ALON. Now all the blessings
Of a glad father compass thee about!
Arise, and say how thou cam’st here.
MIR. O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t!
PROS. ’Tis new to thee.
Thomas More, lord chancellor of England during the English Reformation, was born on this day, February 7th in 1478. When he wrote Utopia in 1516, he couldn’t have known he was coining a term that would be used for centuries to describe a perfect world. He wasn’t the first of course, and thinkers like Plato in his Republic have tried, alas in vain, to describe it. We are no different. We think our imaginations would suffice if we could only have this or that or some other thing, but it’s simply impossible because we can’t see the whole picture. Just when we think we’ve envisioned our brave new world, we discover that we, like Shakespeare’s Miranda in The Tempest are only marveling at what actually is common and flawed.
That’s where God comes in. As we think ahead to the days to come, let’s not resolve to try harder but rather to trust deeper. Before we can build an outward life of bits and pieces that might or might not last, we first should focus on the foundation of our interiors. The real brave new world ahead of you isn’t Huxley’s dystopian farce but rather a fulfilling adventure of the heart.
Be bold and open yourself to your Creator,
who knows the desires of your heart.
He placed them there.
Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
Art: The Three Ages of Man by Giorgione, 1501
Literature & Liturgy: Thomas More and Utopia
(1478–1535). One of the most respected figures in English history, Thomas More was a statesman, scholar, and author. He was noted for his wit and also for his devotion to his religion. More was executed as a traitor for his refusal to acknowledge King Henry VIII’s supremacy over the church. The story of More’s life and death became familiar to many through Robert Bolt’s play, A Man for All Seasons, first performed in 1960.
Thomas More was born in London on Feb. 7, 1478. His father was Sir John More, a prominent barrister. While in his early teens, young More entered the household of Cardinal Morton as a page. Later he attended Canterbury Hall, Oxford. The great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus became his close friend. More, Erasmus, and John Colet, the distinguished dean of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, were leaders of a group of scholars and religious reformers. This group, which became known as the Oxford Reformers, did much to promote the Renaissance in England. More entered the profession of law, in which he gained distinction. His religious piety led him to fast, pray, and do penance. For a time he hoped to enter the priesthood. Throughout his life More’s deep religious convictions dominated his actions.
More is famous not only as a statesman and religious martyr but also as an author. A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, written in 1534 while he was in prison, shows his faith and his calm courage. Perhaps his best-known work is his Utopia (1516). Utopia, which is Greek for “nowhere,” is the name of an imaginary island with a happy society, free from all cares, anxieties, and miseries.
“More, Thomas,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).