John Fisher was a scholar, a priest, and for thirty-one years the Bishop of Rochester, England. He served in many capacities, including probably being a tutor to the future king in his youth. He was noted for his holiness and simplicity of life. When confronted with the pressure to agree to seek a decree of divorce for the king from his wife, Catherine, Bishop Fisher would not agree. When it came time to sign the Act of Supremacy, he again refused. He was named a Cardinal by the Pope in May of the year he died, but he was in prison and could not accept the Red Hat.
Thomas More was a family man, married to his first wife, Jane, with whom he had four daughters, and upon her death to his second wife, Alice. He was deeply religious, well educated, a lawyer and politician, and renowned for his honesty and integrity. He was a friend and confidant of the king, who named him Chancellor of England and knighted him. But in the dark days of Henry's rebellion, Sir Thomas was faced with a choice that he did not want to make - God or king - but which he knew he could not escape. His defense of his conscience was paramount in his life's decision.
If you have never seen the play or movie, A Man For All Seasons starring Paul Schoffield, or even if you have, try to find a copy and watch. It presents the inner and outer struggles that occur when religious freedom is compromised and threatened.
Both were declared saints of the Church in 1935 and serve as models of strength and courage. Both are reminders of the importance to be vigilant in the defense of religious freedom.
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