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One day Thomas was called before the king’s councilors. They demanded that Thomas obey the order of the king and sign a paper to agree that the king was the head of the Church in England. Thomas read the paper and answered quietly, “Sirs, I cannot sign.” The councilors were angry. They told Thomas the names of very important men in the kingdom who had already signed. Some were priests and bishops. But Thomas still refused to sign. He knew that if he refused, he would go to prison. He knew that prisoners sent to the Tower of London usually were put to death. Still he would not sign.
Thomas’s wife tried to get Thomas to go back to his work as a lawyer instead of working for the king, but Thomas said, “My duty is to help the king in whatever way I can. I cannot resign.” He knew that God wanted him to do whatever he could to help England.
For more than a year, Thomas suffered in a cold, damp prison cell. The man in charge of the prison liked Thomas. He felt sorry for him and apologized for the horrible conditions. Thomas, who always liked to joke, said, “Well, if I complain too much, just throw me out!”
Finally Thomas was brought before judges. They accused him of treason. That meant that he was not loyal to his country and must die. When Thomas was led to the place where he would give up his life, he told the executioner not to feel too bad. “After all,” Thomas said, “you’re doing me a favor. Today I go to heaven.” Then Thomas lifted his beard to one side and had one last joke. “Don’t chop off my beard,” he said. “Certainly it has not committed treason.”
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio