St. John Fisher

santjoanSt. John Fisher, born at Beverly, Yorkshire, Englandin 1469, was the son of a draper. He was educated At Cambridge and thereafter was always connected with the life of the university. He was appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1504 and in the same year was elected Chancellor of Cambridge University, to which post he was elected annually for ten years and then appointed for life. When the question of the divorce of Henry VIII from Queen Catherine arose, Fisher became the queen’s chief supporter and most trusted counselor.

In this capacity he appeared on the queen’s behalf in the legate’s court, where he startled his hearers by the directness of his language and most of all by declaring that, like St. John the Baptist, he was ready to die on behalf of the indissolubility of marriage. He was arrested several times because of his opposition to the king and finally in 1534 was sent to the Tower of London for refusing to take the oath of supremacy. In May 1535 Pope Paul III created Fisher Cardinal Priest of Vitalis, his motive being apparently to induce Henry by this mark of esteem to treat the bishop less severely. The effect was precisely the reverse. Henry forbad the Cardinal’s hat to be brought into England, declaring he would send the head to Rome for it instead. In June a special commission for Fisher’s trial was issued, and on June 17 he was arraigned in Westminster Hall on a charge of treason, in that he denied the king to be the supreme head of the Church.

He was declared guilty and condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn, but the mode of execution was changed and instead he was beheaded on Tower Hill. The martyr’s last moments were thoroughly in keeping with his previous life. He met death with a calm dignified courage which profoundly impressed all present. His headless body was stripped and left on the scaffold till evening, when it was thrown naked into a grave in the churchyard of Allhallows, Barking. Thence it was removed a fortnight later and laid beside Sir Thomas More in the church of St. Peter ad Vincula by the Tower. His head was stuck upon a pole on London Bridge, but its ruddy and lifeless appearance excited so much attention that, after a fortnight,, it was thrown into the Thames, its place being taken by that of Sir Thomas More, whose martyrdom occurred a few weeks later, July 6. John Fisher died with Te Deum on his lips and was canonized 1935.

(Source: Fr. Butler’s Lives of the Saints)’);