Archbishop Donald Wuerl was installed as the Archbishop of Washington today. It was concurrent with the Feast Day of two very important English martyrs, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. I'll leave it to you to read the links at the Catholic Encyclopedia. Suffice it to say that both of them shed their blood willingly standing up against a politician (Henry VIII) who wanted a tiny little thing called a divorce. All of the bishops of England said it was OK -- except Fisher. All of his courtiers said it was OK -- except More.
The two took divergent paths of strategy -- Fisher denounced him and More resigned the chancellorship and tried the method of silence in order to keep himself alive to care for his family. Fisher knew, though, that his strategy would get him killed.
More hoped to avoid that fate. "This is not the stuff of which martyrs are made," he tells his wife, Lady Alice, in Robert Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons. Yet, though he hoped to avoid it, that did not mean that he would yield and positively affirm that it was OK for Henry to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he assent to the formula that proclaimed Henry as the head of the Church in England.
For their unswerving stands, both lost their heads after having had their death sentences commuted from hanging, drawing and quartering (Fisher), and hanging (More).
Fortunately, here in the United States in the 21st century A.D., we have a few more bishops willing to take a stand than England did in the 16th century.
There are two things to observe about today's ceremonies:
1) St. Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians.
2) His Holiness, St. (oops!) Pope Benedict XVI, appointed Wuerl just at the right time so that he would be installed on this particular day. Every year, he will be reminded of that fact. Let us pray, then, that through the grace of God and the prayers of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More the new Archbishop of Washington will be one of those who does stand up against the cultural tide and stands unswervingly for the truth, even when it puts him in the media spotlight and under the unfriendly and even glaring eyes of Washington pols. One never knows what surprises the Holy Spirit might have in store.