John Fisher was born in England in 1469. After he was ordained a priest, the royal family appointed him tutor for Prince Henry, who became King Henry VIII. In 1504, Fisher became bishop of Rochester, and also chancellor of Cambridge University. Henry, then king, was proud to be his friend.
All this changed when King Henry wanted to divorce his wife and marry another woman. Henry’s request for a divorce was refused by the pope (because, in the eyes of the Church, marriage is permanent), and Bishop Fisher supported this decision. He was strong enough to resist signing the document siding with King Henry, even though all the other bishops of England had signed it. Six months later, King Henry had parliament wrte another document claiming that Henry was supreme head of the Catholic Church in England. Again, Bishop Fisher refused to sign. This made the king angry. The bishop was sentenced to prison in 1534 on the charge of high treason. Fisher was kept in prison for 14 months without a trial. In June of 1535, he was condemned to death by beheading.
Thomas More was born in 1477. Thomas was married and had four children. He was a shrewd lawyer and eventually became the chancellor of England, which is the highest-ranking judicial office in England. Thomas was a charming, witty man, who won the friendship of the king. That friendship changed when King Henry asked Thomas to approve of the divorce he wanted. When Thomas refused, the king became angry. Then when Thomas refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy, he was sent to prison. He was kept for more than a year in the Tower of London. The king tried hard to make him change his mind, but Thomas stood firm. He knew this stand would mean certain death for him and disgrace for his family, but he followed his conscience. Finally, after suffering for a long time, Thomas was led out to be beheaded on July 6.
The stories of John Fisher and Thomas More are a reminder of the importance of religious liberty and the importance of witnessing our faith in the public sphere. Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More teach us that this can only come about through Christians with courageous conscience, being faithful to truth, and having a proper understanding of the relationship between church and state.
· Share a time when you were in a big storm. Were you scared? Did you pray to God for help?
· What would it have been like to witness the wind and the sea obey Jesus’ command to be still?
· Why do you think Jesus asked the disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
What are the similarities between the stories of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More?