Faith above Authority: SS John Fisher & Thomas More, Martyrs
July 9th is the traditional feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More and a First Class Feast in all the dioceses of England and Wales.
Among the christian heroes who fought resolutely against heresy and laid down their lives rather than adhere to the schism in England, a place of honour is due to cardinal John Fisher and the chancellor Thomas More.
John Fisher, born at Beverley in 1469, chancellor of the academy of Cambridge, later for 33 years the bishop of Rochester, refuted Protestant errors in many learned works.
Both were imprisoned in the Tower of London by order of the king because they were opposed to his illegitimate union with Anne Boleyn and because they refused him the usurped title of supreme head of the Church of England in matters spiritual as well as temporal.
John Fisher, created cardinal by Pope Paul III, ascended the scaffold on June 22nd 1535, and was beheaded after reading this sentence of the Gospel: “This is eternal life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3; Alleluia at Mass)
Thomas More was beheaded in his turn on July 6th, 1535, for having resisted, after the great example of the great doctor of the law Eleazar (Mach. 6:18-28, Epistle at Mass) all solicitations on the part of his own family which he deemed contrary to his conscience and to the rights of God, of Christ and the Church (see also John 10:23-28, Gospel at Mass).
Pius XI solemnly canonised these two saints on March 19th, 1935.
O God, who didst raise up Thy blessed martyrs, John and Thomas, from among the English to be the defenders of the true faith and of the primacy of the holy Roman Church, grant that through their merits and prayers, we may all become and remain one by the profession of the same faith. (Collect at Mass)
Words from Saint Andrew Missal.
Picture from Wikimedia.
Bishop John Fisher was created Cardinal by Pope Paul III in May 1535 apparently also in an attempt to influence Henry VIII to be lenient. It had the opposite effect. Instead of letting the Cardinal's hat into England for John Fisher to wear, Henry VIII is reputed to have said he would send the head to Rome. These facts mean that it is perfectly just for statues and imagery of St. John Fisher to be depicted with him as Cardinal even though he was never attired as such.