Saint John Fisher and integrity in public office
For those of us who had the blessing of being able to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in England today, it was the feast of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. As a first class feast in England, it outranks the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.
Looking through old posts on the blog, I have covered some of the better-known stories of St John Fisher, but here is one that I like, because it shows the saint’s integrity not only as a Bishop, but also in his public office regarding legal and educational matters.
Archbishop Cranmer had proposed some changes to the statutes of St John’s College, Cambridge. St John Fisher was the only surviving executor of Lady Margaret Beaufort, from whose estate the college was endowed, so his approval was needed for the changes.
The master and fellows of St John’s College sent two of their company to give greetings from the College and to ask St John Fisher to confirm their statutes under his seal. They were worried that his time of imprisonment was near and wanted him to sign the statutes off before it was too late. Saint John Fisher said that he would read and consider them. The Bollandist Fr Ortroy (quoted in Reynolds’ Life) continues:
‘Alas,’ said they, ‘we fear the time is now too short for you to read them before you go to prison.’ ‘Then,’ said he, ‘I will read them in prison.’ ‘Nay,’ said they, ‘that, we think will hardly be brought to pass.’ ‘Then,’ said he, ‘let God’s will be done; for I will never allow under my seal that thing which I have not well and substantially viewed and considered.’
A great example to people in so many different walks of life – including ministers of state. Saint John Fisher and St Thomas More go well together. As a layman and a priest, they both coupled the appropriate integrity in their respective offices with devotion in their personal spiritual lives.