Sunday 31 July 2022

John Fisher - Eldred Willey - CTS Saints of the Isles

John Fisher
CTS Saints of the Isles
Eldred Willey 
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860822445
CTS Booklet B678

The CTS Saints of the Isles Series is one of my favourite series. I have tracked down what I believe to be all the books in the series, and this is my last to be read and reviewed. Each of the books in the series is a biography. Most, like this one, are biographies of specific individuals.  Also most in the series are biographies of martyrs, making it fitting that I end on a martyr. Over the last several years I have read over 300 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. This was the sixteenth I have read in the Saints of the Isles Series since 2018, and several have been read more than once. I have also read many in the CTS Biographies and also Great Saints Series. There are many great stories about the lives of the saints. As mentioned, I believe I have a complete list of the volumes in this series. The description of the series is:

“The Saints of the Isles series brings together telling accounts of the extraordinary lives of men and women from the British Isles - lives of holiness, courage and true discipleship to Christ and the Gospel message.”

And the description of this specific book:

“John Fisher was the son of a prosperous cloth-merchant. His brilliant mind ensured that he rose quickly in the Church, and he eventually became Bishop of Rochester. As a Christian Humanist he was a friend of fellow Saint, Thomas More.

His Yorkshire roots ensured a plain-speaking loyalty to the truth that led to his martyrdom. He remains the only British Cardinal to be martyred and the  only bishop of England who held out against Henry VIII until the very end.”

The chapters in this volume are:

     Only one man 
     The people's pastor 
     Of wood and wainscotting 

Interlude: The Write
     A delightful gift of language 
     The wrath is not in God 
     A preview of Screwtape 
     Mary the dawn 

Valiant for truth 
     The sermon of a lifetime 
     Men mad with marvellous foolishness 
     The king 's matter 

The Onslaught 
     Divers new enormities 
     For this cause 
     Oranges and half a custard 
     The heart is a lonely hunter 

     The inventory 
     Truth itself 

Further reading

As someone who was raised Irish Catholic, I was taught in the family and school to hate the English and their oppression over hundreds of years. Reading this story and others in the series has opened my eyes to a vibrant, rich Catholic faith and tradition in England, and the Isles. It was a great surprise to me, and one that has fascinated me over the last few years. I have used many of the biographies from the CTS as starting points and gone on to read books, by and about many of the subjects of these books. Fischer will be one such persona. I found this volume hard to put down. And I greatly enjoyed it. I highlighted a few passages my first time through this work. Some of them are:

“On 22nd June 1535 John Fisher laid down his life for the flock of Christ which he loved so much. He was the only English Cardinal ever to be executed, and the only bishop who withstood, to the end, Henry VIII’s takeover of the English Church.”

“Fisher was already Bishop of Rochester and Chancellor of Cambridge University when he published his first book, a commentary on the Seven Penitential Psalms. It was an instant success, and like any best-seller dramatic, passionate and hard to put down.” 

“If Fisher is Bible-based, he is also Spirit-filled. The most infallible sign of it is joy: what C.S. Lewis called “the serious business of heaven”.”

“By instinct Fisher was a pastor and teacher, not a controversialist. It was not until he was fifty - and then only reluctantly - that he turned to polemical writing. He did so “to confirm the faith of the weaker brethren” who for far too long had been “poised on the knife-edge between heresy and orthodoxy”. If the flock should perish through the negligence of the pastors, he argued, then “the blood shall be on our heads”.”

“By the time he was born, the great popes like Gregory and Innocent III were a distant memory. So neither did he spare the papacy, which Alexander VI (and son) had come close to turning into a family business. “Some may say,” said Fisher - and doubtless he included himself among them – “that nowhere else is the life of Christians more contrary to Christ than in Rome”, where the leaders of the Church “neither fast nor pray, but give themselves up to luxury and lust”.”

I hope those few quotes instil some interest in this wonderful volume. This is a fantastic read in a wonderful series. Reading about so many martyrs is not easy but it is important. And important that we know about them so we can call on their intercession in this day and age. 

Reading a book about a martyr was a fitting conclusion to the Saints of the Isles Series from the Catholic Truth Society. It was another profoundly powerful story. It is another excellent biography from the CTS it is a great read! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the Saints of the Isles Series:

Edmund Arrowsmith - John S. Hogan
Margaret Clitherow - Jean Olwen Maynard
Edmund Campion - Alexander Haydon
John Southworth Priest and Martyr - Michael Archer
Saint Thomas More - Alvaro de Silva
John Ogilvie - Eleanor McDowell
Frances Taylor - Eithne Leonard
Mary Potter - Elizabeth Gilroy
John Fisher - Richard L. Smith
Robert Southwell - Fiorella Sultana De Maria
Ignatius Spencer - Fr. Ben Lodge
Sr Elizabeth Prout - Dominic Savio Hamer
Forty Martyrs of England and Wales - James Walsh
Thomas Becket - J.B. Midgley


Books by Eldred Willey:
John Fisher – CTS Saints of the Isles
Generosity in the Family – CTS Family Matters 

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