His Hermeneuticalness on St John Fisher

john fisherWith delight I report that my good friend, His Hermeueticalness, Fr. Tim Finigan has taken up his electronic pen more regularly than before his heart problems knocked him down… slacker.

Here’s a bit of his great offering about St. John Fisher, whose feast with St. Thomas More, we observed a couple days ago.

[…] I do agree with Thomas Craughwell at the National Catholic Register that “Fisher needs is his own version of A Man for All Seasons—a big, gorgeously filmed, beautifully written, destined-to-be-a-classic film, with an all-English cast.”  [With an of film credit role song by Adele?   NOT.]

I would suggest Mel Gibson, but somebody would have to stop him from reducing it to a piece of anti-English propaganda with gallons of blood spurting from the holy bishop’s neck at the crucial point. [Maybe people need to see what happened to the English Martyrs.] Perhaps Sir Ridley Scott (Gladiator etc.) could do something, or Peter Weir (Master and Commander.) Now that Russell Crowe is a little old for the action hero role, could he do a gutsy elderly bishop? Or maybe Sean Bean could graduate from his new priestly persona?

To help film directors understand the dramatic potential of such a film, here are some of my previous posts on St John Fisher: [Useful!]

Feast of St John Fisher
Hymn to St John Fisher
St John Fisher’s cell
Cardinals’ badge of honour
Titular Church of Cardinal Fisher
If St John Fisher and St Thomas More were bloggers
“Alone of thy peers”
St John Fisher’s prayer for holy bishops

I note with pleasure that Rorate Caeli have today recalled the detail of St John Fisher’s final hours: when he was told that the writ of execution had arrived, he asked the gaoler to let him have another couple of hours’ sleep. That’s what a clear conscience looks like.

One important lesson from the lives of St John Fisher and St Thomas More is their response to scandal given in high places in the Church. Here’s a link to something I wrote on it some time ago: How to respond to scandal in the Church.

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  1. lmgilbert says:

    from Peter Ackroyd’s biography of St. Thomas More (as I recall it)…

    It seems that both Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher arrived at the Tower by separate boats at the same time. They came up to the gate together and Bishop Fisher remarked, “Well, Sir Thomas, this is a surely a very narrow gate. We must be in the right way.”

    It’s a strange thing, but his very lightness of heart almost makes me weep.

    And then, in connection too with today’s feast of St. John the Baptist, I just discovered this on New Advent:

    “When the question of Henry’s divorce from Queen Catherine arose, Fisher became the Queen’s chief supporter and most trusted counsellor. In this capacity he appeared on the Queen’s behalf in the legates’ court, where he startled his hearers by the directness of his language and most of all by declaring that, like St. John the Baptist, he was ready to die on behalf of the indissolubility of marriage.”

    Ready. to. die. And for that cause he did in fact die.

    As I recall Ackroyd relates that Fisher was stripped naked before execution (though New Advent has it afterwards) and that the crowd was astonished and gasped at how very thin he was. You have to wonder if he was so ready to die because of an ascetic life– whereby he merited to become the St. John the Baptist of England in the 1540’s.

    Saints John, pray for us who so badly need both your asceticism and your courage.

  2. Charles E Flynn says:

    The Rorate Caeli posting makes it vividly clear that Saint John Fisher dressed for his execution day. The amount of detail recalled by Protestant minister Thomas Fuller in his “Church History of Britain” is impressive.

    The argument that clothing matters was made recently:
    Is It Immodest to Wear Deliberately Ripped Clothes?, by John Horvat II, for Return to Order.

  3. Justalurkingfool says:

    What an impressive man, Bishop Fisher.

    I wish there was a bishop who respected Bishop Fisher, who would speak to my wife, to try to set her straight.


  4. Gerhard says:

    The right kind of bloodshed needs a hermeneutic of continuity (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) to interpret it. So I too would vote for Mel Gibson. How much blood-letting should he have reduced in “The Passion of the Christ” and “Hacksaw Ridge”? Not a drop IMHO. My curiosity about Hacksaw Ridge was tickled on seeing how the liberal media leveled ad hominem attacks against him and accused him of exaggerating the gory horrors of war. Clearly they could not stand whatever it was Gibson was trying to say. Ostensibly it is about a Seventh Day Adventist conscientious objector who determined to be an unarmed combat medic in WWII. But more profoundly (and herein of course lies the rub for the libs) it is a thoroughly Roman Catholic film, a brilliantly awful vision of Hell with all its fires, shocking, repulsive sights, and transcendent moral courage and virile charity. Every boy or girl who is thinking of joining the military should see this film, contemplate their own (possibly very rapid and painful) end, and be even more determined to step up to the plate.

  5. stephen c says:

    Please, Gerhard, do not encourage young women to join the military. Above all not because they want to be heroes like the medic in Hacksaw Ridge. That is just not right. And Hacksaw Ridge was not thoroughly Roman Catholic. Mel Gibson, who is a rich man and seems to be an arrogant man, distorted the story to make the hero look like a much better man than many of his squadmates. That lack of gratitude to the unsung squadmates is not Roman Catholic at all; while there is no doubt the hero was a hero, there is also no doubt that he was surrounded by other heroes. Mel Gibson made a movie in which many brave men were mocked, in order to make the hero chosen by Mel Gibson look better in comparison. Well, that is my opinion, having known several soldiers who died violent deaths, bravely, and got no credit for it. A purple heart, if they were lucky – but the point is, they put themselves in a place where they could easily be killed, and they were killed, and the Mel Gibsons of the world make movies in which they are not only peripheral, but even the object of of ‘cinematic jokes’ for purposes of “local color” and “setting the scene.” Better than nothing? – I am not sure. I am sure Mel Gibson tried to make the best movie he could but, if you watch the movie again, you will see he could not help himself – it is too easy, when one is rich and arrogant, to be unfair to those without the luck to survive a battle in an interesting way. God loves the unlucky: that is what Gibson missed in this movie. Don’t get mad at me – watch it again, with an open heart and an open mind, and you will see what I mean. God loves the unlucky. If Gibson were a real artist he would too.

  6. pelerin says:

    Charles Flynn’s link made for amusing reading especially some of the comments thereon. I recently sat in a station waiting room and found myself opposite six young ladies all of whom were wearing ripped jeans. It looked as if they had all been in a terrible accident!

  7. Imrahil says:

    Charles Flynn’s link may make for amusing reading, but suffers a bit from confusing taste with morals, after rejecting the actual moral argument (“there are clothes that are unacceptable”) as insufficient in a general diatribe of how bad the times have become, resulting in a sort of reductio ad absurdum when a commentatrix reproached another for wearing their second fiddle in bed, because if she were married that would Show disrespect to her husband, and if she were unmarried she wouldn’t get a pass either, because then it meant showing disrespect to herself. Oh dear. (But the amusing reading is rightly observed.)

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    I don’t know much about St John Fisher nor really even St Thomas More, just the main points, but the reality of their dying for the faith is definitely intriguing. Any of us could be called to it.
    Our time seems unique though, those popes were faithful to Catholic teaching, even if they were horrible moral examples. Apparently, we can live with horrible moral examples ( at that time no social media to let the people know what was going on) but we cannot live with an attack on Catholic teaching, dogma, or practice.
    Thank you Fr. Tim, and may God continue to heal you and strengthen you!

  9. msc says:

    I certainly respect Fisher, but as a person of predominantly Anglo-Scots ancestry I have some difficulty with his support of an invasion by Charles V to depose Henry. That certainly contributed to his execution.

  10. Imrahil says:

    I don’t think it did, because if they had found out, they wouldn’t have taken as much trouble to exact a private admission that he didn’t think the King to be the supreme head of the Church as proof to execute him.

    That said, we needn’t think being a Saint means choosing what to do correctly. For one thing, an invasion in England would have meant weakening the defense against the Turks and especially the action against Germany’s own Protestants (the double-strain was a big reason why they gained a foothold in any case), even if France could be expected to keep quiet. That the Pope was of course an ally of the Emperor in the Catholic faith, but for all practical terms an enemy in so far as both were heads of state (though there was a then very recent peace treaty) did not ease matters either.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    I thought Mr. Horvat’s article at Return to Order made good use of the views of St. Thomas Aquinas:

    “Negligence in Attire

    In matters of Catholic dress, this means holding to all that is proper to a soul that is a temple of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, you dress in a manner that is ordered, dignified and reasonable to who you are. Adults dress like adults; children dress like children. Authorities dress in accord with their office.

    It also means you should not dress carelessly. Saint Thomas Aquinas states that you are immodest when you are unduly negligent in your appearance and fail to present yourself according to your state in life. You are also immodest when you seek to attract attention to yourself by showing a lack of concern for presenting oneself well (Summa, II-II, q. 169, a. 1).

    Immoral and revealing clothing is of course immodest. However, improper, soiled and ripped unisex clothing is also immodest. It is not proper to the dignity of a person made in the image and likeness of God. When Our Lady spoke out against immodest fashions at Fatima, she was referring to this kind of immodesty as well.”

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