II Maccabees 6.18,21,24-31; Ps 30; Matt 24.4-13
St John Fisher and St Thomas More didn’t die together, but they are commemorated together (on the date of John Fisher’s martyrdom) because both of them were put to death, during the reign of King Henry VIII, for defending the validity of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. John Fisher was Bishop of Rochester and Catherine’s confessor; Thomas More served as Chancellor until he resigned because of his opposition to the Act of Succession.
John Fisher (1469-1535) was one of the greatest intellects of his time and as bishop he was active in attacking protestant heretics—and in some cases having them tortured. Erasmus (1466-1536) called him the ‘one man at this time who is incomparable for uprightness of life, for learning and for greatness of soul.’
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) described the mind of Thomas More (1478-1535) as ‘full of light like a house made of windows; but the windows looked out on all sides and in all directions.’ Pope Pius XI, who canonised him, declared him the patron saint of statesmen and politicians, but his interests were far wider than that. He was the very model of the ‘Renaissance man’, and he combined that with a deep and affective piety. He was devoted to his family and managed to maintain a life of prayer amidst his public duties. Chesterton called him the greatest Englishman in history.