A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
St John Fisher (1469-1535). Feast Day, jointly with St Thomas More, commemorating death of stern and austere English Catholic Bishop, Cardinal and theologian born in Beverley, Yorkshire. From 1491, he was the vicar of Northallerton and in 1497 he was appointed confessor to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. In 1504, King Henry VII had him appointed Bishop of Rochester and, as Chancellor of Cambridge, Fisher tutored Prince Henry who was to become Henry VIII. From 1527, during the English Reformation, Fisher actively opposed Henry VIII’s divorce proceedings against Catherine of Aragon, refused to take the oath of succession to acknowledge the issue of Henry and Anne Boleyn as the legitimate heir to the throne, and refused to accept Henry as the supreme head of the Church of England and so in 1534 Fisher was imprisoned for a year in the Tower of London. In 1535, he was made a Cardinal by the Pope and Henry retaliated by having him beheaded for high treason. Before his execution, Fisher read from St John’s Gospel: “Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. I have given You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do. Do You now, Father, give me glory at Your side”, and observed: “There is enough learning in that to last me the rest of my life.” Fisher’s body was thrown naked into a rough grave in the churchyard of All Hallows’ Barking (All Hallows-by-the-Tower) without a funeral prayer and, a fortnight later, laid beside that of Sir Thomas More in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London, Fisher’s head being thrown into the Thames. Venerated in Catholic Church. In 1980, despite being an opponent of the English Reformation, Fisher was added to the Church of England’s calendar of Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church, jointly with Thomas More, to be commemorated every 6 July (the date of More’s execution) as Thomas More, Scholar, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Reformation Martyrs, 1535. Fisher is also listed along with Thomas More in the calendar of saints of some of the other Churches of the Anglican Communion. Was remembered in the now-closed St John Fisher RC Church, Scartho, Lincolnshire. Patron of Diocese of Rochester and adopted as a patron of several institutions in other cities named Rochester. Image: anastpaul.com.
San Giuseppe Cafasso (St Joseph Cafasso) (1811-60). Feast Day commemorating death of frugal Roman Catholic Turinese peasant, a disabled priest and significant social reformer in Turin and one of the so-called Social Saints of his era. Cafasso became a professed member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, in his role as a teacher never neglecting his duties as a priest and often aiding those students in poor circumstances when he would provide them with books and other items needed for them to complete their studies. He celebrated 4:30 am Mass and spent long hours in the confessional and chapel. He was also a noted confessor and spiritual director who guided people such as Don Bosco, who would go on to found new religious institutions or congregations that would help the Church to meet the needs of the whole world. Cafasso was known for his extensive work in the local prisons and served as the comforter of those condemned to death, being called The Priest of the Gallows. When asked if his constant work ever wore him out, he said: “Our rest will be in Heaven”. Cafasso died in Turin and bequeathed all he had to the Little House of Divine Providence he had been founded some decades before. The college Cafasso had headed until his death moved to the Sanctuario della Consolata in 1870 and his remains were translated there. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church. Major shrine Santuario della Consolata, Turin. Patron of Italian prisons, prison chaplains, prisoners, those condemned to death. Image: amazon.co.uk.
St Æthelthryth (St Etheldreda, Æðelþryð, Audrey) (c636-679). Feast Day commemorating death of pious Anglo-Saxon East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbrian Queen born in Suffolk. Her father King Anna of East Anglia was of the family of the Uffingas, descendants of the Norse God Odin, but was a Christian who did much for the conversion of his own kingdom and that of Wessex, his chief enemy being the savage Penda, the heathen King of Mercia. Etheldreda had the ambition to be a nun but she was twice married, the first time against her will at 16, but her royal husband gave her the estate of Elge (Ely) and sympathised with her monastic vocation, allowing her to live as a nun during the three years of their marriage. During that time, her father was defeated and killed by Penda and Etheldreda settled on her personal estate at Ely, intending to spend the rest of her life in religious retirement. However, to secure in 660 an alliance for the house of the Uffingas with the powerful Kingdom of Northumbria against the aggressive Mercians, she married the second son of Oswiu, King of Northumbria and at 24 Etheldreda became Queen, delighting in the society of monks and nuns including St Cuthbert, the young Prior of Lindisfarne, upon whose monastery she bestowed many gifts from her own private property. St Wilfred was also her friend and adviser and she gave him much land in Hexham that had originally been a gift from her husband, and Wilfred built the finest church that then existed north of the Alps. Etheldreda’s husband withdrew his consent for her to live in his house like a nun in a convent and Etheldreda fled to Coldingham beyond the Tweed, where St Aebbe the Elder was Abbess, and then to her own lands at Ely. In 673, Etheldreda built a large double monastery and Wilfred made her Abbess of Ely, giving the veil to her first nuns and obtaining special privileges for her from the Pope. During the seven years of her rule, Etheldreda set a great example of piety, abstinence and all the other monastic virtues, and her sister, St Sexburga, Queen of Kent, left her own foundation of Minster-in-Sheppey and put herself under the rule of Etheldreda, on whose death from tonsillitis she succeeded as Abbess. In 696, St. Sexburga had Etheldreda’s incorrupt body taken from its tomb in the Abbey and many miracles were wrought at her side. Her successors were princesses of the same family and the Abbey of Ely was for many years famous and very rich. It was constituted a Cathedral in 1109, the Abbot and Bishop thenceforth becoming one person. At Ely Cathedral, the lantern columns represent Etheldreda asleep, her head in a nun’s lap, a book in her hand with a tree blossoming above her. Venerated in Western, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church, Anglican Communion. Major shrine St Etheldreda’s Church, Holborn, London, after her original Ely Cathedral shrine was destroyed when the monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Patron of throat complaints. Image: elycathedral.org.