9th July: Feast of SS John Fisher & Thomas More – Pray for the Church!editor
Martyrdom of St John Fisher (Bishop)
From the YouTube platform…
These were his actual last words:
“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 desire you all to help and assist 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 a good council.” St. John Fisher, great and holy Matryr, pray for us! Click here to read a slightly fuller account of the execution…
Sentencing of St Thomas More (Lawyer/Chancellor of England)
From the YouTube platform…
The scene from “A Man for All Seasons” (Fred Zimmermann, 1966) in which Sir Thomas More is finally convicted of high treason and sentenced to death for refusing to swear an oath that King Henry VIII is the supreme head of the Church in England and that Anne Boleyn is now Queen of England.
[Editor: note that Henry VIII did not intend to establish a new Church. He wanted to be recognised as head of the Church in England, not “of” England.]
I love this scene because More’s statement is a perfect summary of the Medieval mindset, which is so foreign to modern viewers but amazing in its completeness, complexity, and other-ness: a self-consistent worldview that is completely foreign from our modern, scientific, post-Enlightenment cosmology.
It is also a compelling story to see More’s sacrifices for that belief. In a sense, the movie can be read as a story of the conflict between the Medieval and Modern worldview, with More personifying the former and Cromwell and Rich the latter. Vestiges of that battle continue even today.
Here’s the transcript of More’s statement:
MORE: Since the court has determined to condemn me, God knoweth how, I will now discharge my mind concerning the indictment and the King’s title.
The indictment is granted in an act of Parliament, which is directly repugnant to the law of God and his Holy Church, the supreme government of which no temporal person may *by any law* presume to take upon him!
This was granted by the mouth of our Savior, Christ Himself, to Saint Peter and the Bishops of Rome *whilst he lived* and was *personally present* here on Earth!
It is therefore insufficient in law to charge any Christian to obey it. And more to this: the immunity of the Church is promised both in Magna Carta and in the King’s own coronation oath!
CROMWELL: Now, we plainly see you *are* malicious!
MORE: Not so! I am the King’s true subject, and I pray for him and all the realm. I do none harm. I say none harm. I think none harm. If this be not enough to keep a man alive, then in good faith, I long not to live.
Nevertheless! It is not for the Supremacy that you have sought my blood, but because I would not bend to the marriage! Ends.
We need martyrs of the calibre of Bishop John Fisher and St Thomas More at this point in history, with the Church afflicted by bad priests and prelates who are causing immense scandal, in order to show the Faith in its fullness to a disbelieving world. Only today, in an email exchange, a non-Catholic friend for whom I pray the grace of the Catholic religion, remarked that neither this Pope nor our Scottish bishops give him any cause to consider embracing Catholicism. I had to reply that, of course, I “get it.”
Invoking these two great Reformation martyrs, then, let us pray for all those who are scandalised and prevented from coming to the fullness of the Faith by those responsible for this unprecedented Church crisis. St John Fisher, pray for us… St Thomas More, pray for us…