Monday, June 22, 2015

Saints for All Seasons

Today, June 22, the Church celebrates the feast day of two English men martyred for their faith in the 1500's. I have seen the film, A Man for All Seasons, many times. Paul Scofield did a masterful job in his portrayal of Sir Thomas More, married man, lawyer, father, faithful Catholic and Lord Chancellor of England, and eventually martyr for the faith. He was a friend of King Henry VIII until Henry decided to marry Anne Boleyn as a replacement for his first wife. Thomas More resigned his post and suffered material losses as fines and other expenses piled up. More was a writer and a philosopher, friend of Erasmus and many others in Europe. His book Utopia was a "best seller" in his own time. Thomas More loved his wife and children. He could have saved his life by feigning adherence to Henry's call to be recognized as head of the Church in England. More in conscience could not give in to the King. Eventually Thomas More was beheaded for disobeying the King's command. St. Thomas More left an example of honesty, fidelity to truth and to family, and a great love for God and neighbor.
St. John Fisher died a few days before Sir Thomas More. Of all the Catholic bishops in England, Fisher stood alone as one who would not condone Henry's repudiation of his first wife for the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. (After three years as King Henry's consort, she was executed.) Fisher was made Bishop after a distinguished tenure in Cambridge. He was known for his skill as a great preacher and theologian. He was put to death on this date in 1535 for refusing to give in to King Henry VIII's demand that Fisher recognize the King to be Head of the Church in England.
In our times we see hundreds, if not thousands, being executed or hounded because they will not give in to a violent form of Islam. In North America, we hope not to see a persecution that includes capitol punishment. However we would do well to pray to the Holy Spirit for all judges and law makers, and all those in executive positions in government. We pray that they may have the courage of Saint Sir Thomas and Saint Bishop Fisher. Courage or fortitude is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. We pray for our politicians that they will remain strong, even when they are challenged by those who paint everything in the moral law as "a threat to freedom." As we begin the long haul to voting day 2016, may we Americans pray for the intercession of these two Saints. Both of them held public and very responsible positions. They were not afraid to speak truth to power. Their sufferings were real, but are now gone. What remains is their good example, their words and example to help each of us to live in humility and truth. Saints Thomas More and John Fisher pray for all of us English-speaking Christians.

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