Saint Thomas More (1478-1535) and Saint John Fisher (1469-1535), English martyrs for the faith. Both men, despite certain punishment, vocally opposed the claims of King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. For their steadfast proclamation of the truth, they were imprisoned, tried, and martyred.
Saint Thomas More was born in London, the son of a judge. At a young age, Thomas was placed in the home of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who, noting the boy’s cheerful disposition and scholastic aptitude, arranged for him to attend Oxford. A serious student, and with few financial means, Thomas applied himself and avoided "vain or hurtful amusements" to the detriment of his studies. He quickly demonstrated considerable academic skills, mastering both Greek and Latin, becoming expert in French, mathematics, and history, and learning to play both the flute and viola. His gifts quickly attracted attention, and he was admitted to law school, becoming a barrister several years later.
He seems born and framed for friendship, and is a most faithful and enduring friend. He is easy of access to all; but if he chances to get familiar with one whose vices admit no correction, he manages to loosen and let go the intimacy rather than to break it off suddenly. When he finds any sincere and according to his heart, he so delights in their society and conversation as to place in it the principal charm of life… Though he is rather too negligent of his own interests, no one is more diligent in those of his friends. In a word, if you want a perfect model of friendship, you will find it in no one better than in More. In society he is so polite, so sweet-mannered, that no one is of so melancholy a disposition as not to be cheered by him, and there is no misfortune that he does not alleviate. Since his boyhood he has so delighted in merriment, that it seems to be part of his nature; yet he does not carry it to buffoonery, nor did he ever like biting pleasantries.”
Meanwhile he applied his whole mind to exercises of piety, looking to and pondering on the priesthood in vigils, fasts and prayers and similar austerities. In which matter he proved himself far more prudent than most candidates who thrust themselves rashly into that arduous profession without any previous trial of their powers. The one thing that prevented him from giving himself to that kind of life was that he could not shake off the desire of the married state. He chose, therefore, to be a chaste husband rather than an impure priest.”
“Good Master Kingston, trouble not yourself but be of good cheer; for I will pray for you, and my good Lady your wife, that we may meet in heaven together, where we shall be merry forever and ever." His last words, prior to the axe falling were: "I die - the King's good servant but God's first."
Saint Thomas’ body was buried the Church of Saint Peter. His parboiled head was placed on display on the Tower Bridge for one month prior to the local faithful rescuing it. During his lifetime, Saint Thomas wrote extensively—poems, fiction, scholarly works, legal reviews, translations, contemplations of scripture, and prayers. Below is one such prayer:
Give me the grace, Good Lord
To set the world at naught. To set my mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men’s mouths.
To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.
Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.
Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.
To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.
Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.
To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.
To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.
To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.
Saint John Fisher was born in Beverly, Yorkshire. He studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving several degrees, and eventually decided to enter seminary. Upon ordination as a priest, he was assigned to Northallerton, England, where he established a reputation as an extraordinary preacher and scholar. Appointed proctor of Cambridge University, he created scholarships, introduced Greek and Hebrew into the curriculum, and brought in the world-famous Erasmus as professor of Divinity and Greek. It was likely Saint John who introduced Erasmus to Saint Thomas More, beginning their lifelong friendship. In 1504, Saint John became was elected Bishop of Rochester and Chancellor of Cambridge, in which capacity he also tutored Prince Henry who was to become Henry VIII.
“Methinks it had been rather our parts to stick together in repressing these violent and unlawful intrusions and injuries daily 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.”
“Now this is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. I have glorified Thee on earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. And now glorify Thou me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which, before the world was, was with Thee” (John 17:3-5). He closed the Bible and said, "There is enough learning in that to last me the rest of my life." And with that, he was led to the scaffold.
Weak and emaciated, Saint John Fisher found the strength to address the crowd gathered before the scaffold. He is said to have proclaimed in a loud voice:
"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.
Wherefore 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."
With those words, having been offered a stay of execution multiple times should he relent his position, Saint John Fisher was beheaded. His head was placed on display on the Tower Bridge, but after two weeks during which time no decomposition was noted, the head was tossed into the Thames to deter those who had begun speaking of miracles. The spot his head had been placed was quickly filled with that of Saint Thomas Moore, martyred just nine days later. Saint John’s relics remain in the Church of Saint Peter at the Tower of London.
you confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Inspired by the origins and spiritual history of the Holy Rosary, we continue our meditation on the psalms, one each day, in order, for 150 days
Today’s Psalm: Psalm 58: Against Unjust Judges
1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge uprightly among men?
2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.
4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
however skillful the enchanter may be.
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted.
8 Like a slug melting away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child, may they not see the sun.
9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—
whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then men will say,
"Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth."
Day 173 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Knowledge and conviction of our faith; For those wrongly imprisoned. For all those who are wrongly put to death.
Requested Intentions: For all lost children (I); Prosperity, health, healing, and conversion for a family (M); Health and healing of a mother (A); Healing of heart and mind (T); Healing of a new relationship before marriage (K); Healing of a relationship (T); Eternal rest for the dearly departed, end to financial struggles, successful sale of home, ability to travel on pilgrimage (L); For healing of a stomach illness (L); For the repose of the soul of a sister (C); Vocational security for family, Financial security for daughter beginning college (M); Vocational guidance, courage and strength (I); Health for an ailing nephew (A); Those suffering from depression (J); Successful adoption (S); Healing of a father battling cancer (S).
Psalm: Psalm 58: Against Unjust Judges
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."