In March, 1345, when John was 16, he was sent to Oxford by his father to become a priest. While there, in 1353, the black plague broke out. It was now that Wycliffe first began to question the authority of the church of Rome. When the plague came, while the poor and impoverished died by the score the priests fled, not even offering that small comfort man is most in need of in his dying hour. In 1358 the plague died out, and the priests returned, however the damage had been done, the people no longer saw them as their protectors, nor did they have as much fear of those who had left them in the time of their greatest fear.
In 1372, a 43 year-old Wycliffe received his doctorate of divinity after a debate with John of Kenningham. Because there were few doctors of divinity, and because of his eloquence and knowledge so ably displayed at the debate, on July 22, 1376, John Wycliffe was asked to be an ambassador from England, to the Catholic Church. The rift he was to discuss had begun in 1211, during the reign of king John, and the rule of Pope Innocent the III, (1199-1216). King John had attempted to change the law giving church the power to retain a percentage of the estate after a person died. He had lost the dispute, as well as additional power, the power of confirming bishoprics reverting to the pope rather than the king.
Wycliffe went to the center of Catholic rule, to discuss terms with the pope. He waited two years without seeing the Pope, at last, all was none negotiable and he returned home.
However, while at the seat of the Papacy Wycliffe had seen the luxury of the papacy as compared to the poverty of the populace. Saddened by these and other things, his writings began to portray “heretical doctrines.” And he began to be questioned. By the year 1381 he was forced to leave Oxford. By this time he was doing something very “heretical;” he was translating the Bible, always in Latin, and only read by the priests, into English.
In 1384 John Wycliffe was summoned for trial, but before he could answer the summons, he was called by a higher court, he died at the age of 55.
However, roughly forty years later, because he had not been burned as a heretic before, his bones were dug up and burned. They were dumped into the river, which flowed into the sea. And as the ashes joined the ocean, so the reformation spread.
Through His Strength We Will Conquer,
Andrew C. Abbott