‘Latimer, Cranmer, and Ridley—not a law firm, but a trio of reformers who had the misfortune to live in perilous times.’
I love this opening line by Sam Portaro from Brightest and Best: A companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts in today’s entry on Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer. Every Episcopalian preparing for confirmation learns about Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointment by King Henry VIII and chief architect of the first Book of Common Prayer.
Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley are lesser known, even though they suffered the same fiery fate as Cranmer. Ridley served as chaplain to the Archbishop and later Bishop of the Diocese of London. Latimer, known for his compelling preaching, also served as a chaplain and a bishop.
Preaching to the king as his royal chaplain proved to be complicated for Latimer. He felt convicted to remain faithful to the gospel even when it meant challenging the throne. He reminds me of John the Baptist publicly calling out Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, even when he knew potential consequences. When Latimer discovered that King Henry VIII was keeping horses in various abbeys that were originally established to support the poor, he called him out face-to-face from the pulpit. ‘A prince ought not to prefer his horses above poor men. Abbeys were ordained for the comfort of the poor, and not for the king’s horses to be kept in them.’
Yet, this is not what led to Latimer’s martyrdom. It was his homiletical success sharing the news of the Reformation that determined his fate. Roman Catholic Mary Tudor arrested him (along with Ridley and Cranmer) for treason soon after taking the throne. Latimer and Ridley were chained to the stake and burned in Oxford on October 16, 1555. Cranmer’s execution occurred the following year.
There are times in each one of our lives when we must choose between holding tightly to our convictions or loosen our grip on them. Sometimes the stakes are high, when we challenge an unjust system for instance. But sometimes, they are ordinary decisions we make.
Just yesterday my sister recounted her all-time parenting low from two days earlier. In a battle of wills with her four-year-old, neither would budge. My sister is firmly in the ‘pick your battle’ stage of parenting her two pre-school aged children. My four-year-old niece in particular (ahem, like her mother) has a strong opinion on most matters, especially clothing. Knowing this already, the child was invited to choose what dress to purchase for an upcoming family photo session. She loved this long-sleeved dress covered in pale pink flowers. She spoke excitedly about it for several weeks and how she was saving it to wear for this special occasion. But then it was time to put on said dress and she flat out refused.
Sam Portaro reminds us in today’s entry that there is a difference between compromise and reconciling differences. ‘I may ask the person I love to consider my conviction,’ he writes. ‘I may ask the person I love to alter or amend an opinion. But I can never demand that the other compromise if what I mean by compromise is that the other person submits to my will.’ This, he says, is ‘control and conformity.’
When is control and conformity acceptable?
When do we loosen our grip on ideas and beliefs?
Insisting a four-year-old wear the dress that she herself picked out weeks earlier, excitedly spoke about often, and then refused the morning of family portraits was worth the argument for my sister, at least at the time. There were tears. There were raised voices. There were pleas for the other to just submit already. And this was a battle my sister picked to fight.
I remember these days. Digging in my heels over naps, dinner, swim lessons, and bedtime battles. I remember taking the deep breaths, walking away, and tagging in my husband when he home. But I also remember the small part of me that was deeply grateful to be raising such a strong, determined child. A child who grew into a twelve-year-old who called out anti-semitic rhetoric this week and homophobic languages from a friend the week before.
As parents we are tasked with helping our kids articulate their convictions and establishing boundaries within which they can be challenged and affirmed. We teach them how to respectfully disagree with others and stand up for their own values. We teach them through our own behavior how to let some things slide but not others.
Teaching young children about three bishops from the 16th century who were burned at the stake might not feel like the most age appropriate lesson. Perhaps today’s commemoration is instead for adults. I definitely needed to read Portaro’s distinction between compromise, conformity, and the reconciliation of differences.
When do you invite compromise but in actuality crave conformity?
Which battles in parenting (or in life!) are worth waging?