To go deep into history…

Thomas More

CofECardinal Newman famously said that “…to go deep into history is to cease to be Protestant”. I couldn’t help but think of this quotation when a friend of mine sent me a screenshot of the Church of England Twitter account, remembering the “Reformation Martyrs” St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. While I can appreciate the ecumenical good-will which no doubt motivated the tweet, the history of these two men renders this tweet exceptionally odd.

Both Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher were Catholics who were executed by King Henry VIII. They were killed because they opposed the King’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon, his marriage to Anne Boleyn and the break from Rome which this remarriage necessitated. It is therefore more than a little strange for the Church of England to hold in high regard two men who shed their blood in opposing the creation of their own institution!

On a personal note, when I lived in London, the gym which I attended was very close to the location of their execution on Tower Hill, so I would quite often pray the Divine Office on that martyrdom site.

It has been said that shortly before Bishop Fisher’s execution, he opened St. John’s Gospel and read the following:

“Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. I have given You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do. Do You now, Father, give me glory at Your side”

– John 17:3-5

After closing the book, the good bishop commented “There is enough learning in that to last me the rest of my life”.  St. More and St. Fisher, pray for us.


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