Today is the feast day of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. On this day in 1535, Bishop John Fisher was beheaded by order of King Henry VIII.
The newly elected Pope Paul III had named Fisher a cardinal exactly one month earlier. The move infuriated the king, who vowed that Fisher would never receive the red hat in England. He would send Fisher’s head to Rome instead.
The parallels with St John the Baptist are self-evident. Fisher was deliberately killed before the nativity of St John the Baptist on 24 June. But it so happens that 22 June — Fisher’s anniversary (and subsequent feast day) — is the feast day of St Alban, Britain’s proto-martyr!
Although cardinals are dressed in red to demonstrate their willingness to shed their blood for Christ, St John Fisher is one of very few cardinals martyr. I believe the ninth Archbishop of Sydney is his descendent. It would be fortuitous indeed, if Archbishop Fisher one day joins the college of cardinals — hopefully without sharing his ancestor’s heroic but regrettable fate!
Sir Thomas More was executed two weeks after Cardinal Fisher. More needs no introduction to readers of this blog. He is one of my dearest patron saints. I have an oil on canvas portrait of him in my lounge room:
Tonight, to celebrate this great feast, I’m going to do watch a movie. That might not sound very exciting, but I really love movies, and the only time I watch them is on long flights. But I’m not watching just any old movie either. I recently offered Mass at Melbourne’s Fatima Centre, and I found in that book shop something very rare: a copy of Charlton Heston’s A Man For All Seasons.
I bought the DVD on the spot. I thought it was the find of the century at the time. I’ve been looking out for this movie for many years, and I’ve never located it. But a quick Google search tells me that it is available for free on YouTube. Uploaded last week.
At 2 and a half hours, this is a major time investment, but something worth considering:
As much as I look forward to finally watching Heston’s 1988 adaption, I suspect it cannot rival Zimmerman’s 1966 film. That movie is high in my top ten movies of all time. It is Fr Victor Feltes’s number one favourite, and he has created this short homage to it. “Neat things you never knew about Frank Zimmerman’s A Man For All Season.”
St John Fisher, pray for us.
St Thomas More, pray for us.
Happy feast day!