Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saint John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr – Feast Day – June 22

Saint John Fisher was also known as John of Rochester or John Fisher of Rochester. He was a Catholic bishop, cardinal, and theologian born on October 19 1469 in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, and died on June 22 1535 in Tower Hill, London, England. His feast day is celebrated on June 22 every year in the Catholic Church.

Saint John Fisher Biography
Saint John Fisher
Saint John Fisher
Date of Birth October 19 1469
Place of Birth Beverley, Yorkshire, England
Profession Catholic bishop, cardinal, and theologian
Place of Work England
Date of Death June 22 1535 at the age of 65
Place of Death Tower Hill, London, England
Feast Day June 22
Beatification By Pope Leo XIII on December 29 1886 in Rome, Italy
Canonization By Pope Pius XI on May 19 1935 in Vatican City
Patron Saint of
  • Diocese of Rochester, England
  • Saint John of Rochester Catholic Church, Rochester, New York
  • Saint John Fisher Catholic Church, Michigan.

Saint John Fisher Life History

John Fisher was the first born of four siblings of Robert Fisher who was a merchant in Beverley and his wife Agnes. Robert Fisher, his father died when he was 8 years old. After the death of his father, Agnes, his mother, was married again by William White and sired five more children by her second husband, William White.

From 1484, John Fisher went to the University of Cambridge where he met William Melton, a theologian. In 1487, John graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and on December 17 1491, at only 22 years, he was ordained as a very young Catholic priest and also enrolled for a Master of Arts degree.

Also in 1491, Fisher was made the Vicar of Northallerton, Yorkshire. In 1497, he became chaplain and confessor to the mother of King Henry VII who was Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby.

In July 1501, was elected Vice-Chancellor of the University. Fisher helped Lady Margaret to establish St John’s and Christ’s Colleges at Cambridge. He was the President of Queens’ College between 1505 and 1508.

Fisher attracted to Cambridge leading scholars from Europe and promoted the study of Classical Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He was also very dedicated to praying for the dead. He was known to place a human skull on the table during meals and on the altar during Mass.

On October 14 1504, Fisher was made the bishop of Rochester after King Henry VII of England insisted on it. Fisher, despite Rochester being the poorest diocese in England, remained there for 31 years. He also continued paying keen interest in the University of Cambridge and in 1504 he was elected as the chancellor of the university and was re-elected every year for 10 years.

Fisher was the one who authored the “Assertio septem sacramentorum” (Defence of the Seven Sacraments) against Martin Luther in 1521, which made King Henry VIII win the title “Fidei Defensor” (Defender of the Faith).

At one time when King Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, Fisher fought against that divorce and appeared before the legates’ court to defend Catherine. He said that just like St John the Baptist, he would defend to death the indissolubility of marriage. This showed that Fisher never feared the royal and for this King Henry VIII never forgave him for that.

The parliament, during King Henry VIII’s reign, began interfering with The Catholic Church’s affairs in England in November 1529. Fisher was a member of the House of Lords and he sternly warned Parliament that those actions would end up destroying the Catholic Church in England.

The interference continued and in 1530 John Fisher, the bishop of Rochester, together with the bishops of Ely and Bath appealed to the Holy See. King Henry VIII saw an opportunity to strike. He forbade such appeals and arrested Fisher and the other two bishops. After they were released, in February 1531, the clergy were forced to buy King Henry the VIII’s pardon for £100,000 for recognizing Cardinal Wolsey as the legate of the pope. King Henry VIII also wanted to be recognized as the supreme head of the Church in England but Fisher added that it can only happen as so far as God’s law permits.

In August 1532 William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury died and Thomas Cranmer took over as the Archbishop. On January 25 1533, King Henry VIII secretly “married” Anne Boleyn. In March 1533, Archbishop John Fisher was arrested so that he could not oppose the divorce between King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon which was done in May 1533 by Thomas Cranmer.

Fisher was released in June 1533 without any charges made against him. In March 1534, Fisher was accused of complicity in the case of Elizabeth Barton, The Holy Maid of Kent, a Catholic nun who had prophesied against the marriage of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. A sentence was passed against Fisher and he was made to forfeit all his property and well as to be imprisoned wherever the King feels like.

At that same time, the Parliament passed the First Succession Act, and this would subsequently have required Fisher to take an oath and therefore, recognize Henry and Anne as legitimate heirs to the throne, failure to which he would be found guilty of misprision of treason.

On April 26 1534, after Fisher declined to take the oath, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. After many unsuccessful attempts to persuade him to submit to the dictates of the First Succession Act, in November 1534, Fisher was for a second time found guilty of misprision of treason. He forfeited all his possessions and his See of Rochester was declared. He remained in the Tower for over a year. But Fisher maintained that KingHenry VIII was not Supreme Head of the Church of England.

In May 1535, the new Pope Paul III made John Fisher the Cardinal of San Vitale in Rome with the hope that King Henry VIII would stop mistreating Fisher. Conversely, this worsened the situation. The king forbade the bringing of the cardinal’s hat to England. He said only Fisher’s head would be sent to Rome instead.

St John Fisher Birth

He was born on October 19 1469 in Beverley, Yorkshire, England

St John Fisher Death

A trial for treason was held in June for Fisher for denying that King Henry VIII was the Supreme Head of the Church of England. John Fisher was found guilty of treason and condemned to be hanged. The beheading of John Fisher was done on June 22 1535, two days before the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist.

Fisher’s execution evoked the opposite effect from the King’s intention. It reminded the people of the beheading of St. John the Baptist and his killing also happened on Saint Alban’s feast day, the first martyr of Britain.

John Fisher met his death with courage. His body was taken on pikes and thrown naked into a grave in the churchyard of All Hallows-by-the-Tower. There was no funeral prayer. After two weeks, his body was kept in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula next to that of Sir Thomas More.

Fisher’s head was placed on a pole on London Bridge. Everytime people looked at it, it looked as if it was alive and that appearance excited people so much that it was thrown into the Thames.

Beatification

St John Fisher was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on December 29 1886 together with Thomas More and 52 other English Martyrs.

Canonization

John Fisher was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 19 1935 together with Thomas More after English Catholics presented a petition.

John Fisher Feast Day

In the Catholic Church, his feast day is celebrated on June 22 jointly with that of St Thomas More. This is the date of John Fisher’s execution. In the Church of England, it is on July 6, the date of St Thomas More’s execution.

Relics

The Eyston family of East Hendred, in Oxfordshire are custodian’s of John Fisher’s walking-staff.

St John Fisheris the Patron Saint of

  • Diocese of Rochester, England
  • Saint John of Rochester Catholic Church, Rochester, New York
  • Saint John Fisher Catholic Church, Michigan.

Catholic parishes dedicated to St John Fisher

  • Rancho Palos Verdes, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Holland Park West (Tarragindi), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • Galveston, Texas
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Cambourne, Cambridgeshire, England
  • Boothwyn, Pennsylvania
  • Auburn Hills, Michigan
  • The John Fisher School – Purley, Surrey.
  • The Fisher Building, conference centre and meeting rooms – St. John’s College, Cambridge
  • St. John Fisher R.C. School – Forest, Ontario, Canada
  • St. John Fisher R.C. Primary – Haughton Green, Denton, Tameside, Greater Manchester
  • St. John Fisher Parish – Bramalea (Brampton), Ontario, Canada
  • St. John Fisher Catholic Primary School – Loughton, Essex, UK
  • St John Fisher Seminary – Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • St John Fisher Roman Catholic School – Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
  • St John Fisher Roman Catholic Primary School – Sheffield
  • St John Fisher House, Reading
  • St John Fisher College – University of Tasmania in Hobart
  • St John Fisher Catholic Voluntary Academy – Dewsbury
  • St John Fisher Catholic School – Chatham, Kent.
  • St John Fisher Catholic Primary School – St. Albans, UK
  • St John Fisher Catholic High schools – Queensland, Australia
  • St John Fisher Catholic College – Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire
  • St John Fisher Catholic Church – Tulsa, Oklahoma and one near .
  • St John Fisher Catholic Church – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • St John Fisher Catholic Church – Marlborough, Connecticut
  • Ss John Fisher and Thomas More Roman Catholic High School – Colne, Lancashire, England
  • Saint John Fisher Roman Catholic Church – Shepperton, London, UK
  • Saint John Fisher Roman Catholic Church – Rochester, Kent, UK
  • Saint John Fisher R.C. Church – Priory Crescent, Southend on Sea, Essex.
  • Saint John Fisher R.C Primary School – Alvaston, Derby UK
  • Saint John Fisher parish – Kidbrooke, London
  • Saint John Fisher Church – Newtown, Ohio
  • John Fisher R.C Primary School – Widnes, Cheshire, UK
  • John Fisher R.C Church – Scarthoe, Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire. (Closed 2017)
  • John Fisher Public School – Toronto
  • Fisher House, Cambridge – Cambridge University Catholic Chaplaincy
  • Fisher Downside Amateur Boxing Club – Bermondsey, London, UK

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