Main Altar – John Fisher

John Fisher (October 19, 1469 – June 22, 1535) was an English Catholic bishop, cardinal and martyr. He shares his feast day with Saint Thomas More on June 22 in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints and July 6 on the Anglican calendar of saints. Fisher was executed by order of King Henry VIII during the English Reformation for refusing to accept him as head of the Church of England. He is the only member of the College of Cardinals to have suffered martyrdom. John Fisher was born in Beverley, Yorkshire, England; he was one of four children. Fisher’s early education was probably received in the school attached to the collegiate church in his hometown. At the end of July 1516, he was at Cambridge for the opening of St. John’s College and consecrated the chapel. Fisher attracted to Cambridge leading scholars from Europe, promoting the study of ancient gentile Latin and Greek authors and the study of Hebrew. He was in his heart and soul a priest, and he placed great weight on pastoral commitment–above all, popular preaching. He had a wide and deep vision to which he dedicated all his personal resources and energies. A scholar and a priest, harsh with himself, humble and conscientious, he managed, despite occasional opposition, to administer a whole university. By Papal Bull dated October 14, 1504, John Fisher was appointed Bishop of Rochester at the personal insistence of the King Henry VII. Despite his fame and eloquence, it was not long before Fisher was in conflict with the new king, Henry VIII, who had once been Fisher’s pupil. When the question of Henry’s divorce from Queen Catherine of Aragon arose, Fisher became the queen’s chief supporter and most trusted counselor. In May 1532, Sir Thomas More resigned the chancellorship, and in June, Fisher preached publicly against the divorce. In January 1533, Henry secretly went through a form of marriage with Anne Boleyn and within two years, John Fisher was arraigned in Westminster Hall; the charge was treason, in that he denied that the king was the supreme head of the Church of England, and Fisher was executed on Tower Hill in 1535. He was later canonized 400 years later, on May 19, 1935, by Pope Pius XI along with Thomas More, after the presentation of a petition by English Catholics.

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