VANCOUVER - St. Thomas More was a man of great integrity and character, and his virtuous life should be a model for lawyers, said Cardinal Thomas Collins.
"Ask God, at this Mass, for wisdom and an understanding mind to find the way forward so as to navigate rightly through the traps and distractions of life," Collins said during his homily at Vancouver's annual Red Mass Jan. 24.
Now the patron saint of lawyers, judges and other stewards of the law, the famous saint was ambitious, intelligent, hard-working and skillful. "He was wise, and with a wisdom that arose from sources both earthly and divine," added the cardinal.
Collins told the life story of St. Thomas More, relating how his wisdom led to his success as a lawyer, a judge and as chancellor of England. As chancellor, he was in a political position that was second only to the king's. He also became a good friend to King Henry VIII.
Collins praised St. Thomas' ability to wield power without letting his ego grow. "More's wise attentiveness to what is essential governed his whole life, and was nurtured by the hours he spent in prayer, meditating on the Word of God, and humbly seeking to discern what in life is real and what is illusion."
Collins tied these aspects of St. More's life to the need for Catholic lawyers to practise these same disciplines.
"There is a warning in the story of Solomon," he said. Though Solomon started well by asking God for wisdom, his mistake was letting his ego take over. "As fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so ego is the beginning of folly."
He also tied St. More's "courage born of holiness" to the contemporary struggle over conscience rights. Because he refused to align himself with a law that betrayed his conscience, St. Thomas was tried for high treason and executed. But he died a free man, his conscience unsullied by the "moral fog of the Tudor court."
"In all of More's roles of service to the state he sought to act justly and wisely," Collins said.
"He shed his blood rather than act against his conscience."