St. John Fisher was born in Beverly, Yourkshine, in 1459, and educated at Cambridge, from which he received his Master of Arts degree in 1491. He occupied the vicarage of Northallerton, 1491-1494; then he became proctor of Cambridge University. In 1497, he was appointed confessor to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, and became closely associated in her endowments to Cambridge. He created scholarships, introduced Greek and Hebrew into the curriculum, and brought in the world- famous Erasmus as Professor of Divinity and Greek.
In 1504, St. John became Bishop of Rochester and Chancellor of Cambridge, in which capacity he also tutored Prince Henry who was to become Henry VIII. St. John was dedicated to the welfare of his diocese and his university. From 1527, this humble servant of God actively opposed the King’s divorce proceeding against Catharine, his wife in the sight of God, and steadfastly resisted the encroachment of Henry on the Church. Unlike the other Bishops of the realm, St. John refused to take the oath of succession, which acknowledged the issue of Henry and Anne as the legitimate heir to the throne, and he was imprisoned in the Tower in April 1534. The next year he was made a Cardinal by Paul III, and Henry retaliated by having him beheaded within a month.
A half-hour before execution, this dedicated scholar and churchman opened his New Testament for the last time and his eyes fell on the following words St. John’s Gospel: “Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. I have given You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do. Do You now, Father, give Me glory at Your side” (17:3-5). Closing the book, he observed: “There is enough learning in that to last me the rest of my life.” He was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.
Patron of Lawyers
St. Thomas More was born at London in 1478. After a thorough grounding in religion and the classics, he entered Oxford to study law. Upon leaving the university he embarked on a legal career that he took him Parliament. In 1505, he married his beloved Jane Colt who bore him four children, and when she died at a young age he married a widow, Alice Middleton, to be a mother for his young children. A wit and a reformer, this learned man numbered Bishops and scholars among his friends, and by 1516 wrote his world-famous book Utopia.
Henry VIII appointed Thomas to a succession of high posts, and finally made him Lord Chancellor in 1529. However, he resigned in 1532, at the height of his career and reputation, when Henry persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope.
The rest of Thomas’s life was spent in writing mostly in defense of the Church. In 1534, with his close friend, St. John Fisher, he refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined. Fifteen months later, and nine days after St. John Fisher’s execution, he was tried and convicted of treason. He told court that he could no go against his conscience and wished his judges that “we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all met together to everlasting salvation.” And on the scaffold he told the crowd of spectators that he was dying as “the King’s good servant—but God’s first.” He was beheaded on July 6, 1535, and canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.
PRAYER: God, You consummated the form of the true faith in martyrdom. Through the intercession of Sts. John and Thomas, grant that we may confirm by the testimony of our lives that faith which we profess with our tongues. Amen.