I’ve heard something about his beard…?
Yes. You’re not imagining things, don’t worry.
The story with St. Thomas More’s beard is that he laid his beard outside of the execution blade’s path in one final, humorous gesture.
His last words were,“This hath not offended the King,” implying that while his head had angered Henry VIII, his beard was innocent and did not deserve to be severed.
Who was St John Fisher?
St John Fisher (1469-1535) was ordained a priest when he was about 22, and was appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1504. He lived an intentionally simple lifestyle and was an intellectual. He studied theology at Cambridge, where he became chancellor. Among his writings is a commentary on the seven penitential psalms.
His mission as a bishop was to perfect how the Church’s teachings were conveyed by his diocese. Fisher spent much of his time travelling to parishes with the mission of theologically correcting and realigning clergy. He also wrote various apologetic defences in response to Martin Luther.
What did he have to do with the whole Henry VIII situation?
St John Fisher studied Henry’s request for a declaration of nullity, but could not find grounds for such a declaration.
He refused to assent to the Succession to the Crown Act 1533, which recognised the king’s supremacy over the Church in England and declared the daughter of Catherine of Aragon illegitimate, and was imprisoned for treason in April 1534.
Fisher was jailed, starved and deprived of all sacraments, but he didn’t budge on his position.
Fisher was made a cardinal in May 1535, in the hopes that Henry would not dare execute a prince of the Church.
Please don’t tell me it ended like More’s story…
It didn’t. There was no beard on the line.
However, Fisher was executed, head on the chopping block and all. He removed his hair shirt, and said the Te Deum and Psalm 31 right before giving his life for the kingdom of God and the honour of the Church, June 22, 1535. He is the only cardinal to have been martyred.
Same deal as More – he stuck to what he knew to be the truth and died for it. He was canonised with More in 1935 by Pius XI.
But he’s not nearly as well-known as St Thomas More!
No, he’s not. St. Thomas Fisher’s grave, which also contains the bones of More, doesn’t even bear his name. But he did it for the glory of God.