On the Roman calendar, John Fisher and Thomas More are remembered on 6 July, the date of More's death. In Anglican circles, they are often remembered three months later, together with their fellow martyr William Tyndale, and I have followed this custom. I accordingly note them only briefly here.
John Fisher was born in 1469, enrolled at Cambridge University in 1483, ordained in 1491, and in 1502 became chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. With her money and his ideas, they greatly altered Cambridge, restoring the teaching of Greek and Hebrew, bringing Erasmus over as a lecturer, and endowing many chairs and scholarships. In 1504 Fisher was made Chancellor of Cambridge and Bishop of Rochester. In 1527 he became chaplain to the new king, Henry VIII, and confessor to the queen, Catherine of Aragon. He stood high in the favor of Henry, who proclaimed that no other realm had any bishop as learned and devout.
Thomas More was born in 1478, studied law and was called to the Bar in 1501. He spent four years at the London Charterhouse (monastery of the Carthusian monks), considering becoming a priest or monk or friar. In 1505 he married Jane Colt, who eventually bore him three daughters and a son, but died in 1511. A few weeks after her death, More married a widow, Alice Middleton, with a son and a daughter of her own. The second marriage produced no offspring, but Alice made a good home for the six children already there, plus others whom More took in as students or as foster children. He was noted for giving his daughters far more education than most women, even in the upper classes, received. His friends included Erasmus and Colet, and other scholars who desired moderate reforms in the Church but were set against any break with the Papacy. Henry VIII, who became king in 1509, recognized More's learning and integrity, and appointed him to numerous public offices, including finally that of Lord Chancellor of England.
Trouble arose for both Fisher and More when Henry determined to seek a declaration that his marriage with Catherine was null on grounds of consanguinity. Fisher and More disagreed with him, and would not yield, either on the question of the annulment, nor later, when they were required to acknowledge the King as the final authority on ecclesiastical questions in England. Henry had them imprisoned, and finally beheaded, Fisher on 22 June 1535 and More on 6 July 1535.
O Almighty God, who didst give to thy servants Jan Huss, John Fisher, and Thomas More boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Almighty God, who gave to your servants Jan Huss, John Fisher, And Thomas More boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.