On this day in 1535, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester in England and newly-created Cardinal, was judicially murdered by the government of England. His offense? He defended the validity of marriage, and the authority of the Church to determine what marriage means.
Today we celebrate his feast day, on an ominous day for marriage and the liberty of the Church here in New York.
John Fisher defended the marriage of Queen Catherine to the tyrant King Henry VIII, who wished to have that union dissolved by the Church. When the Church refused, Henry persecuted and murdered all those who stood for the validity of the marriage, and for the authority of the Church. John Fisher stood alone among the English episcopacy — every single other bishop sided with the King and against the Holy See. Other prominent Englishmen also took the side of the marriage and the Church, and paid the price — most notably, of course, the great St. Thomas More. St. Thomas, and many other English martyrs for the meaning of marriage and the liberty of the Church, share this feast day, and we humbly pray for their intercession.
As we recall the memory of these great witnesses for the truth, powerful men are in Albany redefining marriage, and threatening the liberty of the Church. They sit behind closed doors, making a mockery of democracy with secret political deals, not disclosing to the public the language of the bill they will soon foist upon us. That bill will certainly threaten the liberty of the Church to fulfill her apostolic mission, even as it redefines the family and the nature of every marriage.
A few people stand in their way. A few brave legislators have resisted the inducements, threats and pressures, and are defending the truth. Ordinary people of all faiths have sacrificed to go to Albany to give witness to their belief in the sanctity of authentic marriage, and to their fears of religious persecution. They were met with derisory anti-religious chants.
St. John Fisher and the other English martyrs gave their lives to testify to the divine institution of marriage, and to defend the freedom of the Church established by Christ Himself.
Perhaps some people in Albany will receive special graces today, thanks to their intercession.
St. John Fisher, St. Thomas More, all you English Martyrs, please pray for them, and for us.