives. In a world where truth is frequently obscured or manipulated, Catholics are called to be witnesses to the Gospel, proclaiming its truths with clarity and conviction.

3. Humility and Service

St. John the Baptist’s humility is evident in his words, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). He understood his role as a precursor to Christ and willingly stepped aside when Jesus began His ministry. 

Similarly, St. Thomas More, despite his high office, always placed God’s will above his own ambitions. Their humility teaches us the importance of recognizing our roles within God’s plan and serving others selflessly.

4. The Power of Conscience

The role of conscience is profoundly highlighted in the lives of these saints. More’s unwavering adherence to his conscience, even in the face of death, speaks volumes about the importance of an informed and guided conscience. 

Today, Catholics are reminded to cultivate and follow their consciences, rooted in the teachings of the Church, even when societal pressures urge compromise.

5. The Call to Witness

Both John and More bore witness to the truth through their words and actions, ultimately paying the ultimate price for their fidelity. 

This witness is a call to all Catholics to live out their faith authentically. In a world that often prioritizes comfort over conviction, their examples challenge us to bear witness to our faith boldly, in both word and deed.

Novenas: A Path to Deeper Devotion

Devotion to these saints is often expressed through novenas, which are nine-day periods of prayer that seek their intercession. The novena to St. John the Baptist typically focuses on his role as a prophet and his call to repentance, asking for the grace to turn away from sin and live a life pleasing to God. It is a time to seek John’s boldness and courage in proclaiming the truth.

The novena to St. Thomas More, on the other hand, emphasizes his commitment to conscience and his steadfastness in the face of persecution. Prayers during this novena often ask for the strength to uphold moral integrity and the wisdom to navigate complex ethical dilemmas with faithfulness to the Church’s teachings.

St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More, though separated by time and circumstance, share a profound intersection in their lives through their unwavering commitment to truth, courage in adversity, humility, and service. Their legacies offer powerful lessons for Catholics today, encouraging us to remain steadfast in our faith, committed to truth, and courageous in the face of challenges.

In honoring their memories, let us strive to emulate their virtues in our daily lives, bearing witness to the transformative power of the Gospel and the enduring truth of our faith. As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, may we find inspiration in the lives of these great saints, who remind us that true greatness lies in our fidelity to God’s will and our unwavering commitment to His truth.

Photo by Daniele D’Andreti on Unsplash

Titian. (c. 1542). Saint John the Baptist. [painting]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Holbein, H. (1527). Portrait of Sir Thomas More. [painting]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

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Jon Elordi is the Director of Marketing for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, where he is dedicated to creating innovative and exceptional marketing strategies. He is also the owner of The Catholic Handbook, a site he uses to evangelize and build a comprehensive resource for devout Catholics. Previously, Jon served as the marketing director for a startup and has experience working for General Motors. A proud Michigander, Jon holds a BA in Economics from Hillsdale College and an MA in Economics from Central Michigan University.

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