John Fisher and Thomas More--the two famous English martyrs who were willing to be beheaded rather than violate their consciences and their faith by following King Henry VI as he broke away from the Catholic Church. The courage of these two saints is inspiring, but courage is only the final virtue they demonstrated, not the only one.
Fisher and More lived during a tumultuous time in world history and especially in the history of the Church--the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent changed the face of Christianity forever--but to view them as stubborn relics of the old guard fighting against innovation would be a mistake. John Fisher and Thomas More were creative visionaries and dedicated reformers, passionate advocates for a new, more faithful, and more creative vision of Christianity. It is precisely their dedication to principle and building a better Church that led to their beheading as they were surrounded by old-fashioned churchmen and politicians clinging to an arbitrary and authoritarian vision of the Christian state.
As chancellor of Cambridge University John Fisher helped to form one of the first truly modern universities. He reintroduced the study of ancient languages such as Greek and Hebrew instead of simply teaching Latin. He demanded a rigorous course of studies and higher standards of teaching and research. Thomas More was an early advocate of women receiving an equal education to men, seeing to it that the women in his own family were as lettered as any contemporary man. His Utopia championed the development of innovative new methods for structuring political and economic systems.
On the feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More we not only celebrate two courageous martyrs, but two creative and innovative visionaries born ahead of their time.