Monday, June 24, 2013

Scots Wha Hae

"Scots Wha Hae" is a poem written by Robert Burns that is supposed to approximate the speech Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, delivered to his troops prior to leading them into battle against the English under Edward II at Bannockburn. The poem was set to music and became one of Scotland's great anthems of national pride.

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
         Or to victory!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power—
         Chains and slavery!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave!
Wha sae base as be a slave?
         Let him turn and flee!

Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa',
         Let him follow me!

By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
         But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!—
         Let us do or die!

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Battle of Bannockburn - 699 Years Ago Today

On this day 699 years ago - 24 June 1314, Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, led his vastly outnumbered army into battle against the English under King Edward II at Bannockburn, near Stirling Castle, in Scotland. Edward had more than 2000 battle-hardened knights to Bruce’s 500 horsemen, and a force of 16,000 infantry to Bruce's 6000 foot soldiers.

It was Midsummer Day, the Feast of St John the Baptist.

The day before, an English knight, Sir Henry de Bohun, had seen the Bruce separated from the rest of his army and turned his war-horse to charge him. De Bohun thundered across the field levelling his lance at Bruce. The Bruce stood his ground and waited until the English knight was almost upon him, then stood up in his stirrups and brought his battle-axe crashing down, splitting de Bohun's helmet and skull in two.

The Bruce would own this day as well. 
The Scots had carefully chosen their ground at Bannockburn. They used the natural terrain to counter the threat of Edward’s heavy cavalry and dug small pit traps or ‘pots’ to defend their flanks and force the English to fight them head on. Disastrously, Edward ordered his men to cross the Bannockburn river onto boggy ground. Bruce ordered the Scots to push forward and a forest of spears sent Edward’s army crashing back upon itself. The Scots pushed Edward’s army back to the steep-sided Bannockburn until the river was filled with bodies. King Edward II fled the field, escaped to Dunbar Castle, and then sailed back to England. Others weren't so fortunate - the Scots killed or captured many of the greatest knights of England.

For the next 15 years - until the Bruce's death in 1329, the Scots held the upper hand over the English militarily, including a significant victory at the Battle of Byland in Yorkshire, in which a young, newly crowned Edward III was almost captured.

The ultimate result of Bannockburn was that the Scots had won their independence on the battlefield, an achievement that was to receive legal sanction a few years later when the Scots obtained papal recognition of their claim for independence as laid out in the Declaration of Arbroath (considered by many to be a forerunner to the American Declaration of Independence).


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Friday, June 21, 2013

A Man For All Seasons: Feast Day of St. Thomas More, 22 June


“…it would be hard to find anyone who was more truly a man for all seasons and all men…”

~ Erasmus, 1521

The Execution of St. Thomas More - "A Man For All Seasons"

Tomorrow, 22 June, is the feast day of St. Thomas More, martyr and patron of lawyers, civil servants, politicians, statesmen, "difficult marriages", and this blog.

As he went to his death, ordered beheaded by Henry VIII for refusing to swear the Oath of Supremacy declaring the King head of the Church in England, More humbly stated that he would die "the King's good servant, and God's first."

From the Patron Saints Index:
Memorial: 22 June

Profile: Studied at London and Oxford. Page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lawyer. Twice married, father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. Writer. Friend of King Henry VIII. Lord Chancellor of England, a position of power second only to the king. Opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. Resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king's political needs.

Born: 1478 at London, England

Died: beheaded in 1535; head kept in the Roper Vault, Saint Dunstan's church, Canterbury, England; body at Saint Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, England

Canonized: 1935 by Pope Pius XI

Patronage: adopted children, diocese of Arlington Virginia, civil servants, court clerks, difficult marriages, large families, lawyers, diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee Florida, politicians, politicos, statesmen, step-parents, widowers
A Prayer to St. Thomas More:
Thomas More, counselor of law and patron of statesmen, merry martyr and most human of saints:

Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be able in argument, accurate in analysis, keen in study, correct in conclusion, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, trustworthy with confidences, courageous in court. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.

Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain -- their good servant, and God's first.

"The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."

"What does it avail to know that there is a God, which you not only believe by Faith, but also know by reason: what does it avail that you know Him if you think little of Him?"

"The things that we pray for, good Lord, give us grace to labour for."

(Against Martin Luther) "Come, do not rage so violently, good father; but if you have raved wildly enough, listen now, you pimp. You recall that you falsely complained above that the king has shown no passage in your whole book, even as an example, in which he said that you contradict yourself. You told this lie shortly before, although the king has demonstrated to you many examples of your inconsistency .... But meanwhile, for as long as your reverend paternity will be determined to tell these shameless lies, others will be permitted, on behalf of his English majesty, to throw back into your paternity's sh**ty mouth, truly the sh**-pool of all sh**, all the muck and sh** which your damnable rottenness has vomited up, and to empty out all the sewers and privies onto your crown divested of the dignity of the priestly crown, against which no less than against the kingly crown you have determined to play the buffoon. In your sense of fairness, honest reader, you will forgive me that the utterly filthy words of this scoundrel have forced me to answer such things, for which I should have begged your leave. Now I consider truer than truth that saying: 'He who touches pitch will be wholly defiled by it' (Sirach 13:1). For I am ashamed even of this necessity, that while I clean out the fellow's sh**-filled mouth I see my own fingers covered with sh**. But who can endure such a scoundrel who shows himself possessed by a thousand vices and tormented by a legion of demons, and yet stupidly boasts thus: 'The holy fathers have all erred. The whole church has often erred. My teaching cannot err, because I am most certain that my teaching is not my own but Christ's,' alluding of course to those words of Christ, 'My words are not my own but His who sent me, the Father's' (John 12:49)?

From the Medieval Saints Yahoo Group:
Thomas More, Knight, Lord Chancellor of England, author and martyr, Lay Franciscan
Beheaded in 1535; head kept in the Roper Vault, Saint Dunstan's church, Canterbury, England; body at Saint Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, England Beatified in 1886;

Canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 as the "Martyr of the Papacy"

Commemorated June 22, feast day formerly on July 6 (with fellow martyr, St. John Fisher)

Patronage: adopted children, civil servants, court clerks, difficult marriages, large families, lawyers, politicians, statesmen, step-parents, widowers

In art: English Lord Chancellor carrying a book; English Lord Chancellor carrying an axe

SAINT THOMAS MORE, Martyr (1480-1535)

Saint Thomas More, born in 1480, was the precocious and amiable son of an English magistrate. Very well educated and brilliant, when he was placed at the age of fifteen in the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he soon attracted the Archbishop's attention, and was sent by him to study at Oxford. He debated interiorly for a long time as to whether he should become a priest, but decided otherwise with the approbation of his director.

The practice of civil law was not enough to absorb all his time or energy. The author of the famous satire "Utopia," wrote poetry while still young, in both English and Latin. He had completely mastered Latin, as he had also the Greek tongue, "by an instinct of genius," as one of his preceptors said. Saint Thomas in 1505 married a virtuous and beloved wife who, after bearing four children, three daughters and a son, died six years later. His second wife, older than himself, took excellent care of the household and of the children; but it was said she could not grasp the sense of her husband's subtle humor, which was a characteristic trait of his cheerful disposition.

Saint Thomas came under suspicion by King Henry VII when he strove in the Parliament to reduce the burden of excessive taxes which the people bore, though he never spoke against the king. But his capacities were appreciated, and when Henry VII died, his 18-year-old son, who was to become Henry VIII in 1509, showed him great favor during the first twenty years of his reign. Saint Thomas was knighted in 1521, and was made Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523, High Steward of Cambridge University in 1525, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the same year. Nonetheless, the king's protege foresaw what could easily happen to anyone who did not agree with his sovereign; he said to his son-in-law in 1525, "If my head could win him a castle in France, it would not fail to go." In effect, when in 1530 the order was issued to the clergy to acknowledge Henry as "Supreme Head of the Church, insofar as the law of God would permit," Saint Thomas immediately resigned as Lord Chancellor.

His resignation was not accepted. Two years later, in May 1532, after he had lost the royal favor on several counts — his reticence concerning the king's divorce, his non-attendance at the king's illegal marriage, and his formal non-recognition of any future children of Henry and Anne Bolyn as rightful heirs to the throne — he was permitted to retire. The king, the apostate Archbishop Cranmer, and Anne Bolyn were all excommunicated in that year.

Saint Thomas lived in retirement from the age of 52, his revenues considerably diminished, and his health somewhat uncertain. When the king decided to require of the laity, as well as of the clergy, the oath supporting his alleged "supremacy," he wanted to obtain first of all the signature of Thomas More, to make of him an example. The Saint declined to sign the oath and thereby brought upon himself a sentence of incarceration in the Tower of London, and a short time afterwards, of death. He was beheaded in 1535, after having said, with his ordinary humor, that "he did not consider the severing of his head from his body as a circumstance that should produce any change in the disposition of his mind."

Saint Thomas while in retirement continued to write a number of religious treatises of great value, including an unfinished one on the Passion. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII and canonized by Pius XI in 1935, with Cardinal John Fisher, who was martyred like himself in the same year and for the same reasons. That year was the 400th anniversary of their death.

"These things, good Lord, that we pray for, give us Thy grace to labor for." --Saint Thomas More.

More on St. Thomas More at:

Fr. Robert Barron on St. Thomas More

Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, naming St. Thomas More the patron of politicians and statesmen
Saint Thomas More - Open Directory Project (links to practically everything you'd want to know about St. Thomas More)

Center for Thomas More Studies
Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) - Luminarium
St. Thomas More on The Franciscan Archive
St. Thomas More on the Patron Saints Index
The St. Thomas More Web Site
Sir Thomas More - Oregon State University Philosophy Dept.
Thomas More Law Center
Thomas More Society
The St. Thomas More Society
Amici Thomae Mori
The Life of St. Thomas More by William Roper
Saint Thomas More - The King's good servant but God's first! (The Angelus)
"Thomas More For Our Season" by Judge Robert Bork (First Things archives)
Saint Thomas More: A Father for All Seasons - Essay on Thomas More as a model Christian father
A Man For All Seasons (DVD available from
Thomas More's England: A Guide Book (pdf file)
Chelsea Old Church - Sir Thomas More

Recommended Reading:
The Life of St. Thomas More by his son-in-law William Roper
Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage by Gerard B. Wegemer
The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd
A Thomas More Source Book ed. by Gerard B. Wegemer and Stephen W. Smith
Thomas More on Statesmanship by Gerard B. Wegemer
A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
Sir Thomas More: A Play, Now First Printed by William Shakespeare, et al
Utopia by Thomas More
A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation by Thomas More
The Sadness of Christ by Thomas More

Prayer to St. Thomas More for Conversion of Pro-Abortion Politicians
Litany of St. Thomas More, Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers (pdf version here) 
Prayers of St. Thomas More (Psalm on Detachment; A Devout Prayer Before Dying)
Novena to St. Thomas More

Prayer to St. Thomas More for Lawyers and Judges
Dear Scholar and Martyr,
it was not the King of England
but you who were the true Defender of the Faith.
Like Christ unjustly condemned,
neither promises nor threats
could make you accept a civil ruler
as head of the Christian Church.

Perfect in your honesty and love of truth,
grant that lawyers and judges
may imitate you and achieve true justice for all people.


Lawyer's Prayer
"Give me the Grace Good Lord,
to set the world at naught;
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
but utterly to cast off the world
and rid my mind of the business thereof.


Litany of St. Thomas More, Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Spare us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Graciously hear us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

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