St. Thomas More was an extraordinary Catholic politician, a great humanist, and Chancellor of England, who was respected for his integrity and his unflinching moral character. In a world where taking bribes was commonplace, Thomas More was known as a man who could not be bought. He shows us how to rise in power without compromising our Faith (even though he died a martyr’s death in opposition to the king’s new religion).
St. John Fisher was an extraordinary Catholic cleric. His was one of the greatest minds of the Church in his day, though he was ambitious not for his own advancement in ecclesial benefits, but for the Gospel and for learning. In a world where popes, cardinals, bishops, lords, and kings all had mistresses and vied for political power, St. John Fisher remained a great example of priestly chastity and continence. When his contemporaries caved into the trends and tyrants of their day, it was St. John Fisher who was left to defend the universal nature of the Catholic Church and defend the holy Sacrament of Marriage.
These two great churchmen share the same feast day, June 22nd, and they were both executed in 1535 at the whim of the debauched King Henry VIII, while the saintly and discarded Queen Catherine of Aragon prayed for their souls.
The lesson that Thomas More and John Fisher give us is a sobering one, and that is that most of the bishops and statesmen in their day who should have said and done something to defend the Faith, failed to do so. We live in similar times, and we should all begin to invoke the prayers of these two great men to help give us the courage to take a stand and defend our Faith when our religious liberty is more and more under siege by our governments imposing their own immoral and amoral visions of marriage and family upon our world.
In the Narthex of our church, etchings of these two men are framed and hang on the wall to the right of our Greeter’s Desk. They are there to remind us that we are called to be extraordinary Catholics who will not compromise ourselves to the trends of the day, and who will remain steadfast with clarity of mind amidst this present darkness. As our governments move forward with their draconian impositions upon our consciences as faithful Catholics, with whom shall we stand in the end? Will we stand on the side of the angels, or will we go with the flow? The more you learn about St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, the more you will be challenged to live the lives of the saints.
Two texts written by these two great saints are below. Now, more than perhaps at any other time, we need to pray, friends. St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, pray for us!
A Prayer for Holy Bishops
Lord, according to Thy promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost. So, good Lord, do now in like manner with Thy Church militant, change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in the Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labors – watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat – which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church. Amen. This prayer was part of a sermon that Bishop Fisher preached in 1508, twenty-seven years before he was executed for treason because he refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the Church in England.
A Prayer from the Tower
Give me the grace, Good Lord to set the world at naught. To set the 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. Amen. This prayer was written by Saint Thomas More while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London awaiting his own martyrdom by King Henry VIII.