Saturday, May 04, 2013

A thought on the English Martyrs

I heard a priest in Verona asking in a sermon, "If we are not being martyred, are we being the Church?"

A weaker, poorer Church is a Church of Martyrs. No-one attacks the strong, and the wealthy can always buy off their persecutors. When we have nothing of value but Christ then we will be willing to lay down everything including our lives for him.

More than anything else martyrdom will shape the Pontificate of Pope Francis and his successors, early on in his Pontificate he will canonise the 800 Martyrs of Otranto, killed by Muslim soldiers in the 16th century.

For those outside the Church, martyrdom is a futile gesture, it is about engaging in battles and wars that we cannot win, except in the eyes of God.

In Europe and North America today it isn't rack and rope but legislation that strips us of the position in society that we once had.

It is our Bishops that will have the duty of gathering the scattered flock, and of preaching the Truth.
Today we celebrate the Martyrs of England and Wales under Henry VIII all except St John Fisher succumbed, under Elizabeth all the bishops appointed under Mary were imprisoned or exiled, the list of post-reformation martyrs has many priests and laymen, even lay women but only one Bishop

Pray for our Bishops


Long-Skirts said...


“They have abandoned the Fort, those
who should have defended it.” (St. John Fisher)

Who held the Fort
Till the Calvary came
Fighting for all
In His Holy Name?

Who fed the sheep
As the pastures burned dry
A few Good Shepherds
Heeding their cry?

Who led the charge
‘Gainst heresy’s Huns
Defending the degreed
To His lowliest ones?

Who battened down
The hatch of the barque
To warm cold souls
From shivering-seas dark?

“Who?” mocks Satan
Delighting in doubt
Fills you with questions,
Never lets you find out.

“Hoc est enum
Corpus meum…
…and for many…” who kept
The dead words – Te Deum!

Physiocrat said...

Eamon Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars", dealing with the sixteenth century Reformers in England, has a resonance with events within the Catholic church in the 1980s.

Following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, there was little change in the sound of Catholic liturgy. Organisations such as the Association for Latin Liturgy were established to encourage the continuing use of Latin within the Novus Ordo Mass. During the mid-1980s, however, the use of Latin dwindled, mostly on the initiative of a new generation of priests.

This was largely against the wishes of the laity, since the abolition of Latin in the liturgy would normally result in the immediate loss of about one-third of the congregation, who would then migrate to neighbouring parishes. The process was then repeated when these neighbouring parishes in turn lost their Latin liturgy with the arrival of a new incumbent.

Eventually there was usually nowhere left for them to go unless they lived in one of the large cities and could travel to one of the few remaining parishes where Novus Ordo Masses were celebrated in Latin. Thus, in the end, the characteristic Latin Rite Catholic sound was rarely to be heard.

Locally, this is exactly what happened, first at St Peter's Hove when Fr Dickerson retired in 1983, then at St Mary Magdalen's when Fr Flanaghan died in 1990, and finally at Sacred Heart, where Monsignor Stonehill and then Fr Mario had held the fort for so long.

All this was under pressure from the bishop. The principle of "Lex orandi, lex credendi" ie the signifier becomes the signified, means that this amounts to a determined attempt at destruction of faith. From within.

gemoftheocean said...

But just because the wealthy *can* buy off their persecutors, doesn't mean they always will. Thomas More, for instance.

William Tighe said...

"Eamon Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars", dealing with the sixteenth century Reformers in England, has a resonance with events within the Catholic church in the 1980s."

As he himself, rather unwillingly, came to recognize.

Genty said...

Having grown up in Brighton and Hove, I remember well the liturgy of those days and returning (for a limited time, I hope), I discover a near liturgical desert; the notable exception being Fr. Blake who gamely holds the line as far as he is able.
It's been a terrible shock to the system for someone who attended Mass at the Oratory.
The wrecker was, I'm afraid, our old friend CMOC.
St. Peter's in Hove was a wonderfully light church which seemed to soar Heavenwards. There were THREE priests, including the great Fr. Brian Storey.
The sanctuary, much altered, now has a crucifix with the risen Christ and the walls and columns look as though they have had caramel-coloured semolina thrown at them. Not a pretty sight.
A painting, (after Rubens, I believe), of the crucified Saviour was given to the church by my parents and was hung above the door to the sacristy. It's disappeared. I suppose it didn't go with the updated ambience.

Patrick Sheridan said...

Are you aware that the illustration at the top of your post is a 1606 etching by Visscher depicting the execution of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators? In what sense was he a martyr?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Didn't know that, I have changed the picture

Amfortas said...

Feast of the Beatified Martyrs covers a wider period that Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. St John Soutworth was martyred under the Commonwealth using Tudor legislation.

anonymous said...

St John Fisher of midsummer apparently always kept a skull on his as not ever to run away from the reality ofvade the world reign of death.mondy on Ibrahim's new book, 'Crucified Again', tells us what most people don't give a toss about - how millions Christians are murdered - remember it's 'thou shalt not MURDER' (thou shalt not kill is a mistranslation of the Hebrew) -by those in the thrall of the epidemic of pain that is Islamic fervor; stats say one every five minutes...unreported. but then Christianity in the west is so nominal...its history, liturgy, 'Presence'...progressed beyond, evolved passed by a 'new' religion of I'm OK you're OK...who cares that a Christian should be being murdered every five minutes by those who 'know' that Christ and the church??? he 'founded' is a lie. my diocese doesn't give a whatever...does you'res? most Christians think a sacrament is at best a waste of time at worst, an evil; that there are people dying in the name Christ is of noooo interest.

Jacobi said...


Comparisons have been drawn between the Protestant Reformation and the current, shall we say, “Neomodernist” Reformation, and I tend to agree with this view.

If this is so, then Benedict XVI correctly analysed the situation and turned it round with his concept of interpretation in Continuity, and Pope Francis, increasingly coming across as solidly orthodox, will have the energy to drive this “counter Reformation” through.

But the Novus Ordo must be re-sanctified in line with what Sacrosanctum Concilium required and the Traditional Latin Mass must be succoured and expanded to be the benchmark against which the revival in lex orandi is measured.

Old Believer said...

I suppose we should be thankful for what so many of our blessed Martyrs achieved: Cranmer's contribution to English prose will, after all, never be forgotten.

David Joyce said...

Comparisons have been drawn between the Protestant Reformation and the current, shall we say, “Neomodernist” Reformation, and I tend to agree with this view.

Yes, Michael Davies' trilogy on the Liturgical Revolution started with a volume titled "Cranmer's Godly Order", explicitly making that very comparison.

Ma Tucker said...

"In Europe and North America today it isn't rack and rope but legislation that strips us of the position in society that we once had."

The is and has been throughout history a much experienced pre-cursor to murder. I fear you mistake the starter for the main course!

JARay said...

Was Guy Fawkes a martyr?
All those very, many, years ago, when I was a boy at school, we had a history teacher who declared to us that the gunpowder plot was a set-up. He claimed that being able to purchase many barrels of gunpowder in those days was simply like being able to purchase an atom bomb now. And to be able to transport these barrels of gunpowder across London in broad daylight without anyone noticing is also something of a stretch of imagination. There was a scheme afoot to portray Catholics as enemies of good order...modern terrorists in fact. This resulted in these "plots" being concocted and the terrorists executed.
The second house which I bought in Menston, Yorkshire, was built on land which had once been owned by Guy Fawkes. His name was on the Title deeds. I always have had a soft spot for Guy Fawkes.

Fr Ray Blake said...

No I don't, it is going to get much, much worst.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Fascinating remark in respect of Duffy. He is a flawed thinker as William Tighe intimates. There again so is Benedict XVI for the simple reason he is a German functioning in a century controlled by the Anglo-Saxons.

The best Catholic thinker in 1962 when the Council started was the film director John Ford. Effectively an Irish Catholic agent embedded at the heart of Anglo-Saxon hegemony (Hollywood) for more than 50 years. Ford's last masterpiece was "The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance". In this movie, he presents a vision of the 'West' (by extension its hegemony) which is far more sombre than the inane optimism which characterised the Council.

What separates the maturity of a Ford from a Duffy is the former's ability to actualise the past. Indeed TMWSLV acts as Ford's own personal confession and concern about his contribution to what had now become, by 1962, the American century project.

Within 5 years not only would the Catholic Church be laid waste but also the idea of 'America' itself destroyed in a culture war from which it has not recovered.

Traditionalists need to forget Michael Davies' time bomb conspiracy theories to explain this disaster. It's a dead end.

Fr Ray Blake said...

"The best Catholic thinker", really?

Sadie Vacantist said...

Yes, the most mature. Kurosawa dressed like Ford on set. Bergman described him as simply the greatest. Welles claimed when learning to direct he studied the masters: John Ford John Ford John Ford. He is the closest the USA has to a Shakespeare and a Catholic to boot. The Council went with John Courtney Murray and Karl Rahner and got what it deserved.

tempus putationis said...

Father, you might like to know (and perhaps acknowledge!) that the painting you have inserted is by Daphne Pollen.

gemoftheocean said...

Sadie: John Ford? Please. William F. Buckley, Jr. was a far better writer and thinker.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Buckley was a neo-con. Like Courtney-Murray he was in the employ of the CIA and did not act in the interests of the Catholic Church. You are right to stress his importance however as he too was co-opted into the American century project which later he would regret as he approached death.

gemoftheocean said...

...and Buckley worked for the CIA for approximately two years. Recruited right after graduation from Yale -- as many in the Ivy League were - Not surprising given Buckley's first language had been Spanish. I would say tamping down Communism in Mexico would very much be in keeping with the Catholic Church.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Yes this is the rationale behind the Faustian pact signed by P6. Judging by your response the project is still going strong after 50 years of terminal decline for both parties. Has victory over communism really been achieved? There is more cultural Marxism in our World than ever before.