It is often spoken of: fifty years ago in America the Catholic Church was strong, orthodox, and faithful. Yet within a few decades we have become a Catholic population ignorant of the doctrines of the Holy Catholic Faith; we have (some) shepherds who fail to teach or uphold the Truth and scandalize the faithful with their passive allowance of abuse and disregard Christ’s Vicar; we hear that less than 50% of Catholics believe in the Real Presence; we hear of many other things inconceivable just 50 years ago. How did this happen in so few years?
“Who would have guessed that a period of peace and sunshine was so suddenly to be changed into one of tempest and gloom? And yet we now see clearly enough that there were ominous signs of the coming change, had men only looked for them, long before the storm finally broke. The land seemed full of beautiful fruits and flowers, but there was a blight in the air, a canker in the heart of it all. And this blight, this canker, was the prevailing worldliness of the time. All this material prosperity had had a corrupting effect on those to whose pastoral care the flock of Christhad been committed; … the bishops were in many cases rather statesmen and politicians than ministers of Christ.” - Dom Bede Camm -
In early 16th century England, the Catholic Church was the pride of all Europe. The Protestant Revolt had not yet approached Britain’s shores. The King was “Defender of the Church”. Yet, in just a few years there commenced a century of martyrdom and persecution of Catholic faithful. Many, many fell away from the Faith of their fathers – among them, many bishops and priests. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was outlawed and obedience to Christ’s vicar and the doctrines of the Church dismissed. The persecution was fearsome and violent.
Dom Bede Camm’s words quoted above refer to 16th century England before the storm broke; they could equally refer to the mid-20th century in America. But there is a difference.
We have no gallows from which to hang in the present age. No one is being drawn towards the butcher’s block. Our faithfulness is not proven in blood. Our fate is worse than those of days of old. Our bodies are intact, but our souls and the souls of our children are being taken and destroyed. And this is Christ’s concern for us in the words at the head of this preface.
Six sermons preached 100 years ago across the ocean; sermons commemorating martyrs of the Holy Catholic Church whose blood was shed across the oceans and across the centuries; six sermons preached by a convert to the Faith, a Benedictine monk, whose purpose was to inspire and to pray for the (re)conversion of England to the Faith of her fathers. But this prayer for England should also be a prayer for the conversion of our own country. The martyrs’ tales herein do not just belong to England, but to the whole Church.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Altar is not outlawed in America, but is profaned by the lukewarmness of the souls in the congregation. We need to renew our devotion to the Holy Eucharist. We need to pray for the conversion of souls. We need to mortify and persecute our own bodies for the sake of the conversion of the souls of our brethren and of our children. If the Destroyer is not persecuting our bodies – he is certainly pursuing our souls with the temptations of worldliness and lukewarmness.
This is why Requiem Press has determined to reprint this volume. The sermons which follow will help us see the priority that our fathers placed on the Faith and the sacraments - a priority that is often absent in our hearts today. These will inspire us to greater devotion to the Holy Mass; greater love for the doctrines of the Church (“on His law he shall meditate day and night” Ps. 1:2) taught by Christ’s vicar.
By the reading of these tales of martyrs and the contemplation of their sacrifices, may we be inspired anew and our flames of love be rekindled so that we may fervently pray that God raise up saints among us once more!
Oremus pro invicem! – Let us pray for each other!