Today we celebrate the feast of two of the greatest saints of our Church and country - Saints John Fisher and Thomas More. They were executed for refusing to accede to Henry VIII’s demand for a second marriage. They were remarkable men who set an example that Catholic men and women would have to follow for over 100 years, and it was 300 years before civil rights and the right to worship were re-established.
There were hundreds of men and women who gave their lives for their faith, for that right to gather in community for the celebration of Mass; we owe them a great deal. There were thousands of others who, although they did not have to make the ultimate sacrifice, nonetheless held firm to their convictions despite being excluded from civic society.
Their example can sustain us during these days in a couple of ways. Firstly, that in the darkness of those days often lived in solitude they never lost faith in the Mass; their private prayer and devotion sustained them heroically; they remained true to the Church. We look forward to the days when we can gather in freedom and in the meantime our faith, far from being diminished, is strengthened by the prayer of the Church at Home.
Secondly, I think we can use this time, as Pope Francis continually says (and said so eloquently on Radio 4 at 8.10am this morning) to grasp the opportunity for nurturing our sense of conversion - and remember that we have a responsibility, here and now, to reach out to the poor and marginalised. Now is the time to begin again to build a better more caring world.
Let us continue to pray for each other - we are a community of faith and prayer. We pray especially for Tom Rogerson whose funeral we celebrate today.
St Joseph, guardian of the poor, pray for us