Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556)

Mark Fackler

READ : Psalm 31:21-24

Let your heart take courage. (v. 24)

Thomas Cranmer lived a clergyman’s dream—Cambridge trained, archbishop of Canterbury, pastor to kings. Loyally he had married King Henry VIII to a succession of women, then granted divorces when the wives failed to produce a male child. Cranmer’s reputation was all but set in stone when he wrote and compiled the Anglican church’s liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer. In every way, he had found success.

But Cranmer’s fortunes were to change. When Henry and then Edward VI died, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry’s first wife and a devout Catholic, became queen. Cranmer was charged with heresy and high treason. His trial was a mockery of justice. Mary’s henchmen symbolically wiped away his ordination.

Cranmer’s courage faltered. On his last night, he succumbed to dreadful fear, signing statements recanting his reformed and evangelical convictions.

But his statements, born of weakness, did not save him. As guards prepared him for the fire, Cranmer repudiated those midnight signings and declared his belief in Christ alone. With the fire leaping around him, he lowered his right hand into the flames, the hand which had given in to fear the night before. “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” he moaned, then collapsed into the fire.


Lord, when death approaches, even as I fear the passage, keep my heart fixed on you.