June 22nd was the Feast Day of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher. It was also the kickoff for Religious Freedom Week. You may not be aware of any of these events, but you should be.

Thomas More was born to an affluent business and professional English family in 1478. He was brilliant, was admitted to study at Oxford and went on to become a lawyer, writer and statesman. He served England in many ways and for these contributions he was knighted by King Henry VIII, who also made More his most trusted consultant. All this made More a very wealthy and influential man. He was friends with very powerful people throughout Europe including Pope Paul III.

But More was much more interested in the wellbeing of the Church in England, and of his country- which to him meant the people of England. One of his primary goals was to positively influence the King to help prevent Henry VIII from breaking with the Catholic Church. This caused More to become increasingly alienated from Henry and in increasingly greater danger. In a fictional work written while he was still held in good standing by the King and his court, More compares a courtier who enjoys a prince’s favor to someone playing with tamed lions and notes, “suddenly the fun becomes fatal”.

Henry demanded that More sign an oath in which he claimed to be the supreme head of the Church. You may recall that all this occurred when a sizable number of people quit Catholicism and formed what we now call Protestantism. The turbulent social atmosphere was international. Nevertheless, More continued defending Catholic orthodoxy with steadfast intent, and devotion to the One True King.

John Cardinal Fisher was a consummate shepherd whose service to his small diocese was especially marked by his humility and dedication to his local church. Not inclined to seek greater influence or power, he was an unassuming servant- but with the heart of a true lion. He also refused the demand of King Henry to be accepted as the supreme head of the Church in England, and rebuked Henry’s claim to sovereign power over English Christians.

They were convicted of treason, jailed and eventually beheaded. They are both now saints of the Church.

When faced with difficulty, the Prophet Jeremiah said, “… the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion- my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” In tough times, the Psalmist declared, “For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face. I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s children. Because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.”

Jesus said, “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.”

Saint Paul reminds us of, “how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” God is good. You belong to Him. He is with you. That is all we need.

 

Deacon Greg Osgood