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Saint John Fisher

Saint John Fisher
  • Century: 15th & 16th Century
  • Patronage: Diocese
  • Feast Day: June 22nd

St. John Fisher was a Bishop and Cardinal, and was from Yorkshire, England.  He was born in 1459 and was martyred in 1535.  He was educated in his hometown at the Collegiate Church, and later moved to Cambridge to receive his B.A.  He was elected and made Vicar of Northallerton, Yorkshire. Later he became chaplain and confessor to Margaret Beaufort, the Countess of Richmond and Derby, the Mother of King Henry VII.  He eventually received his Doctorate and became Vice-Chancellor or Cambridge University.   

Under Fisher’s guidance, the Lady Margaret founded St. John’s and Christ’s Colleges at Cambridge.  In 1504 Fisher was advanced to Bishop of Rochester, and in the same year was elected Chancellor of Cambridge University.  He was so popular; he was elected annually for ten years, and then appointed for life.  He also was a tutor to Prince Henry, who later became King Henry VIII, later ordering his death.  

When the question of Henry’s divorce from Queen Catherine arose, Fisher became the Queen’s chief supporter and most trusted counselor.  He appeared on the Queen’s behalf in the courts, where he stated with strong faith, “I am ready to die on behalf of the indissolubility of marriage”.  Henry VIII was so enraged by it that he himself composed a long Latin address to the courts in answer to the Bishop’s speech.  That copy still exists today for all to see.  

A year later three Bishops were arrested and imprisoned.  For 100,000 pounds they could purchase the King’s pardon, and state publicly that the King was the authority over the Pope in Rome.  Pope Paul III declared St. Fisher a Cardinal and sent the Cardinal’s Hat to England.  King Henry forbids the Cardinal’s Hat to be brought into England, rather declaring he would send St. Fisher’s head to Rome!  Once St. Fisher did not declare the King as supreme head of the Church, rather than Rome, he was charged with treason and was found guilty.  He was beheaded on Tower Hill, as a martyr for his faith.  He died with a calm dignified courage, which profoundly impressed all of those present.  His body was separated and mutilated.   Following the next day, St. Thomas More was beheaded for the same reason – a close friend of St. Fisher.   

Practical Take Away

Again we see another life of a saint who was a martyr for the faith that you and I so freely practice today.  Without the heroic defending of the faith of these great saints before us, we would not have our religious freedoms today.  St. Fisher was so solid in his conviction of the Catholic faith, that he was willing to be beheaded.  He stood for God anyway.  How many of us are willing to defend the church and stand with God for the faith that is so many times, tested today?  By calling on St. Fisher asking his intercession, we can draw from his the courage needed to defend our faith in these times.