Saint John Fisher (1535)

Saint John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester in England, and Chancellor of the University of Cambridge at the time when the adulterous Henry VIII was seceding from the Catholic Church and founding a religion of his own, was the most notable Catholic bishop who opposed him. Saint John Fisher was a brave supporter of the Catholic queen, Catherine of Aragon. He refused to take an oath of supremacy to the heretical Henry VIII. He was seized and thrown into the Tower of London. While there, the Holy Father, Pope Paul III, made him a cardinal. Henry VIII, when he heard this, in furious anger swore that Cardinal Fisher would not have a head on which to put the red hat that the Pope would give him. Saint John Fisher was beheaded. Anne Boleyn, the illegitimate wife of Henry VIII, whom he later murdered, asked for the head of Saint John Fisher, and, like Herodias with the head of Saint John the Baptist, struck it with her hand. One of his teeth made a wound in her hand, which never healed.

There were, from 1535 to 1681, only six hundred candidates for heroic sanctity among all the English Catholic people. Fifty-four of these were beatified by Pope Leo XIII, on December 29, 1886, and nine others on May 13, 1895. One hundred and thirty-four more were beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929. Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher were both canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 19, 1935. Forty martyrs of England and Wales were canonized by Pope Paul Vl in 1970. The fewness of the English martyrs shows us that Henry VIII did not completely lose the Faith for England. The English people lost it for themselves.

 Bishop John Fisher. Francesco Bartolozzi after Hans Holbein. The Stapleton Collection (source)

Bishop John Fisher, by Francesco Bartolozzi after Hans Holbein.
The Stapleton Collection (source)