Monday, November 21, 2011

St John Fisher Bishop and martyr

John was born in Yorkshire, England.  He went to Cambridge University and was ordained priest at 22years of age.  In 1502 he became chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry V11.
Under John's guidence Lady Margaret became a great benefactress for Cambridge.  Together they reformed and re-endowed Cambridge University.  When John first went to Cambridge its scholarship had sunk to a low ebb; no Greek or Hebrew was taught, and the library had been reduced to 300 volumes.  He endowed scholarships, he re-introduced Greek and Hebrew into the curriculum, and he brought Erasmus over to teach and to lecture.
In 1504 he was elected chancellor of the university - a post he held until his death.  In the same year[1504] King Henry V11 nominated him to the bishopric of Rochester, he was only 35.  He carried out his pastoral duties with zeal.  He held visitations, visited the sick, the poor, distributed alms himself.  He lived very simply with very plain food, allowing himself only 4 hours sleep at night.

John lost the King's favour [Henry V111] when he opposed his marriage to Anne Boleyn.  John was now in danger, and warnings of friends and threats of his enemies, were not needed to bring home to him the risks he now ran by his opposition to the ruling powers.  He was arrested and put in the Tower in April 1534. John's physical health was now very poor, but his ill health did not affect his heroic courage. The next year he was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul 111 and King Henry retaliated by having John Fisher beheaded within a month.

John was beheaded on 22nd June 1535.  On the scaffold John declared he was dying for the faith of Christ's holy Catholic Church, and he asked the people to pray that he might be steadfast to the end.
Of all the English bishops, only John Fisher of Rochester publicly opposed Henry V111's mandatory Oath of Allegience, which unlawfully declared King Henry the head of the Church of England.  The bishop's stand ultimately cost John his life.
John was beatified by Pope Leo X111 in 1886, and he was canonized by Pope Pius X1 in 1935.

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