“… many stood for Christ against the State, and they were felled for it – martyred for Faith in Jesus Christ and for clinging to the Truth he taught – Truth handed on faithfully from generation to generation by Christ’s holy Church. But of the hundreds who were martyred for the Catholic Faith from 1535 onwards, two are especially eminent, and they were the first to be canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1935. St John Fisher was the saintly Bishop of Rochester, Chancellor of Cambridge University, Tutor to Henry VIII, Confessor to Lady Margaret, mother of Henry VII. Erasmus considered him to be “incomparable for uprightness of life, for learning and for greatness of soul.” In short, he was an luminary of the Church. St Thomas More was a luminary of the State. He was Lord High Chancellor of England, a noted Humanist philosopher and lawyer, and a Scholar.
The combination of these two Saints reminds us that neither spiritual nor temporal lords could stand against the State and the will of the Crown. Nevertheless, both men remained steadfast in upholding the Truth of the Gospel, particularly concerning the indissolubility of Christian marriage. For their fidelity to Christ’s Word, they were executed in 1535, St John Fisher on this day (22 June), and St Thomas More on 6 July.
In our own time, the teaching of Christ on the permanence of Christian marriage, and thus the refusal to accept divorce, is largely seen as irrelevant or outdated. And, it appears, that some, even within the Catholic Church, regard this stance to be “rigid” and lacking in “mercy”. And yet, today’s Saints clung to the perennial teaching of Christ, and they were willing to die for this Truth. They died not simply as ‘conscientious objectors’ but, more fundamentally, as witnesses to the Truth of the Gospel. Truth is everlasting and it is not changed to suit us, but rather, we must conform to the Truth, above all, to the Person of Jesus Christ and to his teachings. Today’s Martyrs taught this with their lives.
Fr Lawrence Lew, OP
excerpt, homily for the feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, 2017