Sunday, August 22, 2010

The narrow way

In 1534 John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester was arrested for refusing to swear to the Act of Supremacy. The Act was a law passed by parliament which required everyone to swear to its three clauses, which were: that any heir of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was a legitimate heir to the the throne of England, that the marriage between Henry and Catherine was null and void, irregardless of what the Church said, and that the Bishop of Rome (as the Pope was designated in the act had no more authority or power in England than any other bishop. This John Fisher could not do.
Thomas More, lawyer, former Speaker of the House of Commons, and Chancellor of Henry, also refused to sign the oath, and in 1534 he was also arrested.
It is said that both men arrived at the Tower of London, the place they would spend the rest of their lives, both being executed the next year, at the same time.
Looking at the tower's door Thomas said," My Lord I believe the door is wide enough for both of us."
John Fisher replied, "Thomas, it is narrow enough."
Of St. Thomas More in 1929 G.K. Chesterton said, "Blessed Thomas More is important today, but he is not as important now as he will be in one hundred years from today."
Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy sought to make the state supreme over the teachings of God. Of all of the bishops of England only St. John Fisher chose the narrow way of adherence to the Church over the state.
When he was to die St. Thomas More declared that he died, "the king's good servant and God's first," one among many who would be a martyr for following the path laid down by Christ against the power of the English state.