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Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 24 June 2007 10:25
Everyone knows that St. Thomas died “the King’s good servant, but God’s first” but few of us realize the price that the More family paid generation after generation for their faithful adherence to the Catholic faith.

I have already told the story of Margaret Gigg’s heroism. But John More, St. Thomas’s only son, was imprisoned at the same time as his father for refusing to swear the same oath. He was later released to live on his wife’s Yorkshire estates.

Cecily, More’s third daughter married Giles Heron in 1525. In 1539, five years after More’s execution, a disgruntled former tenant reported that Giles Heron had "mumble[d] certain words touching the King" in the parlor of his manor house. Heron was arrested and executed for treason in 1540.

Thomas More II was the son of John More and St. Thomas’ grand-son. Thomas More II was imprisoned in London between 1582 and 1586 for his Catholic beliefs. Under Queen Elizabeth I, Catholics (or 'recusants' as they were called) were fined for not taking the oath of allegiance to the Church of England.

Cresacre More was the youngest son of Thomas More II and St. Thomas’s great, grand-son..Cresacre became the heir after his elder brothers John III and Henry died, and his other brother Thomas became a Catholic priest. In about 1631, Cresacre wrote a Life of Sir Thomas More, which was re-published many times in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Like his grandfather, Thomas, Christopher was a fervent Catholic. He dedicated the book to Queen Henrietta Maria, the Catholic wife of Charles I.

Cresacre’s daughter Helen, (as Dame Gertrude More, 1606 – 1633) became one of the founding members of the English Benedictine House at Cambrai (which became the famous Stanbrook Abbey when the community returned to English soil after the French Revolution. Stanbrook Abbey was the inspiration for Rumer Godden’s novel “In This House of Brede”) Her sister, Bridget More, joined the community in 1629 and eventually became Prioress of what is now Colfax Abbey, England.

The last known More heir, Fr. Thomas More, SJ, died in 1795.

As remarkable as the saga of the More family sounds to us, it was not remarkable for devout English Catholics in the late 16th and 17th centuries. Mary Ward, the extraordinary woman apostle of the early 17th century, was related to most of the recusant families in the north of England. Her mother, her grand-mother, and her aunts had all been inprisoned for their faith and two of her near relatives were involved in the infamous Gunpowder Plot (Think Guy Fawkes Day).

Imagine how differently one regarded being a Catholic if you grew up as the heir of such a heritage.

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