Category Archives: Forty Martyrs of England & Wales

Mar 22 – St Nicholas Owen, SJ, (d. 1606) – Religious, Martyr, Artist, Builder of Hiding Places for Priests

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Nicholas, familiarly known as “Little John,” was small in stature but big in the esteem of his fellow Jesuits.  Born at Oxford, this humble artisan saved the lives of many priests and laypersons in England during the penal times (1559-1829), when a series of statutes punished Catholics for the practice of their faith.

Over a period of about 20 years he used his skills to build secret hiding places for priests throughout the country. His work, which he did completely by himself as both architect and builder, was so good that time and time again priests in hiding were undetected by raiding parties. He was a genius at finding, and creating, places of safety: subterranean passages, small spaces between walls, impenetrable recesses. At one point he was even able to mastermind the escape of two Jesuits from the Tower of London. Whenever Nicholas set out to design such hiding places, he began by receiving the Holy Eucharist, and he would turn to God in prayer throughout the long, dangerous construction process.

Nicholas enrolled as an apprentice to the Oxford joiner William Conway on the feast of the Purification of Blessed Mary, February 2nd, 1577. He was bound in indenture and as an apprentice for a period of eight years and the papers of indenture state that he was the son of Walter Owen, citizen of Oxford, carpenter. Oxford at the time was strongly Catholic. The Statute of artificers determined that sons should follow the profession into which they were born. If he completed his apprenticeship it would have been in 1585. We know from Fr. John Gerard, SJ, a biographer of Nicholas’, that he began building hides in 1588 and continued over a period of eighteen years when he could have been earning good money satisfying the contemporary demand for well-made solid furniture.

St Henry Garnet, SJ, Jesuit Superior in England at the time, in a letter dated 1596 writes of a carpenter of singular faithfulness and skill who has traveled through almost the entire kingdom and, without charge, has made for Catholic priests hiding places where they might shelter the fury of heretical searchers. If money is offered him by way of payment he gives it to his two brothers; one of them is a priest, the other a layman in prison for his faith.

Owen was only slightly taller than a dwarf, and suffered from a hernia caused by a horse falling on him some years earlier. Nevertheless, his work often involved breaking through thick stonework; and to minimize the likelihood of betrayal he often worked at night, and always alone. The number of hiding-places he constructed will never be known. Due to the ingenuity of his craftsmanship, some may still be undiscovered.

After many years at his unusual task, he entered the Society of Jesus and served as a lay brother, although—for very good reasons—his connection with the Jesuits was kept secret. After a number of narrow escapes, he himself was finally caught in 1594. Despite protracted torture, he refused to disclose the names of other Catholics. After being released following the payment of a ransom, “Little John” went back to his work. He was arrested again in 1606. This time he was subjected to horrible tortures, suffering an agonizing death. The jailers tried suggesting that he had confessed and committed suicide, but his heroism and sufferings soon were widely known.

Why should priests need hiding places? From 1585 it was considered treason, punishable by a traitor’s death, to be found in England if a priest had been ordained abroad. Of Owen, the modern edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints says: “Perhaps no single person contributed more to the preservation of Catholic religion in England in penal times”.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.  The last hope for the Catholics collapsed when peace was made with Spain. They had hoped that Catholic Spain, as part of the bargain, would have secured freedom for them to practice their religion. Relief of Catholics was discussed, but James said that his Protestant subjects wouldn’t stand for it.  So there was to be no relief. In fact the screw was tightened again.

Anglican bishops were ordered to excommunicate Catholics who would not attend Anglican services – this meant that no sale or purchase by them was valid, no property  could be passed on by deed or by will.  The level of persecution was higher than ever it had been under Elizabeth.

In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, 1605, the result of the frustration of a group of young Catholics when, after dropping hints of toleration, James I made it clear that there would be no relaxation of anti – Catholic legislation, the hunt for priests accused of complicity centered on Hindlip House. This had been provided with hiding places by Nicholas Owen which proved undetectable. He himself was there and when he emerged after four days of hiding he was arrested.

At daybreak on Monday, 20th November, 1605, Hindlip House was surrounded by 100 men. They began to rip the house to pieces.  In the dark, early on Thursday morning, two men, Owen and Bl Ralph Ashley, SJ, another lay-brother and cook, were spotted stealing along a gallery.  They said they were no longer able to conceal themselves, having had but one apple between them for four days. They would not give their names.

It was hardly likely that Nicholas Owen, of all people, would not have been better provided.  They had twice been tipped off during the previous week that a search was imminent. Possibly they hoped that in giving themselves up they would distract attention from the two priests still in hiding, Fr Garnet, SJ, and Fr Oldcorne, SJ, still hiding in Hindlip House, even to being mistaken for them.  It was a ruse that had worked before. It didn’t work now.  The search was intensified.  The priests were in a hide which had been supplied with a feeding tube from an adjoining bedroom, but the hiding place had not been designed to be lived in for a week. After 8 days they emerged, were arrested and identified. All four were taken to London.

Nicholas Owen, SJ, had been in prison before; he had been tortured before.  He was now taken to the torture room, for the first time, on the 26th of February 1606. His identity as a hide-builder seemed to have been betrayed. “We will try to get from him by coaxing, if he is willing to contract for his life, an excellent booty of priests”.  Realizing just whom they had caught, and his value, Secretary of State, Robert Cecil exulted: “It is incredible, how great was the joy caused by his arrest… knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places, and the innumerable quantity of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England.”

On March 2nd it was announced that Nicholas Owen had committed suicide.  People were simply incredulous. It would have been impossible for one who had been tortured as he had.  The Venetian Ambassador reported home:  “Public opinion holds that Owen died of the tortures inflicted on him, which were so severe that they deprived him not only of his strength but of the power to move any part of his body”.

It seems certain that the suicide story was a fiction concocted by a Government deeply embarrassed to find itself with a corpse in its custody as a result of torture.

For those few grim days in February, writes a historian, as the Government tried to break him, the fate of almost every English Catholic lay in Owen’s hands.

In life he had saved them, in death he would too: not a single name escaped him.

In opposition to English law, which forbade the torture of a man suffering from a hernia, as he was, he was racked day after day, six hours at a time. He died under torture without betraying any secret – and he knew enough to bring down the entire network of covert Catholics in England.

“Most brutal of all was the treatment given to Nicholas Owen, better known to the recusants as Little John. Since he had a hernia caused by the strain of his work, as well as a crippled leg, he should not have been physically tortured in the first place. But Little John, unlike many of those interrogated, did have valuable information about the hiding places he had constructed; if he had talked, all too many priests would have been snared ‘like partridges in a net’. In this good cause the government was prepared to ignore the dictates of the law and the demands of common humanity. A leading Councillor, on hearing his name, was said to have exclaimed: “Is he taken that knows all the secret places? I am very glad of that. We will have a trick for him.”

The trick was the prolonged use of the manacles, an exquisitely horrible torture for one of Owen’s ruptured state. He was originally held in the milder prison of the Marshalsea, where it was hoped that other priests would try to contact him, but Little John was ‘too wise to give any advantage’ and spent his time safely and silently at prayer. In the Tower he was brought to make two confessions on 26 February and 1 March.

In the first one, he denied more or less everything. By the time of the second confession, long and ghastly sessions in the manacles produced some results (his physical condition may be judged by the fact that his stomach had to be bound together with an iron plate, and even that was not very effective for long). Little John admitted to attending Father Garnet at White Webbs and elsewhere, that he had been at Coughton during All Saints visit, and other details of his service and itinerary.  However, all of this was known already. Little John never gave up one single detail of the hiding places he had spent his adult life constructing for the safety of his co-religionists.

The lay brother died early in the morning of 2 March. He died directly as a result of his ordeal and in horrible, lingering circumstances. By popular standards of his day, this was a stage of cruelty too far. The government acknowledged this in its own way by putting out the story that Owen had ripped himself open with the knife given him to eat his meat – while his keeper was conveniently looking elsewhere – rather than face renewed bouts of torture. Yet Owen’s keeper had told a relative who wanted Owen to make a list of his needs that his prisoner’s hands were so useless that he could not even feed himself, let alone write.

The story of the suicide was so improbable that neither Owen’s enemies nor his friends, so well acquainted with his character over so many years, believed it. Suicide was a mortal sin in the Catholic Church, inviting damnation, and it was unthinkable that a convinced Catholic like Nicholas Owen should have imperiled his immortal soul in this manner.”

Father Gerard wrote of him:  “I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.”  -Autobiography of an Elizabethan

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-statue of St Nicholas Owen, SJ

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-St Nicholas Owen, SJ, being tortured in the Tower of London, 1606. Engraver Melchior Kusell“Societas Jesu ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans”

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-engraving, “Torture of Blessed Edward Oldcorne, SJ & St Nicholas Owen, SJ, by Gaspar Bouttats, National Portrait Gallery, London.  The Jesuit hanging from his wrists with weights tied to his feet is suffering the “Topcliffe rack”.  This method of torture was ultimately what killed Nicholas  Owen, as due to his hernia, “his bowels gushed out with his life”.

Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic, a performance type promoting Christian values and morals, consider St. Nicholas Owen the Patron of Illusionists and Escapologists due to his facility at using “trompe l’oeil”, “to deceive the eye”, when creating his hideouts and the fact that he engineered an escape from the Tower of London.  Many Catholic builders, if they are familiar with him, may say a prayer of intercession to St Nicholas Owen prior to beginning a new project.

“May the blood of these Martyrs be able to heal the great wound inflicted upon God’s Church by reason of the separation of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Is it not one — these Martyrs say to us — the Church founded by Christ? Is not this their witness? Their devotion to their nation gives us the assurance that on the day when — God willing — the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored, no offence will be inflicted on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England.”

–from the Homily of Pope Paul VI at the canonization of Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, including St. Nicholas Owen, SJ, 25 October 1970.

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-Saint Nicholas Owen, SJ, Felt Softie by SaintlySilver on Etsy, $19.00

Love,
Matthew

Feb 27 – St Anne Line (1567-1601), Wife, Mother, Martyr, Protector of Priests

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Anne Heigham was born at Dunmow (Essex), England, around 1565, the second daughter.  Her father was a strict and wealthy Calvinist.  In her teens she and her brother, William, became Catholics and were disinherited and disowned by their family.  In 1585 she married another disinherited convert, Roger Line. Her husband  and her brother were both arrested and imprisoned while attending Mass together.  They were fined and eventually banished.  This left Anne destitute.  Roger Line went to Flanders, where he received a small allowance from the King of Spain, part of which he sent regularly to his wife until his death around 1594.  To support herself, Anne taught, embroidered, made vestments and kept house for priests.

Around the same time, Father John Gerard, S.J. opened a house of refuge for hiding priests, and put the newly-widowed Anne Line in charge of it, despite her ill health. By 1597, this house had become insecure, so another was opened, and Anne Line was, again, placed in charge. On 2 February 1601, Fr. Francis Page, SJ, was saying Mass in the house managed by Anne Line, when men arrived to arrest him, having seen a large number of people congregating at the house (for Mass). The priest managed to slip into a special hiding place, prepared by her and afterwards to escape, but she was arrested, along with two other laypeople.

She was tried at the Old Bailey on 26 February 1601. She was so weak that she was carried to the trial in a chair. She told the court that she was so far from regretting having concealed a priest, she only grieved that she “could not receive a thousand more.” Sir John Popham, the judge, sentenced her to hang  the next day at Tyburn.

Anne Line was hanged on 27 February 1601. She was executed immediately before two priests, Fr. Roger Filcock, nSJ , her confessor, and Fr. Mark Barkworth, OSB, , though, as a woman, she was spared the disemboweling  that they endured. At the scaffold she repeated what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders: “I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.”

It has been argued (by John Finnis and others) that Shakespeare’s poem The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) was written shortly after her death to commemorate Anne and Roger Line and that it allegorically takes the form of a Catholic requiem for the couple.  The poem is secretly a Catholic eulogy. This argument is linked to claims that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic sympathizer.  Like Shakespeare’s couple the Lines had no children.

The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) -by William Shakespeare

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou, shriking harbinger,
Foul pre-currer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou, treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle (dove) fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov’d, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle (dove) and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix’ sight:
Either was the other’s mine.

Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either-neither,
Simple were so well compounded

That it cried how true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none
If what parts can so remain.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.

THRENOS.

Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:–
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

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St Anne Line Societies are being formed in parishes around the globe for both men and women to assist, support, and pray for our priests.
St Anne Line, pray for married couples.  St Anne Line, pray for c
hildless couples.  St Anne Line, Protector of Priests, pray for us!

When condemned for harboring a priest, St Anne retorted to the judge, “Pity it wasn’t a thousand!”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ, (1585-1628) – Priest & Martyr, The Holy Hand

St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ

OK, maybe this whole internet thing has gone far enough?  Now I’m finding “rate this saint” and blogs about saints – the opine of the unwashed masses. 🙂 Now:  if you can’t beat ’em, join em! 🙂

The Internet – where else you can curse out and become furious with people whom you have never met?  What a wonderful invention.  Remember, it’s not the technology.  It’s the humans.  The technology is neutral, it merely amplifies what was already there.  Granted it may serve as a catalyst to more and greater positive and negative interactions, but “It IS in the way that you use it.”  Thank you, Eric Clapton.

n.b. the only exception I have found, of course, is the University of Virginia blogs.  Everyone stays on topic, refers to each other as Mr./Ms., liberally quotes Jefferson, and all remain quite respectful of each other throughout the entire discourse, citing meaningful reference, analogy, and example.  It is a special place, isn’t it.  Profanity would be met with horror, and certainly never in writing, and never in a public forum.  Puhllease!  We are ladies and gentlemen here, not the help. (please never take me seriously when I sound like that.  I’m just having fun!)  Civilization and civility clings to life in a few very sparse, special pockets.  Like Ireland in the Dark Ages.  See http://tiny.cc/inf9y.

Civility, anyone?  What happened to good manners?  Civil discourse?  Our democracy relies upon the respectful exchange of viewpoints, or it should.  For that matter, so does civilization?  So instead of the effort, discipline, and charity civil discourse requires, we remain silent?  God help us all.  Class cannot be bought, and very rarely taught to adults.  It is realized in the rearing of children, if at all.  If you want to get depressed about humanity, read blogs.  “Love one another?”  Jesus, you’re kidding, right?  That is a good one.  What else ya’ got?

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A Jesuit saint, finally!  I shouldn’t act so surprised, should I?  I couldn’t resist.  Ok, there go a goodly part of Mara’s chances for a quality education…I hope the Holy Ghost Fathers have a sense of humor.

We must remember, the idea of separation of Church and state was deeply radical at the time of US Revolution.  The idea that one could hold public office and not be of a certain denomination was unheard of.  The idea held that loyalty to one’s country was predicated on one’s religious beliefs, and religious beliefs and attendance at services was mandatory and absences were very noticeable, was prevalent and had been for all of history, to that point.

Go back as far as you like, but take the god-king Pharaohs as a primary example.  Coronation has many parallels and overtones with ordination and vice versa, both include anointing, and both always in churches.  Jesus is the Christ because He is King, Priest, & Prophet.  “A Deo rex, a rege lexa!…The king is from God, the law from the king!” -James I of England.

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, knelt in the snow of Canossa for three days, 25 January to 27 January 1077, begging the Pope to rescind his excommunication.  Excommunication of the sovereign meant subjects no longer had feudal duty and may overthrow at will, and should.  When Napoleon took the crown from the altar of Notre Dame, it having been blessed by Pius VII, and placed it on his own head, instead of having the Pope crown him, as was traditional, the symbolism was clear.  It was he himself who gave himself power, not the Church.

If one was not of the established state religion, how could one claim loyalty to the state?  The Church supported the state and gave it legitimacy.  The state gave protection to the Church, usually, exemption from taxes, its own ecclesiastical courts, etc., all were most historical.  When the Roman Empire collapsed in the West, the Church was the only remaining institution resembling some/any form of government.  People came to rely on it for such.  The very vestments worn today are the uniforms of office of Roman civil servants.

In England, during the reign of Henry VIII, it became dangerous to remain Catholic.  It became right out mortal to be priest.  It became a death wish to minister.  The main source of information on St Edmund is a contemporary account written by an eyewitness and published a short time after his death.  Edmund was the eldest son of Robert Arrowsmith, a farmer, and Margery Gerard’s, a member of an important Lancashire Catholic family, four children.  Edmund was born at Haydock, England. He was baptized Brian, but always used his Confirmation name of Edmund.  The name Edmund has a sentimental value for me.  It is a long given Christian name in the McCormick family.

Edmund’s parents refused to attend Protestant services, harbored priests in their home, and at one point were arrested and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle for their actions, dragged away in the night, leaving the shivering child Edmund in his night clothes, along with his siblings, until neighbors took them in.

Edmund’s grandfather, Nicholas Gerard, was recusant, one who refuses to attend Anglican services, and spent time in prison.  His other grandfather died in prison a confessor, one who suffers persecution, including torture.  The family was constantly harassed for its adherence to Roman Catholicism.  English Catholics have always been devoted to Our Lady and the first of St Edmund’s biographers speaks of his devotion to her. On his way to school at Sennely Green, it was his custom to say part of the Little Office of Our Lady and he would recite vespers and compline on his return.

In 1605 Edmund left England and went to study for the priesthood at the English College at Douai, France.  Many young Catholic men risked their lives to make such a journey.  On 27 May 1601 it was recorded that, “Lately 15 or 16 youths of good houses were taken (captive) as they were going over to the seminary.  Some had journeyed in rags through forests living on roots and berries until they reached the coast. Others had been sent to the frightful house of correction at Bridewell, or imprisoned twice or even three times before they got clear…..”

Edmund was soon forced to quit the seminary and return to England due to ill health, but recovered and returned to Douai in 1607.  Edmund was ordained in Arras, France on December 9, 1612 and sent on the English mission (sent back to England to minister to Catholics) the following year.  The return to England was also dangerous.

On June 17, 1613, Edmund began his return journey.  Ports were especially dangerous: officials had descriptions from spies of those returning and so many landed on isolated shores. In ‘The Proclamation against Jesuits’ 21 November 1591 it was said, ”And furthermore , because it is known and proved by common experience…that they do come into the same (realm) by secret creeks and landing places, disguised both in names and persons, some in apparel as soldiers, mariners or merchants, pretending that they have heretofore been taken prisoners and put into galleys and delivered. Some come as gentlemen with contrary  names in comely apparel as though they had travelled to foreign countries for knowledge: and generally all, for the most part, are clothed like gentlemen in apparel, and many as gallants; yea in all colours, and with feathers and such like, disguising themselves; and many of them in their behaviour as ruffians, far off to be thought or suspected to be friars, priests, Jesuits or popish scholars.”

Edmund Arrowsmith ministered to Roman Catholics of Lancashire at the still-standing Arrowsmith House, located in Hoghton, Lancashire.  He hid his vestments, chalice, and altar stones in a nearby cottage.  He travelled the area on horseback and would stay overnight where there was a hiding place, to bring the sacrifice of the Mass to the people. Father Robert Persons, in a letter written in July 1581 wrote, “No-one is to be found…who complained of the length of services. If Mass does not last nearly an hour many are discontented. If six or eight masses are said in the same place on the same day, the same congregation will assist at all.”(Compare that to today, and whispers of “Fr. Sominex” and the rush to the parking lot!  I guess it IS ALL context!)

Queen Elizabeth’s governors and hierarchy lived on confiscated Catholic property, so public distrust of priests supposedly working as agents of Catholic Spain and working for a Spanish invasion, worked to their advantage, keeping the population in a constant state of paranoia, dependant on an intrusive government. To keep all this in place, Elizabeth had her own Inquisition. Outspoken, Edmund was arrested in 1622 and questioned by the Protestant bishop of Chester, Dr. Bridgeman, and various Protestant clergymen of the area.  Edmund spent his prison time arguing theology with them.   He was released unexpectedly when King James I ordered all arrested priests be freed, in a political maneuver to temporarily appease the Spanish.  Even in these oppressive times Edmund was known for his pleasant disposition, sincerity, energy, fervor, zeal, and wit.

After making the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola (ask a Jesuit), Edmund joined the Jesuits in 1624, at Clerkenwell, London then immediately returned to Lancashire.  In 1628, he was arrested when betrayed by a fellow Catholic to the local justice of the peace, a Mr. Rostern.  His betrayer was a young man, a Mr. Holden, the son of the landlord of the Blue Anchor Inn in south Lancashire, where Fr. Arrowsmith was staying.  Fr. Arrowsmith had imposed a penance on Holden and his wife to which they would not submit.  Fr. Arrowsmith had censored Holden for an incestuous marriage.  The Holdens were first cousins.  Fr. Arrowsmith tried to escape, warned by Capt. Rawsthorn that he was about to send soldiers for him, but Edmund was captured at Brindle Moss, where his horse refused to jump a ditch.  A small statue of Our Lady Edmund always carried with him dropped as he was captured.  It now resides at Arrowsmith House.  His captors bought themselves drinks with nine shillings of Edmund’s money.

Edmund preached the Gospel to his fellow prisoners while in jail.  On August 26th 1628, Sir Henry Yelverton ordered Edmund to be brought to the bar, and during the trial Yelverton swore that he would not leave Lancashire before the prisoner was executed and made sure the prisoner saw his own bowels burn before his face.  Sir Henry inflamed the jury with his bitterness.

Edmund decided to let the court prove the charge rather than help them with a confession, replying, “Would that I were worthy of being a priest!” When the jury found him guilty of being a Jesuit priest, he fell to his knees, bowed his head, and exclaimed, “Thanks be to God!”  The sentence was read,”You shall go from hence to the place from whence you came.  From thence you shall be drawn to the place of execution upon a hurdle;  you shall there be hanged till you are half dead;  your members shall be cut off before your face and thrown into the fire, where likewise your bowels shall be burnt:  your head shall be cut off and set upon a stake, and your quarters shall be set upon the four corners of the castle; and may God have mercy upon you.”  No one in Lancashire could be found to perform the execution.  Finally, a deserter, under the same sentence, was found to do the deed.

Yelverton ordered the execution at mid-day when the townspeople of Lancashire would be busy, so as to avoid a crowd.  However, a large crowd appeared.  Edmund spoke, “I die for love of Thee;  for our Holy Faith; for the support of the authority of Thy vicar on earth, the successor of St Peter, true head of the Catholic Church, which Thou hast founded and established.”

Brought to execution, “the usual butchery”, Edmund spoke again.  “I freely offer Thee my death, O sweet Jesus, in satisfaction for my sins, and I wish this little blood of mine may be a sacrifice for them”.  He asked the Catholics present to pray for him. He then prayed for the King, forgave his persecutors and asked for forgiveness from all those whom he may have offended. He continued, “Be witnesses with me that I die a constant Roman Catholic and for Christ’s sake; let my death be an encouragement to your going forward in the Catholic religion.” His confession on the day of his execution was heard by fellow-prisoner Saint John Southworth.  His final words before the executioner pushed him from the ladder were,”Bone Jesu” (O good Jesus).

Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ, was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Lancaster on August 28th, 1628.  He was 43 yrs old and had been a Jesuit for only five years.

From his remains, his hand was cut off by another Catholic as a relic.  It has been preserved and kept by the Arrowsmith family until he was beatified and it now rests in the Catholic Church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith, Ashton-in-Makerfield, England in a silver casket.  Many miracles are reported due to it.

On Saturday, September 18, 2010, 43 staff and pupils from St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ High School in Ashton-in-Makerfield, UK journeyed to London to welcome BXVI to England for the beatification of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman  The Pope spoke the following words to the crowd, especially the young, “When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best.”

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-St Edmund’s vestments and Mass kit, Stonyhurst College, UK

Love,
Matthew

Jun 22 – St Thomas More, (1477-1535 AD), Martyr, Husband & Father

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-by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527

“omnium horarum homo” -a man for all seasons, referring to his wide scholarship and knowledge

Excerpts taken from “Married Saints” by John F. Link, pp 1-3; 6-15.

“…[Thomas] More is known in literary circles as one of the best authors of the Renaissance.  He was widely known as both a poet and an author…The most famous of his works was Utopia, the literary masterpiece he wrote when he was 39 years old.  Its publication opened the doors to other literary figures of his time…More hosted mainly literary figures and educators in his home; one of the things he was known for was his talents as a host.

More was born on February 7, 1477 in London, to John and Agnes More.  His mother died when he was a child and was not an influence on him.  His father, though, was.  Like his son Thomas would become, John More was a lawyer.  He attended very closely to Thomas’ personal and professional development.  Left to his own preferences, Thomas would not have become a lawyer since his preferences in school were for theology and the other liberal arts – literature, history, and philosophy.  Like many scholars of his time, he became fluent in both Latin and Greek.  In fact, he wrote Utopia in Latin for the intelligentsia of Europe.  It was translated into English after his death.

Thomas studied at Oxford from age 14 to 16, was a pre-law student in London from 16 to 18, a law student from 18-23, and admitted to the bar at 23…More also entered politics, being elected a member of Parliament at age 27 by the merchants who were his clients.  His reputation as a lawyer grew, especially his reputation for honesty and integrity.

By the time More reached his 40’s, he had become the most successful lawyer in England.  Because of his reputation for integrity and prudent judgment, both as a lawyer and as a judge, More’s law practice grew enormously and he became quite wealthy.  More’s reported income was 400 pounds sterling per year.  A substantial amount, considering ordinary people in London of that time lived on ten pounds sterling per year.

More’s career continued to spiral upward.  At age 46 he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons. At 52, Henry VIII appointed him Lord Chancellor of England, the highest appointed office in the country.

At 58, More refused to approve Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and remarriage to Anne Boleyn, as the Lord Chancellor, chief judge and legal authority of the nation, was required to do to make the divorce legal and the remarriage possible. Thomas was forced to resign, eventually imprisoned, and on July 6, 1535 was executed for treason by beheading.

More’s last prayer was the Miserere, Psalm 51:

“Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam…Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness…”

“What does it avail to know that there is a God, which you not only believe by Faith, but also know by reason: what does it avail that you know Him if you think little of Him?”
– Saint Thomas More

“Occupy your minds with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones. Unoccupied, they cannot be.” -St. Thomas More

“Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in His merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience.

God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God.

By the merits of His bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, His bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust Him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to Him for help. And then I trust He shall place His holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault He will not let me be lost.

I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to Him. And if He permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for His justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that His tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend His mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best. – from a letter written by Saint Thomas More from prison to his daughter Margaret

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Prayer to St Thomas More

St Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients’ tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.

Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God’s first.

Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feb 15 – St Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, (1641-1682), Apostle of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Claude de la Colombiere, S.J and St. Margaret Mary

Many of you know of the McCormick family’s, and, therefore, especially my, special devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  At dinner, after Grace, we say “O, Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”

Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, descended of French nobility, third child of the notary Bertrand La Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St. Symphorien d’Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne, Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.

It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he “had a terrible aversion for the life embraced”. This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments.

At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.

In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert.

Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.

On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors’ knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of His Heart, but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise and send her “my faithful servant and perfect friend” to help her realize the mission for which He had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of His love.

After Father Colombière’s arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard, and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude’s spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve.

After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London, remaining in contact with St Margaret Mary by letter. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York – a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.

In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: “I could write a book about the mercy of God I’ve seen Him exercise since I arrived here!

The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.

Suddenly, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates “papist plot”. After two days he was transferred to the severe King’s Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree.  It was only by the intervention of Louis XIV that Claude was not martyred.  This suffering further weakened Claude’s health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.  On 15 February 1682, Claude began coughing up blood and died.

St John Wall, OFM, knew Saint Claude. After having spent a night in spiritual conversation with him, the soon–to–be martyr said, “When I was in his presence I thought that I was dealing with Saint John returned to earth to rekindle that fire of love in the Heart of Christ.”

Saint Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, is considered a “dry” martyr, having suffered every abuse for the Faith, except death.  His major shrine and relics/remains are in the Jesuit church directly next to the Monastery of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial, France.

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St Claude de la Colombiere
-tomb of St Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, Chapelle la Colombiere, Rue Pasteur, 71600 Paray le Monial, France

“The past three centuries allow us to evaluate the importance of the message which was entrusted to Claude. In a period of contrasts between the fervor of some and the indifference or impiety of many, here is a devotion centered on the humility of Christ, on His presence, on His love of mercy and on forgiveness. Devotion to the Heart of Christ would be a source of balance and spiritual strengthening for Christian communities so often faced with increasing unbelief over the coming centuries.” – Pope John Paul II, during the canonization of Saint Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, May 31, 1992.

“My Jesus, you are my true friend,
my only friend,
you take part in all my misfortunes;
you know how to change them into blessings.
You listen to me
With the greatest kindness
When I tell you all my troubles
And you always have something
With which to heal my wounds.
I find you at any time of the day or night
For I find you wherever I happen to be
You never leave me;
If I change my dwelling place
I find you wherever I go
You never weary of listening to me;
You are never tired of doing me good.
I am certain of being loved by you,
If I but love you.
My worldly goods are of no value to you
But by bestowing yours on me
You never grow poorer.
However miserable I may be,
No one more noble or cleverer or even holier
Can come between you and me
And deprive me of your friendship;
And death,
Which tears us away from all other friends,
Will unite me forever to you.
All the humiliations attached to old age
Or the loss of honour
Will never detach you from me;
On the contrary
I shall never enjoy you more fully
And you will never be closer to me,
Than when everything seems to conspire
Against me to overwhelm me,
And cast me down.
You bear with all my faults
With extreme patience,
And even my want of fidelity
And my ingratitude
Do not wound you to such a degree
As to make you unwilling to receive me back
When I return to you.
O Jesus,
Grant that I may die loving you,
That I may die for the love of you.”
-Prayer of Friendship to Jesus, St Claude de la Colombiere, SJ

“Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others. Other people will glorify You by making visible the power of Your grace by their fidelity and constancy to You. For my part I will glorify You by making known how good You are to sinners, that Your mercy is boundless and that no sinner no matter how great his offences should have reason to despair of pardon. If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer, let me not offend You even more by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon me. Amen. “
-Saint Claude de la Colombiere, SJ

Love,
Matthew

Jan 11 – Blessed William Carter (1548-1584)

A layman all his life, born into Elizabethan London, William Carter entered the printing business at an early age. For many years he served as apprentice to well-known Catholic printers, one of whom served a prison sentence for persisting in the Catholic faith. William himself served time in prison following his arrest for “printing lewd [i.e., Catholic] pamphlets” as well as possessing books upholding Catholicism.

But even more, he offended public officials by publishing works that aimed to keep Catholics firm in their faith. Officials who searched his house found various vestments and suspect books, and even managed to extract information from William’s distraught wife. Over the next 18 months William remained in prison, suffering torture and learning of his wife’s death.

He was eventually charged with printing and publishing one thousand copies of the Treatise of Schisme written by Dr. Gregory Martin, which was fallaciously alleged to be intended to incite violence by Catholics due to a paragraph in the pamphlet where confidence was expressed that the Catholic Hope would triumph, and pious Judith would slay Holofernes – a reference to a well known, at that time, Old English poem about Judith of Bethulia, inspired, of course, by the Book of Judith in the Old Testament, in which the Jewess heroine beheads the enemy general. This was interpreted as an incitement to slay the queen, though it obviously had no such meaning.  The pamphlet was accused of having been written by a traitor and addressed to traitors.

While William calmly placed his trust in God, the jury met for only 15 minutes before reaching a verdict of “guilty.” William, who made his final confession to a priest who was being tried alongside him, was hanged, drawn and quartered the following day: January 11, 1584.  He was 35 yrs old.  This was the customary punishment for “traitors” to an earthly crown and faithful servants of the Divine Crown.  William gave his life for his efforts to encourage his brothers and sisters to keep up the struggle, to keep the faith.

Love,
Matthew