Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More in 2022

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have posted the themes for the annual Religious Freedom Week. It was formerly a Fortnight for Freedom, from June 22 to July 4, but it's shorter now. It still begins with the memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More.

Here's what the USCCB posts about these martyrs this year:

Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher were Renaissance men. Talented and energetic, they contributed to the humanist scholarship of early modern England. More wrote theological and philosophical treatises, while making a career as a lawyer and government official. Bishop John Fisher worked as an administrator at Cambridge, confronted the challenge Martin Luther presented to Christian Europe, and most importantly served as Bishop of Rochester. As a bishop, he is notable for his dedication to preaching at a time when bishops tended to focus on politics. These men were brilliant. They both corresponded with Erasmus, who helped Bishop Fisher learn Greek and Hebrew, and who also famously referred to More as a man for all seasons.

Above all their accomplishments, these men bore witness to a deep faith in Christ and his Church. More considered joining religious life and was assiduous in his devotional practices. As a married man, he committed himself wholly to his vocation as a father. At the time, disciplinary practices with children tended to be severe, but More’s children testify to his warmth, patience, and generosity.

St. John Fisher was a model shepherd and demonstrated remarkable humility. He remained in the small Diocese of Rochester his entire episcopal ministry, devoting himself to his local church rather than seeking promotion to a larger, more powerful diocese. . . .

So far I have resisted this temptation: Cluny Media has issued handsome new paperback editions of E.E. Reynolds' biographies of these great martyr saints:

Laicorum hominum decus et ornamentum—“the glory and ornament of the laity”: thus did Pope Pius XI define St. Thomas More. In this accomplished study of “the king’s good servant, but God’s first,” E. E. Reynolds demonstrates the aptness of that epithet. Placing the primary emphasis on Thomas More’s religious significance, but without neglecting his political and literary legacy, Reynolds produces a richly detailed portrait of this husband and father, lawyer and statesman, and servant to and martyr for Jesus Christ and his Church. To assist in his interpretations and analyses, Reynolds gathers the many threads of previous scholarship on More by T. E. Bridgett, A. F. Pollard, and R. W. Chambers (to name but a few). Especially valuable is the generous provision throughout the book of primary-source material from More’s own works and correspondence, with the spellings modernized for comfortable reading.


Of John Fisher, Pope Pius XI said: “Whenever there was question of defending the integrity of faith and morals…he was not afraid to proclaim the truth openly, and to defend by every means in his power the divine teachings of the Church.” In this compleat biography, E. E. Reynolds provides a thorough account of Fisher’s life and works, detailing his youth and education and storied career—chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, grandmother of Henry VIII; proctor of the University of Cambridge at age twenty-five; ordination to the episcopacy at age thirty-five, to mention but a few; his profound piety and devotion to his pastoral duties; his spirited response to Luther and the Protestant revolt; and his staunch defense of Catherine of Aragon and refusal, even unto death, to submit to Henry VIII’s claims of supreme power.

If I see them in the near future on the shelves at Eighth Day Books, I may succumb to the temptation. I do have an older edition of Reynold's on Saint John Fisher, but a little Westie girl nimbled on it one time years ago. (Amanda must have known about what Francis Bacon said about books: “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”)

Saint John Fisher, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

No comments:

Post a Comment