Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Feast of St. John Fisher - The Meaning of Faith and Courage

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Where are now the kings and princes that once reigned over all the world, whose
glory and triumph were lifted up above the earth? Where are now the innumerable
company and power of Xerxes and Caesar? Where are the great victories of
Alexander and Pompey? Where are now the great riches of Croesus and Crassus? But
what shall we say of those who once were kings and governors of this realm?
Where are they now whom we have known and seen in our days in such great wealth
and glory that it was thought by many they would never have died, never have
been forgotten? They had all their pleasures at the full, both of delicious and
good fare, of hawking, hunting, also of excellent horses and stallions,
greyhounds and hounds for their entertainment, their palaces well and richly
furnished, strongholds and towns without number. They had a great plenty of gold
and silver, many servants, fine apparel for themselves and their lodgings. They
had the power of the law to proscribe, to punish, to exalt and set forward their
friends and loved ones, to put down and make low their enemies, and also to
punish by temporal death rebels and traitors. Every man held with them, all were
at their command. Every man was obedient to them, feared them, also honored and
praised them, everywhere now? Are they not gone and wasted like smoke? Of them
it is written in another place, mox ut honorificati fuerint et exaltati, dificientes quemadmodum fumus 
deficient (when they were in their utmost prosperity and fame, they soon
failed and came to nothing, even as smoke does) (Ps. 36:2). St. James compares
the vanity of this life to a vapor, and he says it shall perish and wither away
as a flower in the hay season. (James 4:15). St. John Fisher  Bishop of Rochester, and martyr; born at Beverley, Yorkshire, England, 1459 (?1469); died 22 June, 1535.

St. Thomas More and Cardinal/Bishop John Fisher were both executed by lusty King Henry VIII of England. They were called traitors to the Crown, because they refused to go along with the King and agree that his divorce of Catherine and marriage to Anne Boleyn was justified and morally correct.

Henry was in love with Anne and the heart wants what the heart wants and being King allows the heart of the King to have his heart's desire, lust and inclination.  Henry VIII was first monarch of Europe to get on the right side of history.  The Paul Simon Institute would have presented polling figures to show that King Hal was right and that his divorce just could not wait - he had evolved.

Had there been a Chick-fil-Ay in Yorkshire the owners heads would be on a spike.  Anyone who refused to bake the newly legislated Royal Couple a cake would never worry about losing his hat - ever again.

Bishop John Fisher and Thomas More stood for traditional marriage and were on the wrong side of history - even their brother clerics went along. They were Catholics for Choice in marriage.

St. John Fisher went to the chopping block before Thomas More and set the great Humanist a tough example to follow.  The Man for All Seasons gets better press and media coverage than St. John Fisher, because Thomas More had secular friends and Europe loved his satirical treatise Utopia.

However, it seems to me that the Bishop of Rochester who alone made public his support for the cast-off Queen Catherine of Aragon and argued her case before all of the Bishops of England, took the much more perilous path to scaffold.  More kept silent.

Today, we feast a hero.  The core truth meant something and St. John Fisher, like Cardinal George in our times, was willing to stick to truth and accept the ridicule, mistreatment and derision of the public.

That is courage.
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Happy Feast Day to my neighbors of St. John Fisher Parish!
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