The Saint John Fisher Missale
The name ‘Saint John Fisher Missale’ for this website was chosen because most of its contents were originally made for the use of the faithful at Fisher House, the Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of Cambridge, which a few months after the promulgation of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum established a weekly Mass according to the Extraordinary Form.
The University Chaplaincy, founded in 1895, is fittingly named after St John Fisher, who was not only a Saint and a Martyr, but also one of the most important figures in the history of the University of Cambridge.
John Fisher, the son of a merchant, came up to Michaelhouse (later suppressed and taken over by Trinity College) in 1484 and eventually became head of several colleges, Proctor, Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor of the University. He was instrumental in transforming the late-medieval University into a centre of the modern, humanist scholarship, and persuaded his friend Erasmus of Rotterdam to work for a while at Queens’ College. Fisher became confessor to Lady Margaret Beaufort (+ 1509), the mother of Henry VII, and through her patronage he was able to found two colleges (Christ’s College and St John’s College) and to endow academic positions that could support a true Catholic reform of the Church, including a chair in Biblical studies and a preachership. In 1504 he was appointed Bishop of the small and impoverished diocese of Rochester, and in the following years he worked there as a zealous pastor, several times refusing to exchange it for a better-endowed see.
When King Henry VIII moved with increasing aggressiveness against the Church — both to use her endowments for his wars and to divorce Queen Catherine of Aragon — John Fisher was the only bishop in England who remained loyal to the Holy Father and opposed the King’s plans. Having been imprisoned several times in the early 1530s, Fisher was eventually arrested as a traitor because he refused to acknowledge the King’s supposed marriage to Ann Boleyn. In 1535 he was created Cardinal Priest of S. Vitale by Pope Paul III, and this fact enraged the king so much that he had him sentenced to death for refusing to acknowledge him as Supreme Head of the ‘Church of England’. St John Fisher was beheaded on June 22, 1535, dying as a martyr for the freedom of the Church and the sanctity of marriage. He was beatified in 1886 and canonised in 1935.