It is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is also a month of graduations. We send our children off to their next stage, and we hope we’ve provided them with all the treasures that will make them successful. Wealth. Privilege. Education. Opportunity. Connections. Cleverness.
These are all things we are inclined to think will save us, save our children, from any sort of hardship. John Fisher, Thomas More, and Margaret Pole had all these things. All three were involved in the court of King Henry VIII. All three were condemned to death by him, because all three knew the meaning of the word “treasure.”
John Fisher was the son of a wealthy merchant in the north of England. He was educated at Cambridge, collected degrees like some children collect stuffed animals, and was named bishop by the time he was 35 years old. He is believed to have been tutor to none other than young Prince Henry, the man who would become king. Bishop Fisher wrote extensively, ran in the most elite of circles, and was named by members of English royalty to great positions of both academic and religious honor.
Thomas More was born into a well-connected London family, and by the time he was thirteen, he was gaining the notice of professors, statesmen, even archbishops and advisors to the king. His natural intelligence led him to learn languages, music, and rhetoric, and helped him excel in understanding the law as well as international diplomacy. He prayed over a vocation to the priesthood but decided to live instead a devout married life, wearing his penitential hairshirt underneath his barrister’s robes.
Margaret Pole was born a Plantagenet princess during the War of the Roses — a terrible time to be a Plantagenet. Her mother died giving birth to Margaret’s younger brother. Margaret’s uncle, King Edward IV, executed her father. In order to neutralize any claim to the throne her heirs might have, she was married off to Sir Richard Pole, a mere knight. Still, her royal connections eventually gained her some comfort and stability; she was made the governess to Princess Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon. Her difficult life must have taught her to rely on God, for she raised her own children in the Catholic faith. Her second son became a cardinal and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.
Wealth. Privilege. Education. Opportunity. Connections. Cleverness. All of these are treasures. However, all three of these well-off English Catholics were forced to choose: loyalty to the treasures of this world or loyalty to the One True Faith?
John Fisher and Thomas More refused to endorse Henry’s unlawful marriage or his claim to being the head of the English Church. Margaret Pole was 65 when she refused the king’s demand to reveal the whereabouts of her son the cardinal.
This world told them to deny the Truth. They deemed the Truth a greater treasure than anything their earthly lives could give them.
All three were labeled traitors and beheaded at the Tower of London. Their headless bodies now rest in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains) on the grounds of the Tower. Their courage inspires us and our children to identify that the only real success is to hold on to Christ at all costs. Everything else — wealth, privilege, education, opportunity, connections, cleverness — is fleeting. Our riches (or lack thereof) may take us into the public eye, but that is for the good of the hearts of those who need to know Jesus.
St. John Fisher, St. Thomas More, and Blessed Margaret Pole, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
What are some ways that God uses you in your state of wealth — or lack thereof — to meet his beloved children?
Take your own Three Minute Pilgrimage to the Tower of London.
Copyright 2019 Erin McCole Cupp