|Their Epitaph Does Not Read: “They Were Team Players Who Got Along with Everyone.”
The Twelfth Wednesday of Ordinary Time; the Memorial of Saint Paulinus of Nola, Bishop;* or, the Memorial of Saints John Fisher, Bishop, & Thomas More, Martyrs.
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Kings 22: 8-13; 23: 1-3.
• Psalm 119: 33-37, 40.
• Matthew 7: 15-20.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Paulinus, Bishop & Confessor.*
Lessons from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Corinthians 8: 9-15.
• [Gradual] Ecclesiasticus 44: 16.
• Luke 12: 32-24.
The Fifth Wednesday of the Apostles Fast; and, the Feast of the Holy Martyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata.**
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Corinthians 2: 9—3: 8.
• Matthew 13: 31-36.
8:10 AM 6/22/2016 — Today's memorial is a special day for me. Back in “my day”—which, admittedly, was a long time ago—what was called the “major seminary” was divided into two parts, called Philosophy and Theology; the “minor seminary” was a high school. Toward the end of my seminary training, most of the high school seminaries had closed, and Philosophy was where one was first sent to begin formation for the Holy Priesthood, and you came out of it with a bachelor's degree in that subject; in fact, at the time I was in seminary, you had to have a bachelor's degree in philosophy to be admitted into Theology; and, if you already had a bachelor's degree in something else, you had to get another one. At the time I entered, there were only a handful of seminaries left in this country where one could do both Philosophy and Theology at one place; but, for most of us, you spent your first two to four years in a “philosophate,” depending on how much education you already had toward the degree, then transferred to a “theologate,” which wasn't necessarily in the same part of the country, depending on where your bishop decided to send his seminarians. I did my Philosophy at Saint Pius X Seminary in Kentucky, which doesn't exist anymore; then, after two and a half years, was sent to Yonkers, New York, to Saint Joseph's Seminary, which had the nick-name “Dunwoodie” because of the suburban neighborhood in which it is still located, and spent the next four years there.
There were only two or three men in my class who went with me from Kentucky to New York; most of the men in my Philosophy class were sent to either Saint Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, Mount Saint Mary's in Maryland or to the Pontifical Seminary in Ohio. Of the four, Yonkers was the smallest, but was also regarded as the most challenging academically. When I arrived in Yonkers I was thrown into a class of about fifteen men, most of whom didn't know one another. One of the first things we were asked to do when we got there was choose a patron saint for our Theology class, and we all decided on Saint Thomas More. Our choice raised some eyebrows because we were the first—and as far as I know the last—class in Dunwoodie's 120 year history to choose a layman as our patron saint, and the portrait we bought of him, a copy of the famous one by Hans Holbein the Younger, still hangs in one of the classrooms.
He shares this memorial, as you know, with Saint John Fisher, who was a bishop; they were both beheaded by King Henry VIII in 1535. Henry, of course, was the King who separated the Church of England from Rome, proclaiming himself head of the Church in England, but only partially over his desire to divorce his queen and marry another; he also needed money to finance a war with France, and got it by confiscating Church property. A lot of people died during the English Reformation because of their loyalty to the Pope—Fisher and More are just the most notable—but most of them were lay people and parish priests; among the bishops of England, John Fisher was the only one who stayed faithful. More, of course, was a lawyer and judge and Henry's chancellor, but resigned when the King proclaimed himself head of the Church. Both where imprisoned in the Tower of London for a time, during which Fisher was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III, both were tried for treason, and both beheaded.
Most of the short biographies of these men you'll come across in missalettes or smaller “Lives of the Saints” will call them martyrs for the sake of conscience and the unity of the Church, but that's a revisionist view. They didn't die for the sake of conscience, and they certainly weren't ecumenists; they died for the truth, two truths in particular: the indissolubility of marriage and the supremacy of the Pope as the visible Head of the Church on earth. Had they been interested in unity as a virtue, they both would have gone along with the crowd; they didn't because, unlike their contemporaries, they believed in something, and believed it so strongly that they gave their lives for it.
“Be on your guard against false prophets, men who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but are ravenous wolves within” (Matt. 7: 15 Knox), says our Lord in today's Gospel lesson; and, what more clever a disguise for a wolf among sheep then the cloak of unity and seeking to get along with everyone? Maybe that's the reason that these two saints—and More in particular—remain so popular: because those of us who try our best to remain faithful often feel, ourselves, very much alone, often at odds with friends and family over our fidelity to the Church and the Faith. More and Fisher knew of each other, but did not know each other personally, so even they were alone. They both loved their country, but they loved their God and their Church more; and, when we are feeling down in the dumps because our fidelity to what we believe has driven a wedge between us and those we love, we could do worse then take them for our patrons and friends.
* Born at Bordeaux, Paulinus was elected consul of Nola, Italy, but, while visiting the tomb of St. Felix, was touched by grace to abandon earthly goods and become a priest. Appointed Bishop of Nola, his life of asceticism and charity made him one of the greatest bishops of the fifth century. He died in 431.
** A close friend of Basil the Great, Eusebius was one of the most forceful defenders of the dogma of the Holy Trinity as defined at the Council of Nicea. He was martyred by the Arians in 379 or 380.