Tag Archives: martyr

19 November: A space for prayer and reflection.

From Canon Anthony Charlton’s blog, exploring ways to welcome pilgrims to the shrine of Saints Thomas Becket and Oscar Romero in Canterbury.

It was a delight for me one afternoon recently to have eleven groups of students from the School of Architecture of the University of the Creative arts present to us their projects. They were asked to create in our Martyrs Chapel a space that should contain the relics of St Thomas More and St Oscar Romero. As one submission said the “space is without focus, having collected so many relics and icons over the years there is no order to how they are placed, creating a dissonant space which lacks a clear focal point for prayer and worship.”

I was very moved to see how each group presented their designs. There was much inspiration and it was great to see the different ways they found to create a space for prayer and reflection for pilgrims and those who wished to come and pray. Many of the submissions recognised there was a need for more light. One darkened the chapel and explored the relationship between the dark and the light of the relics. Another submission was bold in creating an outside entrance with an antechamber.

The challenge now is for parishioners to meet and decide the next step in creating a beautiful space for the relics of these two great Martyrs.

We look forward to that meeting and to developing the shrine as an accessible, welcoming space in the heart of Canterbury. Thank you, Canon Anthony! And let’s not sacrifice this window in the present shrine.

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1 November: All Saints, Martyr Sisters of Africa.

Photograph from Missionaries of Africa.

Sisters have helped the Church in Africa flourish. They are teachers, doctors, nurses, community leaders and much more. Some have been killed for their faith.The Christian Church will always have martyrs, but not all of them will be known about, except very locally to their place of work. Gail DeGeorge, editor of the Global Sisters Report website, tells how GSR are committed to honouring these martyrs. She gives the example of two sisters from South Sudan, shot down a year ago. (Click the link above for the full story.)

Members of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, attend the Aug. 20, 2021, burial of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who were killed when their bus was attacked Aug. 16. (Courtesy of Christy John)

Members of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, attend the Aug. 20, 2021, burial of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who were killed when their bus was attacked Aug. 16. (Courtesy of Christy John)

The brutal killing of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Luate Roba in South Sudan on Aug. 16, 2021, shook me and so many others. It was an act so blatantly evil it was hard to comprehend.

They had travelled with other Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Loa, where the congregation was founded. As they travelled home the next day, their van was ambushed by armed men who threatened the passengers. Some of the sisters and the male passengers left the van, hoping to divert the assailants and spare other passengers. Abut and Roba were hunted down, shot and killed, along with three other passengers.

Abut was the head teacher of a primary school and Roba, a tutor and administrator at the Catholic Health Training Institute. Both lived out their faith by working to improve the lives of others in the young and troubled nation of South Sudan. No one has been arrested in their killings.

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21 August: Pilgrimage to King Saint Edmund II

Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral

Edmund was the young King of East Anglia, the area in Eastern England that juts into the North Sea. It was then a watery landscape, with creeks and inlets and very few human settlements of any size. Edmund was killed by invading Viking pirates in November 869 and, like Olav, was immediately honoured as a martyr. When his followers recovered his body it was riddled with arrow wounds and the head was nowhere to be found until someone heard a voice calling from the brambles, where they found a wolf guarding the King’s head between its paws.

Edmund’s grave became a place of pilgrimage, encouraged by the Danish King of England, and also of Denmark and Norway, Canute (r 1018-1035). He himself was an invader, responsible for the deaths of King Ethelred the Unready and many warriors as well as Saint Olav in Norway. A repentant Canute established Edmund’s shrine in the Benedictine Abbey of Bury Saint Edmund’s 900 years ago in 1022. It was further enhanced after 1066 by the Norman kings, themselves Viking invaders, responsible for the deaths of King Harold, many warriors and countless civilians. See here an account of some of the ecumenical Millennial celebrations in May. Events continue during 2022: www.visit-burystedmunds.co.uk/abbey-1000

The Norman tower and gateway remain intact. We were treated to bell-ringing practice one evening.

The Benedictine Abbey of Saint Edmund, patronised by English monarchs for centuries, was destroyed during the Reformation, though considerable ruins remain. The bones of King Edmund are reported to have been sealed in an iron chest and hidden, underground or under water. So far no archaeological survey has turned them up, but within the precincts of the former Abbey the pilgrim church of Saint James was chosen as the Cathedral for the Anglican diocese serving Suffolk: Saint Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

We did not get as far as the Catholic church of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr, but it is old for an English Catholic church, dating from 1791 for the present building, although the original, hidden chapel still stands hidden behind the presbytery, as it had to be in 1760, thirty years before Penal Laws against Catholics were abolished. It must have been a brave community that came together to worship illegally.

We must return!

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27 July: Dutch priest who opposed Nazis becomes a saint.

TitusBrandsma.jpg

Brandsma in the 1920’s Wikipedia

Last November, the Dutch Carmelite priest, theologian, journalist, and author, Titus Brandsma who was killed “in hatred of the faith” in Dachau concentration camp in 1942, came a step closer to sainthood as Pope Francis recognised a miracle attributed to him. Then on 15 May this year he was declared a saint by Pope Francis. There is now a campaign to have him recognised as a patron saint of journalists.

Born in 1881, Fr Titus forcefully opposed and spoke out against the anti-Jewish laws the Nazis were passing in Germany before World War II. He was arrested when Germany invaded the Netherlands and told that he would be allowed to live a quiet life in a monastery if he would announce that Catholic newspapers should publish Nazi propaganda. Titus refused and was sent to Dachau concentration camp in June 1942. The regime of forced labour and starvation undermined his health, and he was eventually killed on July 26, 1942 when a nurse in the SS gave him a lethal injection as part of the biological experiments carried out on camp prisoners.

Pope Saint John Paul II declared Titus Blessed in 1985, saying that he “answered hate with love.”

Vatican News; Wiki image – 1920s

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4 May: The English Martyrs of the Reformation

Saint Edmund Campion, whose name Gerard Edward adopted as an alias when he came to Kent on Mission.

Today 4th May we remember all those men and women who were martyred in England between 1535 and 1680. Forty two have been canonised and a further 242 have been declared Blessed but we don’t know the true number of those who died on the scaffold, in prison and those who were tortured for their faith.

We have our own group of martyrs who were hung drawn and quartered in Canterbury. They are known as the Oaten Hill martyrs. They were Blessed Edmund Campion (Fr Gerard Edward), Christopher Buxton, Robert Wilcox and Robert Widmerpool and their execution took place on 1st October 1588.

Today Bishops of England and Wales have specifically asked us all to remember in our prayers those who are Survivors of Abuse. Pope Francis has asked for it to be a worldwide day of prayer within the Catholic Church. It is a very sobering initiative of the Holy Father and it is right and fitting that we should bring Survivors before the Lord in our prayers that they should be touched by the healing grace of God.

Let us pray

Praise to you Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
the source of all consolation and hope.
Be the refuge and guardian of all
who suffer from abuse and violence.
Comfort them and send healing
for their wounds of the body, soul and spirit.
Help us all and make us one with you
in your love for justice
as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life.
Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating
your praise, both now and forever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Anthony Charlton, Parish Priest St Thomas’ Canterbury.

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4 January: Christmas in a prison cell, I.

At Christmas we remember that the light of Jesus Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness has not quenched it …  Let me share part of a letter written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brilliant German theologian and leader of the Confessing Church in the 1930s which opposed Hitler and criticised the mainstream churches for their subservience to the Nazi regime.  Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned in 1943 for his part in a high-level plot to overthrow Hitler.  He was executed in 1945 before Allied troops could release him.

From the Christian point of view there is no special problem about Christmas in a prison cell.  For many people in this building, it will probably be a more genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name is kept.  That misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness and guilt mean something quite different in the eyes of God from what they mean in human judgement, that God will approach where we turn away, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn – these are things that a prisoner can understand better than other people; for him they really are glad tidings”.  (Letters and Papers from Prison, London: SCM Press).

Bonhoeffer’s witness shed a principled Christian light on a great evil, and although it cost him his life, his continuing example of living a Christ-like life helps us see the dimensions of Christian faith.  We can be glad because all this world’s evil, pain and limitation has been taken into God’s life, transformed, and redeemed.  After all, Jesus’s birth and infancy are but the beginning of a story that will unfold the depths to which God’s love has to go, and the profound generosity of his self-giving.

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17 September,Going Viral XCI: Not yet quite normal.

Rev Jo Richards reported on recent and upcoming events in the City of Canterbury, but Agnellus got a bit left behind! But we’ll start with Rev Jo’s report, noting in passing that it’s three weeks since a ‘going viral’ post. Mrs T and I have been away, forgetting masks and germs, except on the trains, but we’ve also failed to record a few changes in how we come together. But read on to the end of the post!

Will Turnstone.

Rev Jo reported:

On Saturday we had the delightful wedding of Hannah and Sam in St Dunstan’s. It was so good to be able to have a full church and sing hymns – neither of which we have been able to do throughout lockdown with the covid restrictions. So we wish them every blessing on their special day. 

It was also Canterbury Pride, which Jenny and I joined the gathering first thing in the Westgate Gardens, and then later in the day I joined the folk in Dane John Gardens – and it was quite a festival atmosphere, and again a good opportunity to catch up with a number of folk I know from across the city….then stayed up to watch the tennis. It was a late night!!

The first of Rev Jo’s coming events was a return to old routine that I had been looking forward to, the highlight of the day when I worked Fridays at the L’Arche Glebe garden. We used to meet in what was perhaps a chapel or vestry, converted into a parish room but that is too small even for the revised restrictions.


Coffee morning at St Mildred’s Friday 17th September The Friday morning coffee club at St Mildred’s is resuming from this Friday 17th September, from 10.00 – 12.00, thank you to Viv, Vie and Doris. So if you are passing by do drop in and say hello. To give us more space, it will be held in the body of the church. It will be  an opportunity either for some quiet time, or catching up with one another. All from across the Benefice, and beyond are very welcome to drop by.

I was certainly made welcome to the improvised cafe at the West End of the Church itself, joining a few parishioners, including a gentleman I’d not met before. May the coffee morning flourish and welcome passers-by, like the two tourists who were leaving as I arrived.

Kent Vegan Association: We are delighted to announce that Kent Vegan Association will be holding their monthly market in St Peter’s Church on the third Sunday of the month, beginning Saturday, 18 Sep. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with the local community, especially as we are looking to develop St Peter’s as a Community Hub, in addition to a place of worship. An Oasis on the High Street for all.

We’ve mentioned these talks before: https://www.cantcommsoc.co.uk/2021/08/kentish-saints-and-martyrs-600-1600/

Saints & Martyrs 600-1600: All talks begin at 7.30pm. We have on Wed 22 Sep in St Mildred’s a talk on the Anglo-Saxon female saints, on Thu 23 Sep Martyrs of the 16th Century in St Dunstan’s,  and In Becket’s Shadow on Fri 24 Sep in St Peter’s. Please come along and support these events held in our churches, with excellent speakers.

Follow this link.

Have a great weekend!

Will.

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Kentish Saints and Martyrs

The ‘Kentish Saints and Martyrs’ public, free talks begin at St Paul’s church with Dr Sarah James on Saturday 18 September at 7.30pm and conclude the following Saturday at St Thomas’ RC church with Dr Rachel Koopmans. This is a brilliant opportunity for the Centre for Kent History and Heritage to work with Canterbury’s churches and to showcase some fascinating features of these saints and their cults. There are posters around Canterbury and please also see the previous blog at: https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/kenthistory/kent-history-in-the-news-talks-exhibitions-and-other-events/ 

You are invited to join
A Week of Presentations in September 2021 about Kentish Saints and Martyrs, from 600-1600.

Each evening at 7.30pm.

The presentations will take place at Canterbury Church venues as listed OR online OR some of each.

Saint Mildred, princess and abbess, with her grandfather, Saint Ethelbert, King of Kent, at Saint Mildred’s church.


Saturday 18 September: St Paul’s church:
‘An introduction to the cult of saints’
by Dr Sarah James (previously University of Kent)

Monday 20 September: St Martin’s church:
‘Ox jawbones and Blacksmith’s tongs: Saintly Bishops in Early Medieval Kent’
by Dr Diane Heath (CCCU)

Tuesday 21 September: St Paul’s church:
‘St Anselm’s philosophical legacy’ by Dr Ralph Norman (CCCU)

Wednesday 22 September: St Mildred’s church:
‘The importance of locality and identity for the cults of
Kent’s Anglo-Saxon female saints’
by Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh (CCCU)

Thursday 23 September: St Dunstan’s church:
‘Conflicting convictions: martyrs of the 16th century’
by Dr Doreen Rosman (retired University of Kent)

Friday 24 September: St Peter’s church:
‘In Becket’s shadow: late medieval Kentish minor and failed cults’
by Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh (CCCU)

Saturday 25 September: St Thomas RC church:
‘The role of clothing in Thomas Becket’s life and cult’
by Professor Rachel Koopmans (York University, Toronto)

For full details please see https://bit.ly/3s59igM or individual church’s websites
For the sake of vulnerable other people, please bring a mask, thank you.

Donations or any other arrangement will be organised by the respective churches for their benefit.

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14 June: Going viral LXXXI and Thomas More.

The Roper Chapel at St Dunstan’s, Canterbury, where Saint Thomas More’s daughter interred his head which she had rescued from its pole on London Bridge.

I met Revd Jo Richards this morning, resigned to another delay in opening up church buildings and services, as she relates below. Good News, though, is that the Commemoration Service for Thomas More will be happening, even if there will be restrictions on numbers. If you cannot be there in person, you can follow the service on live streaming.

Over to Jo:

Good morning to you all on another glorious summer day. I hope this finds you all well as we are here at the Rectory.
It would appear that the lifting of covid restrictions will be delayed for a month; we will no doubt hear more this evening from the government, but all covid precautions are maintained across our three churches with the mandatory wearing of face coverings, unless exempt and social distancing, receiving of the host in one kind, and no singing. Prayers for those who are planning weddings at this difficult time, and all the uncertainty that entails.

Dates for your diary
Service of commemoration for St Thomas More: Tuesday 6th July 2021, 7.30 at St Dunstan’s – Booking required via Sue: 01227 767051

May I encourage you to come along to this service which marks 50 years of this annual commemoration held in St Dunstan’s. From Rev. Brian McHenry: It is good to announce that the service to mark the melancholy anniversary of St Thomas More’s execution will return this year to St Dunstan’s after the necessary intermission last year. The speaker will be Dr Jonathan Arnold, the Diocesan Director of Communities and Partnerships, who is an expert in late medieval and Reformation church history. His subject is ‘Profit and Piety: Thomas More, John Colet, and the London Mercery’. The service will also be live streamed.

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4 May: To die for one’s beloved (English Martyrs), Traherne XLII.

Saint Edmund Campion, English Jesuit Martyr, Holy Name, Manchester.


That a man is beloved of God, should melt him all into esteem and holy veneration. It should make him so courageous as an angel of God. It should make him delight in calamities and distresses for God’s sake. By giving me all things else, He hath made even afflictions themselves my treasures. The sharpest trials, are the finest furbishing. The most tempestuous weather is the best seed-time. A Christian is an oak flourishing in winter.

God hath so magnified and glorified His servant, and exalted him so highly in His eternal bosom, that no other joy should be able to move us but that alone. All sorrows should appear but shadows, beside that of His absence, and all the greatness of riches and estates swallowed up in the light of His favour. Incredible Goodness lies in His Love. And it should be joy enough to us to contemplate and possess it. He is poor whom God hates: ‘tis a true proverb. And besides that, we should so love Him, that the joy alone of approving ourselves to Him, and making ourselves amiable and beautiful before Him should be a continual feast, were we starving. A beloved cannot feel hunger in the presence of his beloved.

Where martyrdom is pleasant, what can be distasteful. To fight, to famish, to die for one’s beloved, especially with one’s beloved, and in his excellent company, unless it be for his trouble, is truly delightful. God is always present, and always seeth us.

Notice how the all-seeing God is, for Traherne, a cause for rejoicing, not a threat from an angry, fearsome avenger of sin, such as many were led to believe. Would martyrdom have been possible or honourable if you believed in a god who hated his own creation?

Tudor times were wintry for men and women of conscience who dissented from whichever variety of Christianity was politically expedient at any time, yet they accepted the sharpest trials even unto death, out of loyalty to God’s love.

We can rejoice in all English and Welsh martyrs, not just the Catholic ones, and may we all meet merrily in heaven, as Thomas More said.

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