Then, a friend of mine who is an atheist (but still a really cool guy) asked my how Saint Thomas More could be dubbed the Patron of Religious Freedom if he burned Protestants at the stake?
I had to think about that for a minute. He was right. Saint Thomas More, while he was Chancellor of England under Henry VIII, did burn 5 or 6 Protestants at the stake for their heresy. Interestingly, More did promote the thought of religious tolerance in his book, Utopia (except in the case of atheists), but if he was tolerant of other faiths, why did he execute 6 Protestants? And is he really the best example for the promotion of religious freedom?
I responded back to my friend saying that i don't think Thomas More is the 'official' patron of religious freedom, but the USCCB focused on him and Saint John Fisher since they were both executed by Henry VIII for standing firm in their beliefs, and their feast day coincided with the Fortnight for Freedom.
But it really got me thinking...maybe there are better examples of saints who stood for religious freedom.
If I had any say in anything, I would dub Saint Margaret Clitherow, Saint Margaret Ward and Saint Anne Line the patron Saints of Religious Freedom.
These three women have very interesting stories and I highly recommend that you google them, but they were executed for hiding priests during the reign of Elizabeth I in England. They were very defiant toward the unjust law banning Catholicism in the country and risked their lives to make sure priests were able to offer Mass and the Sacraments to the people. They were regular members of the laity who loved their faith and lived it every day.
Saint Thomas More is a very popular saint, but I think maybe we need to bring out some of the lesser known saints so that we can show people that there were and still are many people out there who are not afraid to defend their freedom to practice their faith...no matter what the cost.