Tag Archives: England

Saint John Fisher (1469-1535)

Feast Day: June 22
Canonization: 1935

St. John Fisher

The English bishop and martyr was born in Beverly, Yorkshire in 1469. A renowned scholar, John Fisher associated with leading intellectuals and political leaders. Appointed bishop at 35, he raised the preaching standard throughout England.

In 1504, he became bishop of Rochester and chancellor of Cambridge, and tutored young Prince Henry, who would become King Henry VIII.

From 1527 until death, Fisher was a lone voice among English bishops in opposing Henry’s divorce proceedings against first wife Catherine of Aragon, thus defending the sanctity of marriage. Henry imprisoned Fisher and St. Thomas More, the former lord high chancellor, in 1534 after both refused an oath presuming the validity of Henry’s divorce and his claim as head of the English Church. In 1535, Pope Paul III elevated Fisher to cardinal, angering Henry who convicted Fisher of high treason and sentenced him to death by beheading on June 22, 1535. More was executed two weeks later. Pope Pius XI canonized St. John Fisher on May 19, 1935.

Saint Dunstan (909-988)

Feast Day: May 19
Canonization: 1029

One of the most famous English saints before Thomas Becket, Dunstan, abbot of Glastonbury Abbey who later became the archbishop of Canterbury, was born in the 10th century in Baltonsborough, Somerset. As a young boy, he studied under Irish monks who occupied the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. After spending time in the court of King Athelstan, Dunstan took Holy Orders in 943, and lived as a hermit at Glastonbury. He was appointed abbot under the reign of King Edmund, but was later exiled to Flanders for a year after rebuking King Edwy for sexual immorality.

During the reign of King Edgar the Peaceful, Dunstan became the king’s chief advisor, and was subsequently made bishop of Worcester in 957 and archbishop of Canterbury in 961. Pope John XII also appointed Dunstan as papal legate to England.

Dunstan helped restore monastic life and reform the Church. He died on May 19, 988, was buried at Canterbury, and canonized in 1029. He’s patron saint of English goldsmiths and silversmiths. His feast is May 19.

Edmund Campion (1540-1581)

Edmund Campion died a martyr and hero to English Catholics under Queen Elizabeth . . .

Edmund Campion

Edmund Campion

Feast Day: December 1
Canonized: October 25, 1970

Though raised Catholic, Edmund Campion took the Oath of Supremacy recognizing Queen Elizabeth as head of the Church in England. Elizabeth adored him, and his charm and scholarship attracted the attention of the leading men of England. But his increasing doubts about Protestantism excruciated his conscience. Leaving to study the faith in France, the truth became compellingly clear and he reconverted.

Campion eventually became a Jesuit and returned to England, living a hunted life to administer the sacraments and preach in order to bring Protestants back to Catholicism. Finally hunted down, he and his two priest companions were arrested. A mock trial found them guilty, to which Campion responded: “In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England — the island of saints and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.”

They were sentenced to be hanged and let down alive, drawn, quartered and decapitated. The martyrs answered with a joyful shout of Haec dies and Te Deum. Spending his last days in prayer, Campion was dragged to Tyburn with his fellow Jesuits to win the crown of glory.

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

St. Thomas More (1478-1535)

As a young man, More exhibited a great intellect, strong work ethic and likable personality . . .

Feast Day: June 22
Canonized: May 19, 1935

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More

From a young age More exhibited three sterling qualities necessary for success: an amazing intellect, a strong work ethic and an extremely likable personality. The first two enabled him to make the most of any opportunity; the third made people want to give him those opportunities.

As a young lawyer, he quickly moved up the ranks until he was working in King Henry VIII’s court. More was knighted and not only became the king’s servant, but also his close friend and confidant. He became the first layman to be Chancellor of England.

Despite his great worldly importance, More was first a man of deep devotion to God and family. Perhaps this perspective was the source of his lightheartedness. His dear friend Erasmus wrote of him, “His countenance is in harmony with his character, being always expressive of an amiable joyousness.”

But More’s greatest qualities shone forth when he was put to the ultimate test. After disagreeing with the pope on divorce, King Henry proclaimed himself “Supreme Head” of the church. When called upon to take an oath to the king, More chose loyalty to the pope and the sacrament of marriage.

The king put him in the Tower of London for over a year under increasingly difficult circumstances hoping to cause a change of heart. More once wrote, “We cannot go to Heaven in featherbeds.” In a final letter to his daughter, scribbled onto cloth with charcoal, he wrote, “Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in Heaven.”

He was beheaded on July 6, 1535. He had the gifts it took to succeed in this life, but more, he had the heroism to enter into glory.

This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school age teens and college age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com.