Every First Friday Mass at 8am at the Cathedral except July ~ Board Meetings Follow Open to all Members ~ Limited Phone Conference Available ~ Contact Diane Arzberger 517-402-1562
The Red Mass
The 38th Annual Red Mass will be Tuesday, October 3, 2023 at St. Mary Cathedral at 5:15pm. Dinner will immediately follow in the Parish Hall. All Judges, Lawyers, Law Students and interested persons are invited. Judges receive one complimentary dinner. Contact Diane Arzberger 517-402- or email@example.com to reserve a spot. RSVP deadline is September 22. This year’s Thomas More Award recipient is John J. Bursch. He is the founder of Bursch Law and senior counsel and vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom. His accomplishments are legion, having established himself as one of the preeminent appellate attorneys in Michigan and served the public as Michigan Solicitor General. To pay for the dinner and/or membership by credit card, Click Here.
The Thirty-Second Annual Retreat took place on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at Miles Christi Family Center; 25300 Johns Road, South Lyon, MI 48178. The retreat theme was: “Catholic Lawyers in the Modern World – A Consideration of the life and Example of St. Thomas More”.
One of the attendees, Paul Brandenburg, was inspired by the retreat to compile a “Spiritual Combat Handbook”.
St. Thomas More’s Handbook for Spiritual Combat
(Compiled by Paul Brandenburg)1
I. Threshold Premise: Play to your strengths, man!
Wise men always
Affirm and say
That best is it for a man
The business that he can,
And in no wise
For he that will
And has no skill
Is never likely to thrive.
- It’s a Battle. To Thomas More, the essence of the spiritual life is to fight to love; that is, to fight vigorously to love God with ever greater tenderness and ardor. As long as this effort is foremost in one’s life, success in battles against temptation is assured.
- Prayer Sustains. But this “fight to love,” this “heavenward mind,” is achieved only through active cooperation with grace. And this cooperation comes by way of prayer. According to More, the prayer of contemplation consists not of many words, but is a personal and deeply affectionate conversation with God . . . wherein one “not only presents the mind to the Father, but also unites it with Him by unspeakable ways which only they know who have tried it.”If you love your health; if you desire to be secure from the snares of the devil, from the storms of this world, from the hands of your enemies; if you long to be acceptable to God; if you covet everlasting happiness—then let no day pass without at least once presenting yourself to God in prayer, falling down before Him flat on the ground with a humble affection and a devout mind; not merely with your lips, but from the innermost recesses of your heart, crying out these words of the prophet: “The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not, but in your mercy remember me because of your goodness, O Lord.” (Ps. 25:7)
- Spousal Love. To More, the spiritual life consists in treating God as the spouse of one’s soul:
Here should the lover of God example take,
To have Him continually in remembrance
With Him in prayer and meditation wake
While others play, revel, sing and dance.
No earthly joy, sport, or vain pleasance
Should him delight, or anything remove
His ardent mind from God, his heavenly Love.
Discipline and perseverance are essential to keeping the mind heavenward and the heart afire with the love of God. Using Christ as our model for perseverance in this spiritual battle to keep love, we should be ever glad and joyful in the fight; trusting only in his power and not our own; and ever vigilant.
The most effective way of countering temptation, said More, is to “consider how Christ, the Lord of sovereign power, humbled Himself for us, unto the cross.”
When thou in the flame of temptation friest,
Think on the very lamentable pain,
Think on the piteous cross of woeful Christ,
Think on His blood beat out of every vein,
Think on His precious heart carved in twain,
Think how for thy redemption all was wrought—
Let Him not lose thee, whom He so dear has bought.
Thus, in short, staying day and night in the conscious presence and favor of the Lover of souls is, for More, the ultimate foundation for courage in the battle.
- Staying Awake. More considered his time of imprisonment in the Tower of London as a sign of God’s special care for him. It allowed him to practice “profitable exercises in patience,” and gave him opportunity to prepare for death by using prayer to overcome grief and sadness.
Even as their beloved master Jesus was under imminent threat of enormous
danger, and asked his apostles to stay awake and pray with him in the garden, Peter, James, and John all fell asleep. More concludes this was because they had not acquired the habit of prayer. “Prayer is the only safeguard against temptation; if someone refuses it entrance into the castle of his soul and shuts it up by yielding to sleep, through such negligence he permits the besieging troops of the devil (that is, temptations to evil) to break in.”
Moreover, Christ not only told us how essential constancy in prayer is to withstand temptation, but he showed us how to pray. More urges us to remember how, in this scene in the garden, Jesus lay face down on the earth. “Reader,” he says, “let us pause for a little at this point and contemplate with a devout mind our commander lying on the ground in humble supplication.” Unlike Christ, who is prostrate before God and wholly absorbed in his prayer, we “let our actions betray that our minds are wandering miles away.” How can we not be ashamed to pray in this manner?
If we pray like Jesus prayed—not in a drowsy or feeble-minded way—we too will have the strength and courage to face our trials in life. “Let us, in our agony, remember His.”
B. Contemplation. More believed that the crucified Christ is the ultimate example of courageous love. He recommended deeply pondering Christ’s love manifest in the passion as key to remaining firm in our time of reckoning.
In counsel that seems to mirror the Church’s teaching on the interplay of the three forms of prayer—vocal, meditative, and contemplative—More warned that unless one deliberately cultivates the loves one has chosen, the mind and imagination will turn traitor. That is, unless the “remembrance” harvested from one’s discipline in discursive meditation (left brain listening) and imaginative meditation (right brain listening) is confirmed in loving contemplation (ear-of-the-heart listening), it will be vulnerable to delusion and suffering in our time of testing.
C. Psalms. More considered the Psalter a wonderful source of clear and illuminating wisdom. Among his favorites for daily prayer were the penitential psalms, especially Psalm 51 (unto forgiveness and repentance), which he prayed on the scaffold before surrendering his life. In family prayer, More preferred, among others, Psalm 25 (for guidance and protection); Psalm 42 (thirsting for God); and Psalm 84 (on pilgrimage to the house of the Lord). During his imprisonment, More made good use of Psalm 22 (suffering servant’s steadfast faith).
More also had a custom of drawing out and combining verses and thoughts from several psalms in composing his own prayers for his particular needs. One of these, “A Godly Meditation,” was composed in the Tower of London in anticipation of death. Following is an excerpted version, which well captures the essence of More’s spirituality:
Give me Thy 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 lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love Him;
To know my own vileness and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;
To bewail my sins past;
For the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity;
Gladly to bear my purgatory here;
To be joyful of tribulations;
To walk the narrow way that leads to life,
To bear the cross with Christ;
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;
For His benefits incessantly to give Him thanks;
To think my greatest enemies my 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.
IV. Matters of Conscience
A. Individual Responsibility. More believed each person is responsible for forming his own conscience and that one’s eternal fate depends on conforming his belief and conduct to his well-formed conscience. More did not judge or condemn anyone else who, in forming his conscience, came to a resolution at odds with his own.
On the legitimacy of the annulment of King Henry’s marriage to Queen Catherine and assumption of his new title, “Supreme Head of the Church of England,” More declined to express approval. His resistance, he confided to his beloved daughter Margaret (“Meg”), was based on his conclusion that these were not matters “on which Christendom is not in agreement.”
But as concerns my own self, for your comfort I shall say to you, daughter, that my own conscience in this matter (I damn no other man’s) is such as may well stand with my own salvation. Of this I am, Meg, as sure as that God is in heaven. And therefore, as for all the rest—goods, lands, and life—I verily trust that God shall strengthen me to bear the loss, rather than swear against my conscience and put my soul in peril.
As More stated elsewhere, “I do nobody harm, I say none harm, I think none harm, but wish everybody good. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live.”
B. Wariness of Compromise. Near the end of his life, three bishops invited More to join them in attending Anne Boleyn’s coronation, a ceremonial act that would not require him to break his silence. More’s response was respectful but honest and challenging.
Although your lordships have in the matter of the King’s marriage so far kept yourselves pure virgins, yet take good heed, my lords, that you continue to keep your virginity. For some there are who, by first getting your lordships to be present at the coronation, will then get you to preach for its legitimacy, and finally will get you to write books to all the world in defense of it. These desire to deflower you, and when they have deflowered you, then will they not fail soon after to devour you. Now, my lords, it lies not in my power if they devour me, by God being my good Lord, I will provide that they shall never deflower me.
More’s response to the bishops well demonstrates his knack for artfully and even humorously asserting hard truths, a skill that made him unusually effective even in the most difficult negotiations. “Merry More” (as Londoners knew him) appreciated that “telling the truth in jest” may not only be winsome, but also persuasive—a highly effective way of appealing to conscience and enjoining reflection.
C. Communion of Saints. In response to insistence that his view of the matter was clearly mistaken, as evidenced by the great number of Parliamentarians, Bishops and scholars who disagreed with him, More was wont to invoke the support of the “great cloud of witnesses.” In his trial, More demonstrated his “heavenward mind” as follows:
If the number of bishops and universities should be so material as your lordship seems to think, then I see little cause, my lord, why that should make any change in my conscience. For I have no doubt that, though not in this realm, but of all those learned bishops and virtuous men that are yet alive throughout Christendom, they are not fewer who are of my mind therein. But if I should speak of those who are already dead, of whom many are now holy saints in heaven, I am very sure it is the far greater part of them who, all the while they lived, thought in this case the way that I think now. And therefore am I not bound, my lord, to conform my conscience to the council of one realm against the General Council of Christendom.
So, you see, in More’s heavenward consciousness, he was not in the minority after all.
V. Miscellaneous Pearls of Wisdom
A. On Matters of Law and Governance. How to govern diversity in unity? Humble love puts pride to shame.
There can be nothing more helpful than a loyal friend, who by his own efforts assuages your hurts. Two beggars formed an alliance of firm friendship—a blind man and a lame one. The blind man said to the lame one, “You must ride upon my shoulders.” The latter answered, “You, blind friend, must find your way by means of my eyes.” The love which unites shuns the castles of proud kings and prevails in the humble hut.
Thus, only a loving and graceful acceptance of human limitations, along with a conscious attempt to strengthen the bonds of human solidarity, can give rise to true harmony. The proud are their own worst enemies, and everyone else’s.
B. On Friendship. More and Erasmus were good friends and allies, the latter advocating for reform within the “City of God,” even as More worked for reform in the “City of Man.” Erasmus referred to More as “one born and made for friendship,” and “the friend I love best.” “No one,” wrote Erasmus, “is more openhearted in making friends or more tenacious in keeping them.”
Yet, More was wary of two pitfalls in friendship. First, the art of admonishing friends, like the art of medicine, requires not merely devotion, but tact as well, lest the friendship be undermined. Best to follow Christ’s counsel to “be shrewd as a serpent and gentle as a dove.” Second, this same shrewdness in friendship demands wariness of a friend’s tendency toward flattery; that is, his tendency to give “flexible counsel” too easily allowing one to follow his passions. Flatterers, More said, advance “inestimable harm,” in extreme cases allowing a person to take himself for a god here on earth.
C. On Educating Children. More viewed education as a sort of cultivating the garden of the soul. In addition to encouraging development of habits of virtue in his children, More wanted to ground their motivation in a good conscience and noble loves. He was keen to use playful irony in good conversation to engage their young minds and hearts and cultivate “right imagination” and “good remembrance.” The task also demanded careful and consistent rooting out of the “barren weeds” of pride and deceptive pleasures. And should they complain about the rigors of discipline needed to progress on the road to contemplation, he would remind them, “we do not go to heaven in featherbeds.”
D. Antidote to Pride. More viewed pride as “the mischievous mother of all manner of vice.” Pride that has been allowed to take root “carries with it a blindness almost incurable.” Unless the “right ointment” is applied, blindness will set in and the eyes of the conscience will be dulled. One powerful ointment is the regular remembrance of the four last things—death, judgment, heaven and hell—in furtherance of growing in virtue, in love of God, and in hope of heaven. This heavenward orientation enables us to resist the devil by mocking him. The devil, being full of pride, “cannot abide to be mocked.”
1 Drawn from Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage, by Gerard B. Wegemer, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, 1995, in preparation for the Catholic Lawyers Guild Annual Retreat at the Miles Christi Family Center in South Lyon, Michigan on November 12, 2022. Aptly did G.K. Chesterton observe how needful it is that Thomas More, patron of lawyers and statesmen and “man for all seasons,” is now increasingly honored as inspiring model of steadfast faithfulness in just such a time as ours.