Today we celebrate two titans of the faith at a time of great turmoil in the church. Thomas More Henry VIII’s chancellor who in the last words he spoke summed up his life “I am the kings good servant but God’s first”. He was beheaded on 6th July 1535. His head was rescued by Margaret Roper, his daughter and is buried in St Dunstan’s Church, here in Canterbury.
John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, the only bishop not to support King Henry’s appeal to Rome to nullify his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. As the brief biography in Universalis says “He was the only bishop to oppose Henry VIII’s actions, on the grounds that they were a repudiation of papal authority, but even so he avoided direct confrontation with the other bishops, not holding himself up as a hero or boasting of his coming martyrdom: I condemn no other man’s conscience: their conscience may save them, and mine must save me. He was executed on this day 22nd June 1535. “His head was stuck up on a pike on London Bridge as normal, but irritatingly seemed to get fresher with each passing day. Seeing a miracle on its way, some thoroughly earthy bloke booted it into the Thames before he could cause any more trouble.” (David Crowther)
God of truth and justice, by whose grace
your servants Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
stood forth as champions of your Church in this land,
grant us, we pray, by their example and prayers,
that following always a good conscience
and holding fast to the truth
we may at the last meet merrily with them
and be partakers for ever in the inheritance of your saints in light.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.