Saturday, July 04, 2009

St John Fisher

This is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.
St John 17:3

A wonderful feast for England and Wales is that which commemorates the two great martyrs of the Protestant revolution under King Henry VIII: St John Fisher, who was Cardinal and Bishop of Rochester for 33 years; and St Thomas More, who was a layman, father, and High Chancellor of England.

The above quote was spoken by St John Fisher as his final words before being beheaded. It deserves particular meditation, and has pride of place in this feast's liturgy as the Alleluia. Both these saints were imprisoned in the Tower of London by the King when they refused to approve of his illegitimate marriage to Anne Boleyn. They were surely both a fine example for the many people who subsequently died for the Catholic faith in this country. Furthermore, they are a shining beacon for us too, in a time when speaking out in defence of our Faith is considered imprudent or downright dangerous.

In the new Calender of the Church, this feast has been moved to June 22nd to coincide with the date St John Fisher was martyred in 1535. But when the pre-1965 liturgy is used, an older calender is employed which places the date for the feast as July 9th (closer to St Thomas More's execution of July 6th the same year). Therefore this year, to mark the occasion in the most solemn way, I have helped organise a High Mass in the parish church of St John Fisher in West Heath. (Pictured on this post)

The interesting thing about this church is the modern architecture. It was built in 1962 - 1964 and was thus designed for the 1962 missal! There features a sanctuary with marble altar rails, an eastward facing altar, a pulpit, a baldachino and 'big six' candlesticks. The building is in a hexagonal shape with stained glass windows depicting Jesus as Good Shephard, Teacher, King and Redeemer. It also features several side chapels, a grand organ loft above the west entrance, and a double sacristy to accomodate servers and priests.

By the time the church was consecrated in 1972 the liturgy had changed a great deal, and I suppose the sanctuary no longer seems 'fit for purpose' in that regard. However, over the years the church has never suffered the unfortunate reorderings that many have, with only a moveable free-standing altar to give the game away, which means it is a perfect venue for the Traditional Latin Mass.

For more on this event on Thursday, see my LMS Blog.

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