Tag Archives: martyr

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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19 April: Saint Alphege, first martyr of Canterbury.

From a window in Hythe parish church.

This week we celebrate two saintly Archbishops of Canterbury, two very different men who both lived in difficult times. Today’s feast is for Alphege, a Saxon martyr who ‘smelt of his sheep’. The day after tomorrow is Anselm, a great teacher.

It was the reign of Ethelred the Unready when Alphege became Archbishop. He had retired from his monastery to become a hermit, but was needed elsewhere, in particular to seek an honourable peace with the marauding Danes. Canterbury and London are both close to the North Sea, the great open highway for the Danish Longboats, both cities vulnerable to attack.

Alphege reached a peace agreement with some of the invaders, who converted to Christianity, but another group took him captive and led him off to Greenwich, now a suburb of London on the River Thames. Here they held him to ransom, demanding money from the people of Canterbury.

The good shepherd of his sheep refused to let them pay. Stalemate ensued for some months, until his captors had a mighty ox roast with plenty of stolen alcohol, and decided to get some fun out of him if they couldn’t get any money. They stoned and beat him to death using the bones of the beasts they were feasting upon.

A short while after his martyrdom on this day in 1012, Saint Alphege’s remains were transferred to Canterbury Cathedral, near those of his predecessor, Saint Dunstan. Thomas Becket would be buried nearby.

This link explores a fascinating connection between Thomas (1120 – 1170) and his hero, Saint Alphege.

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28 March: Palm Sunday

Vandalised altar piece, Saint David’s Cathedral.
All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.
He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him. 
For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me. 
They have dug my hands and feet. They have numbered all my bones. 
And they have looked and stared upon me. 
They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. 
But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me; look towards my defence. 
I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee. 
Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him.

Ps 22: 8-9; 17-20; 23-24.

In today’s Psalm it is clear that the malignant have set out to humiliate the writer. Stepping into his shoes for the moment, I think of moments when I’ve been in trouble, usually with other boys. Which was worse on these occasions – to be stared at silently by authority, or to be ignored while he or she finished the work on the desk before them? Either way, this was a theatrical act to arouse fear in the culprits.

But here authority goes further, parting the writer’s clothing, treating it like a set of raffle prizes, and leaving him naked, to be stared at. If they’d had electricity we can be sure they would have turned the floodlights on him, arousing even more primal fear.

And yet – ‘I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee.’ So went the martyrs, singing and praising God to the scaffold, like William Richardson last month. They were following Jesus, confident that he would lead them through the Valley of Death that he had conquered. The martyrs witnessed to the truth of love and the love of truth. Neither Love nor Truth were conquered on Calvary.

But the suffering and death were real. We should not insulate ourselves from that, from the flesh and blood of Jesus that was ‘ill-used’, as perhaps those who defaced this altar piece were trying to do. Rather we must accept to carry each our own daily cross and follow him, declaring his name to our brethren.

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Thoughts on St Oscar Romero by Canon Anthony Charlton of Canterbury

Saint Oscar Romero
Image open access via Wikipedia

Another of Fr Anthony’s thoughts, this time about our unofficial second patron saint, Oscar Romero.

On 24th March 1980 Saint Oscar Romero Archbishop of San Salvador was shot and killed while celebrating Mass. In his sermon the day before, Romero ordered the army to stop killing people: “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!” We are very privileged to have some of his vestments here at St Thomas’s in the Martyr’s chapel.

Here are some words from a sermon he gave in November 1977

Do you want to know if your Christianity is genuine?
Here is the touchstone:
Whom do you get along with?
Who are those who criticise you?
Who are those who do not accept you? Who are those who flatter you?
Know from that what Christ said once:
“I have come not to bring peace, but division.” There will be division even in the same family, because some want to live more comfortably
by the world’s principles,
those of power and money.
But others have embraced the call of Christ
and must reject all that cannot be just in the world.

We give thanks for the witness of his life and death and ask that through his intercession we may also be a powerful witness to Jesus and his Gospel in our lives today..

If you want to know more about his life and message click here.

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28 February: Blessed William Richardson

You never know what you might find on the Web! I’d never heard of Blessed William Richardson till I saw his name in Hallam News, from the Catholic South Yorkshire diocese. A remarkably brave man to go prison visiting among Catholics, aware that he might be betrayed at any time. The full article from which this is taken can be found here. Remembering him, we also honour Christians of many allegiances, killed for their beliefs, and pray that we may continue to work to bring all our communities together.

Blessed William Richardson grew up close to where the South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire borders meet.

We know from the Entry Book in the English College in Spain that William was a convert to the Catholic faith and was received into the Church by one of the clergy at Wiesloch, Germany, where at that time he was working.  He was called to the priesthood, attended the English College in Spain, studying Philosophy and Theology, and was ordained priest there in 1594 and then returned to England.

Most of William’s life was spent working in London often with the legal profession in the Inns of Court.  He visited prisons as an ordinary visitor, to take Mass to Catholics imprisoned for their faith, and he was sentenced to death after being betrayed by a priest catcher.  His execution took place on Tyburn Gallows, by the barbaric act of being hung, drawn and quartered on 17 February in 1603.  There is no knowledge of his last resting place, but if we can find a King under a car park, we may one day learn of his last resting place.

William’s death was in the reign of Elizabeth 1 and he was the last priest to be murdered at that time.  Elizabeth 1 died one week later.  Bishop Challoner tells us he accepted his death with such constancy and faith, and praying for the Queen, that impressed his executioners.

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29 August: In the tunnel

When you’re in a tunnel you can see nothing, but still it’s absurd to want the view when you come out of the tunnel to be the same as when you went in. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to do his work.

Blessed Christian de Chergé

In La Croix 29.0.2020

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27 January: The murder that shook the Middle Ages.

crypt (640x481)

This link is to the British Museum blog  post about ‘the murder that shook the Middle Ages: that of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own Cathedral.  In this period of Brexit and withdrawal from Europe, it is as well for us all to realise that:

In death Becket remained a figure of opposition to unbridled power and became seen as the quintessential defender of the rights of the Church. To this end you can find images of his murder in churches across Latin Christendom, from Germany and Spain, to Italy and Norway. Becket was, and remains, a truly European saint.

By no means was Thomas simply an anti-establishment English hero. Let us pray for the grace to discern when to support and when to oppose or challenge authority.

The British Museum will be holding a major exhibition about Becket and his world in the Autumn of 2020.

 

From 1170 to 1220, Saint Thomas’s remains lay in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.

 

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29 December: Saint Thomas of Canterbury

cathedralbyellie2

The New Year waits, breathes, waits, whispers in darkness.
While the labourer kicks off a muddy boot and stretches his hand to the fire,

The New Year waits, destiny waits for the coming.
Who has stretched out his hand to the fire and remembered the Saints at All Hallows,
Remembered the martyrs and saints who wait? and who shall
Stretch out his hand to the fire, and deny his master:
who shall be warm

By the fire, and deny his master?

fire.Moses

This is from the opening of T S Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’,* written for the Canterbury Festival, 1935. A chorus of Canterbury women are setting the scene for the events that followed Saint Thomas’s return from exile in 1170. We will celebrate his 850th anniversary next year. 

Will we be ready to leave our comfort zone this coming year?

*See Universal Library for full text.

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26 December: Sober this Christmas?

Photo0674 (555x657)

 

I was looking for inspiration for Saint Stephen’s day, a martyrdom straight after the birth of baby Jesus. I also had an eye open for frankincense, because Abel is to play Caspar the Wise Man or King in the school Nativity play. Siesta is the obvious shop for such things in Canterbury and they did not disappoint: half a dozen sticks of frankincense, or so they claim were soon found and in my bag.

It was on my way out that I saw the card, the bright red was hard to ignore. The message on the front read, ‘What’s sobriety got to do with Christmas’, which reminded me of the ancient card or cracker joke: ‘be like the early Christians this Christmas, get stoned.’ Which brings us back to Saint Stephen, shown here with a pile of the stones people used to kill him. The statue is above the main door of his Church in Canterbury.

Already on Pentecost Day the Apostles had been accused of drunkenness because of their proclamation of the Good News (Acts 2:15). A few weeks later Stephen was arrested, and his words sound like a drunken illusion (Acts 7:56-60).

Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, [who was] calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Even when stone-cold sober, people can act irrationally and sinfully; a sobering message indeed.

Let us pray for all our Christian sisters and brothers who are trying to live out their vocation as members of a minority, sometimes suspected of treason, open to accusations of blasphemy, and liable to suffer violence and murder.

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