This is a day rich in saints. Paulinus of Nola is a 4th century bishop who is remembered as a married man and a poet. He and his wife, Therasia, merged the fortunes of a wealthy Roman family, his, and Spanish family, hers, when they married. But in 389, when they became Christians, Paulinus and Therasia sold all their holdings and gave the money to the poor. What they lost in fortune, they gained in friendship. They became friends with Augustine, Ambrose of Milan and Jerome. It was Jerome who wrote of the holy couple that “east and west were filled with their gifts.” Their home outside Rome was open to anyone in need. It was always filled.
Paulinus was so loved and respected that the people of Nola, an Italian town near Naples, asked him to be their bishop. No doubt, Therasia’s wise counsel and companionship helped Paulinus in his ministry.
Their home outside Rome was open to anyone in need. It was always filled.
We also remember John Fisher and Thomas More today. Though both were executed as traitors to the throne of England in 1535, they died faithful in every way to the throne of God.
John was a scholar, the chancellor of Cambridge University, who later became Bishop of Rochester. Though he was bishop at a time when bishops lived like princes, John lived a simple life.
When Henry VIII decided to separate the English church from Rome, he asked all the bishops to sign oaths in support of the king and the separation. John refused. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Thomas More, like Paulinus of Nola, was a husband, devoted to his wife, Jane. They had four children, in whom Thomas delighted, and their home was beloved by all their friends.
Henry appointed Thomas, just as he had appointed John. He made Thomas the Chancellor of England in 1529. When the time came to stand for Henry against the church, Thomas also refused to sign the oath. He joined John in prison, where they spent a cold, hungry time. Deprived of books, visits from his many friends and even pen and paper, Thomas managed to scratch a final note in charcoal to his daughter, “Pray for me, as I shall for you, that we may merrily meet in heaven.”
Both men died within two weeks of one another. John was too weak to walk to his death and had to be carried. Thomas walked to his execution and spoke the words that stand for himself and his friend, John, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”