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Saint John Fisher, Bishop & Martyr
Optional Memorial with Saint Thomas More, Martyr
Drawing (conté crayon) by Helen Hull Hitchcock
John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester
Born at Beverly, 1469 - martyred June 22, 1535, Tower of London
Canonized (with Saint Thomas More) 1935
Saint John Fisher studied theology in Cambridge, England and became Bishop of Rochester. His friend Saint Thomas More wrote of him, "I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning, and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him."
Saint John Fisher and his friend Saint Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of marriage.
Source: Daily Roman Missal, Edited by the Rev. James Socías, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, Illinois ©2003
Born at Beverly, 1469 + June 22, 1535, Tower of London
Reply to Bishops Stokesley, Gardiner and Tunstal, sent to the Tower by Thomas Cromwell to persuade Fisher to submit to the King:
Methinks it had been rather our parts to stick together in repressing these violent and unlawful intrusions and injuries dayly offered to our common mother, the holy Church of Christ, than by any manner of persuasions to help or set forward the same.
And we ought rather to seek by all means the temporal destruction of the so ravenous wolves, that daily go about worrying and devouring everlastingly, the flock that Christ committed to our charge, and the flock that Himself died for, than to suffer them thus to range abroad.
But (alas) seeing we do it not, you see in what peril the Christian state now standeth: We are besieged on all sides, and can hardly escape the danger of our enemy. And seeing that judgment is begone at the house of God, what hope is there left (if we fall) that the rest shall stand!
The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it. And therefore seeing the matter is thus begun, and so faintly resisted on our parts, I fear that we be not the men that shall see the end of the misery.
Wherefore, seeing I am an old man and look not long to live, I mind not by the help of God to trouble my conscience in pleasing the king this way whatsoever become of me, but rather here to spend out the remnant of my old days in praying to God for him.
On the scaffold he said to the people assembled:
Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ's Holy Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death.
Wheefore I do desire you all to help and assist me with your prayers, that at the very point and instant of death's stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the Catholic faith free from any fear; and I beseech Almighty God of His infinite goodness to save the king and this Realm, and that it may please Him to hold His holy hand over it, and send the king good Counsel.
He then knelt, said the Te Deum, In te domine speravi, and submitted to the axe.
Of all the English bishops, only Bishop John Fisher of Rochester publicly opposed Henry VIII's mandatory Oath of Allegience, which unlawfully declared King Henry the head of the Church of England. The bishop's stand ultimately cost him his life. May his example inspire all Catholics today, especially the bishops on whose courageous leadership the Church depends.
O God, who in martyrdom
have brought true faith to its highest expression,
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 Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
First Reading: I Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:34-39
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
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