Friday, May 04, 2007

Feast of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales

Let me start with had a foreboding beginning. I am driving to school along Route 1. For about 15 miles I drove behind a large truck carrying hogs. For 15 miles the hogs' mess splattered the front end of my car. I should have known to just turn around and go home. Actually the day wasn't that bad: a day of minor annoyances and hurt pride-the kind of day which provides several opportunities to offer our sufferings up without too much strain as the sufferings aren't that bad. But the day ended well with my brother saying he and family would be coming for a visit soon and my in-laws actually arriving for a visit.

Today of course is one of my favorite saint feast days. I first knew of these martyrs when reading a biography of St. John Fisher by Michael Davies (Neumann Press). I read of the Carthusian martyrs and for some reason was fascinated-and wondered why I had never heard of the them before. This began a quest for information which one day, unexpectedly, resulted in Requiem Press . In fact, the day I began editing "Witnesses to the Holy Mass", our first book, I looked at the calendar half way through the day and realized that it was 4 May.

One of my fellow parishioners is a descendant of the family of St. John Kemble, "the grand old man of the English and Welsh martyrs, who cheerfully laid down his life at the age of 80..." (the custom-for those who smoke a pipe-of calling the last pipe of a sitting "the Kemble pipe" comes from his last request before being brought to the gallows.)

What really struck me about the tales fo the English & Welsh martyrs was the suddeness and unexpectedness of their call to martyrdom. Some were religious and some lay, but at least at the beginning, martyrdom in England for the Faith would have been considered unthinkable-so stalwart was England for Catholicity. Yet in just a handful of years monks were being brutally killed, all kinds of religious turned out of their monasteries, the Mass outlawed, and violation of these laws: treason. This turn of events and fortunes have many precedants, but we never think it can happen to us. Although our trial may not be so dramatic-it will come never-the-less.

It got me contemplating on how prepared was I for a tribulation. Would I be the John Houghton or the Maurice Chauncy, or abandon the Faith altogether. It was a start of a new spiritual journey for me.

So on this day, ask these 40 martyrs-who represent countless more who weren't formerly reconized-to assist you in your spiritual journey so that you may be ready for the trials and tribulations which will surely come your way in one form or another.

Oremus pro invicem!


Long-Skirts said...


A girl, a lady,
Wife, a mother,
From church of England
She saw the other.

The other, where,
Her church came from.
The other, where,
The fruit was plumb.

The other, where,
Her church beat down,
And looted jewels
For earthly crown.

And watching, she,
Was irritated,
And slowly grew

Sitting, silent,
In her shell,
Her home, a place,
Where priests could dwell,

Confect the Mass,
Many saved,
For this, their limbs
And lives were braved.

Because a woman
Kept her shell,
A jealous fortress
Barring hell.

And then the weak
Pried open wide,
Exposing truth,
The shell’s inside,

Where mother, wife,
Lady, girl,
Had turned into
York’s royalist pearl.

JCurley said...

One of my favorite poems! Thanks for sharing it with us.