June 22: ST. JOHN FISHER & ST. THOMAS MORE
John Fisher was ordained priest in 1491. He held several teaching posts at the University of Cambridge, and at the same time was responsible for the spiritual direction of Queen Margaret, the mother of Henry VIII. He later occupied the Chair of Theology which the Queen had endowed at Cambridge. Early in 1504 he was named vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University and at the end of the year was consecrated Bishop of Rochester, the smallest and poorest diocese in England. Two days later he was appointed to office as a member of the King’s Council.
Thomas More studied Literature and Philosophy at Oxford and Law at New Inn. In 1504 he was elected member of Parliament and held several public offices. He earned great prestige because of his knowledge of the law and his integrity. Although his professional life was intensely time-consuming, he always found time for his family, which was his most important concern, and for his literary and historical studies. He published various books and essays. In 1529 he was appointed Lord Chancellor of England, in spite of having made it clear to the King that he could not agree with the dissolution of the King’s marriage. Taking a full interest in the problems of his day, he dedicated himself to his work with the desire of implementing the laws and institutions of his times with a Christian approach.
Both men were beheaded in 1535 for refusing to recognise the supremacy of Henry VIII over the Church in England and the annulment of the King’s marriage.
St. John Fisher and his friend St. Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of Marriage. They suffered martyrdom through beheading under King Henry VIII.
With good hope, I shall commit myself wholly to God
From a letter of St, Thomas More to his daughter, Margaret
Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind towards me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.
By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.
Iwill not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterwards I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.
And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.
And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.
O God, who in martyrdom have brought true faith to its highest expression, grant graciously that, strengthened through the intercession of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, we may confirm by the witness of our life the faith we profess with our lips, Through our Lord.
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