Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Feast of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales

This feast holds a special place in my heart - for it is several of these holy martyrs who originally led the Curley's down the road which we travel now. I have a large collection of writings on the 40 martyrs - mostly on the Carthusian martyrs. I have a book in French (which I can't read despite 4 years study of that language), and a book in Latin published in 1888 of an eyewitness account which was originally published in the 16th century (again which I couldn't read despite 3 years of Latin - but fortunately I finally secured a translation.) I have a copy of the official presentation of their cause for canonization presented to Rome from the Archdiocese of Westminster. (Of course it is unclear to me whether it is actually today or the 25th of October where we celebrate these martyrs. But certainly the proto-martyr of the English Revolt, Saint John Houghton would be remembered this day of martyrdom 470 years ago.)

These martyrs have fascinated me - mostly because the historical parallels between 16th century England and 20th (or 21st) century America are uncanny at times.

However, I would like to clear a point which comes up time and time again in the course of my business and which I have seen elsewhere. One of our titles, "Witnesses to the Holy Mass and other sermons" is about Thomas More, John Fisher and the 40 English Martyrs. (Thomas More and John Fisher were canonized in 1935 whereas the rest in 1970.) People buying this book often ask me if it is about defending the traditional Latin Mass vs the Novus Ordo. Of course this is not the case - Witnesses to the Holy Mass and other sermons" (originally titled "Tyburn and the English Martyrs") was based on sermons given 101 years ago this week to commerate their sacrifices.

More interestingly and worrisome is that I often come across this attitude: 'there is an irony in the fact that in the same year Pope Paul VI promolugated the new missal, these 40 Martyrs who had died for the traditional Latin Mass were canonized'.

- In fact some of the 40 Martyrs died for Papal Supremacy - not particularly for the Mass.

- The Carthusians have their own Liturgy and rite - which was not then (nor is now) the "traditional Latin Mass". So for some to claim they died for the right to have the Tridentine Mass is just plain wrong.

- Finally, I have read - but not yet confirmed - that until after the Council of Trent (which codified and made the Tridentine Mass the norm), the Tridentine Mass was not the rite most common in England. (I am not sure which rite was the common one, but I will have to research this some more.) So some of these martyrs who did particularly die for the Mass, may not have been dying for the Tridentine Mass in particular.

My point in all this is that some people like to claim saints for their own - in order to further their own agenda. But we must remember that these martyrs died for our Lord. They died for the Faith, not for a particular form of the Liturgy.

John Houghton, May 4, 1535: proto-Martyr of the Protestant Revolt in England - ora pro nobis
Robert Lawrence -
Augustine Webster -
Richard Reynolds -
Augustinian friar
John Stone -
Alexander Briant -
Edmund Arrowsmith -
Edmund Campion -
David Lewis -
Henry Morse -
Henry Walpole -
Nicholas Owen -
Philip Evans -
Robert Southwell -
Thomas Garnet -
Alban Roe -
Ambrose Barlow -
John Roberts -
Friar Obervant:
John Jones -
John Wall -
Secular Clergy:
Cuthbert Mayne -
Edmund Gennings -
Eustace White -
John Almond -
John Boste -
John Kemble -
John Lloyd -
John Pain -
John Plessington -
John Southworth -
Luke Kirby -
Polydore Plasden -
Ralph Sherwin -
John Rigby -
Philip Howard -
Richard Gwyn -
Swithun Wells -
Anne Line, widow -
Margaret Clitherow -
Margaret Ward - ora pro nobis

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!


GFvonB said...

It is indeed true that the Carthusian Usage and the Sarum Usage (the Usage of Salisbury, which was the most common – though not the only – Missal in pre-reformation England) are not 100% identical to the Roman Missal of 1571 (or the almost identical edition of 1474). However, they are both, along with the Dominican, Lyonese, and others, Usages of the Roman Rite – they share the same structure and a very high percentage of the Ordinary text is identical or nearly so. They developed organically out of the Romano-Gallic liturgy that spread throughout Western Europe in the 8th – 11th Centuries. These usages sprung from the rite of the Roman See, and along with the other Western Rites (Mozarabic , Ambrosian, et al.) developed organically from the Apostolic age. However, the reason the struggle of the English Martyrs is equated with the struggle against the Novus Ordo is not entirely due to the stunning similarities between the text and manner of imposition of that “fabricated liturgy” (the words of our current Pope) with the fabricated Cranmerian liturgy of the nascent Anglican Communion, but also because so many of the martyrs made statements like the following:

“We wyll haue the masse in Latten, as was before.

We wyll haue the Sacrament hang Oller the hyeghe aulter, and there to be worshypped as it was wount to be, and they whiche will not thereto consent, we wyll haue them dye lyke heretykes against the Holy Catholyque fayth.

We wyll haue . . . images to be set vp again in euery church, and all other auncient olde Ceremonyes vsed heretofore, by our mother the holy Church.

We wyll not receyue the newe seruyce because it is but lyke a Christmas game, but we wyll haue oure old seruice of Mattens, masse, Euensong and procession in Latten as it was before.”

Jim said...


Thanks for giving me the details I lacked regarding which rites were common in Pre-Protestant Revolt England.

Of course these 40 martyrs span quite a bit of time: from Henry VIII who ardently believed in the Old Mass right the end, through the Book of Common Prayer type service, to Cromwell where all similarities to the Old Mass had vanished.

Thus, my point is still the same: these martyrs died for the Faith - and yes some, for the (valid) Mass. They didn't object to the invalid Mass because it was not in Latin, but because it was invalid. -- Oherwise I don't think you could make a case that they were even martyrs.

I appreciate the light you have shed. I am hopeful that we shall have the Mass or the Liturgy (widespread) which we have a right to as Catholics - soon. I think the future is bright.

Pax Christi,


William Luse said...

Don't know if you've seen it, but I wrote about a few of those martyrs in a long ago post. Thought it might interest you.

Jim said...

Mr. Luse:

I just it read it now - I didn't know blogs existed in 2002 - but it is good stuff. I first read of the Carthusian martyrs in a book on John Fisher by Michael Davies. The Carthusians have never been the exclusive subject of a book published (to my knowledge) on this side of the pond - and even in England, not since the mid 1930's. Maybe I will get around to finishing the book I started about them one of these days. The great stuff I found in doing research for the Carthusian book was in fact the inspiration for Requ. Press - as I alluded to above.

Thanks. Jim

Connie said...

Most interesting comments, especially the scholarly input from GFvonB.

One has to bear in mind that Henry VIII introduced a communion service in the English language which met with strong opposition. My 13 x great grandfather, Sir Anthony St Leger KG, was the King's Deputy in Ireland when it was introduced in Dublin. Sir Anthony had it translated into Latin because he was afraid the English Book of Common Prayer would drive more people than necessary away from the practice of religion. He remarked at time to the Archbishop Browne of Dublin, "your matters of religion will mar all" (his original remark was in Tudor spelling).

We celebrate today the Feast of the English Martyrs. It used to be the Feast of the Martyrs of England and Wales but the new liturgical calendar which came into effect in England in the year 2000 restricts the feast to the English martyrs. This required removing any beatified or canonized person born is Wales, Ireland or Scotland! Have they nothing better to do in Rome?!

Please remember in your prayers today those who were hanged, drawn and quartered on this day (4 May) in 1535 for their faith (or Novus Ordo?)

St John Houghton – Carthusian monk
Prior of London Charterhouse. Studied at Cambridge University.

St Robert Lawrence – Carthusian monk
Prior of Beauvale, Nottinghamshire.

St Augustine Webster – Carthusian monk
Prior of Axeholme, Lincolnshire

St Richard Reynolds – Bridgettine monk of Syon Abbey, Middx. Studies at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University.

These martyrs do appear to have been made of sterner stuff than we are. All of them knew they would be cut down after being hanged, and quartered while they were still conscious. Yet, it is recorded that the Carthusians walked in prayer to Tyburn, singing the Office. As they were dispatched at the gallows, the voices gradually diminished until there was a lone monk's voice left praising God.

Please also commemorate not just the group of forty martyrs canonized in 1970 and the group of 85 beatified in 1987. There are over 400 whose causes have been proved and a long list (the Dilati) of those for whom not enough precise information is available for the canonization process.

England may not have stood up very well to the Reformation, but remarkable English Catholic families saved the Catholic Church from extinction in the UK through their willingness to spend rivers of their blood rather than conform to the new religion. The Swedish Catholic Church was wiped out in virtually the same circumstances.