Last year, Fr Nicholas Schofield kindly presented to the Guild about the inspiring martyrs of England and Wales. (See the replay at https://www.catholicpoliceguild.co.uk/single-post/cpg-talk-the-martyrs-of-england-wales.)
A super little book long out of copyright, Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales, tells many stories. [Nibil obstat and Imprimatur, 10 March 1910] It was written by Rev Fr. Henry Sebastien Bowden of the London Oratory, a priest who had a role in the long and eventual death-bed conversion of Oscar Wilde.
These mementoes will be published so far as practicality permits for the benefit of Guild members each week through 2022. They will appear in the London Region's Newsletter which you can sign-up for by contacting Stewart Lawrence. We hope they provide interest and devotion.
WEEK 1: 1–8 JANUARY
In this first week, a moving introductory poem with remarkable contemporary parallels; some of the history of Westminster Abbey's dissolution and most notable Catholics particular for their conversion.
January 1 PAST AND PRESENT (1) W. BLUNDELL, 1600 THE time hath been we had one faith, And strode aright one ancient path; The time is now that each man may See new Religions coin'd each day. Sweet Jesu, with thy mother mild. Sweet Virgin mother, with thy child, Angels and Saints of each degree, Redress our country's misery. The time hath been priests did accord In exposition of God's word ; The time is now, like shipman's hose, It's turn'd by each fond preacher's glose. The time hath been that sheep obeyed Their pastors, doing as they said; The time is now that sheep will preach, And th' ancient pastors seem to teach. The time hath been the prelate's door Was seldom shut against the poor; The time is now, so wives go fine, They take not thought the beggar kine. The time hath been men did believe God s sacraments his grace did give; The time is now men say they are Uncertain signs and tokens bare.
January 2 PAST AND PRESENT (2) THE time hath been men would live chaste, And so could maid that vows had past; The time is now that gift has gone, New gospellers such gifts have none. Sweet Jesu, with thy mother mild, Sweet Virgin mother, with thy child; Angels and Saints of each degree Redress our country's misery. The time hath been that Saints could see, Could hear and help our misery; The time is now that fiends alone Have leave to range –– saints must be gone. The time hath been fear made us quake To sin, lest God should us forsake; The time is now the vilest knave Is sure (he'll say) God will him save. The time hath been to fast and pray, And do alms deeds was thought the way; The time is now, men say indeed, Such stuff with God hath little meed. The time hath been, within this land, One's word as good as was his bond; The time is now, all men may see, New faiths have killed old honesty.
January 3 LIVING STONES ABBOT FECKENHAM, O.S.B., 1585 (i) JOHN HOWMAN was born at Feckenham in Worcestershire, and is known by the name of his birthplace. As a Benedictine monk he became chaplain to Bishop Bonner, and was imprisoned in the reign of Edward VI for his defence of the Faith. Under Mary he became Dean of St. Paul's, and, later, Abbot of the restored Abbey of Westminster. In spite of its late dissolution, he received the Queen on St. Thomas Eve, December 20, 1556, with twenty-eight other monks, all men of mature age, the youngest being upwards of forty, and all pious and learned. Some three years later, when he met Elizabeth for the opening of her first Parliament at the Abbey door, he in his pontifical robes and his monks in procession with their lighted candles, the Queen cried out, "Away with these lights ! We see very well." The Litany was sung in English, and Dr. Cox, a married priest and bitter heretic, preached against the Catholic religion and the monks, and urged the Queen to destroy them. The Abbot then knew that his fate was sealed. On July 12, 1559, Feckenham and his monks were ejected for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy. He was imprisoned, and died at Wisbeach, 1585. His abbey was destroyed, but the stones live. "Be ye also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God." I PETER ii. 5.
January 4 THE VOICE OF THE PREACHER Bl. THOMAS PLUMTREE, Pr., 1572 BORN in the diocese of Lincoln, a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1546, he was made Rector of Stubton in his native county. He resigned his benefice on the change of religion under Elizabeth, and became a school master at Lincoln, but was obliged to resign the post on account of his faith. But it is as chief chaplain and priest of the army of the Rising that he won the martyr's palm. His voice seems to have been like the Baptist's and to have stirred high and low alike. His call to abandon heresy and to rally to the standard of the faith ran through the northern counties, and hundreds came in response to his summons. He appears to have been celebrant of the Mass in Durham Cathedral immediately preceding F. Holmes' sermon and the public Absolution which followed. On his capture after the failure of the Rising, he was singled out as a notable example of the priests who had officiated. On the gibbet in the market-place at Durham he was offered his life if he would embrace heresy, but he refused, and dying to this world received eternal life from Christ. He suffered January 4, 1572, and was buried in the market-place. "Wherein I labour even unto bands, but the word of God is not bound." 2 TIM. ii. 9.
January 5 DEFILING THE SANCTUARIES Abbot FECKENHAM, O.S.B. (2) SPEECH in the House of Lords : "My good Lords, when in Queen Mary's days your honour do know right well how the people of this realm did live in order and under law. There was no spoiling of Churches, pulling down of Altars, and most blasphemous treading down of The Sacrament under their feet, and hanging up the knave of clubs in the place thereof. There was no knocking or cutting of the face and legs of the Crucifix, and of the image of Christ. There was no open flesh-eating or shambles-keeping in the Lent and days prohibited. The subjects of this realm, and especially such as were of the honourable council in Queen Mary's days, knew the way to Church or Chapel, and to begin their daily work by calling for help and grace by humble prayer. But now since the coming of our most sovereign and dear lady Queen Elizabeth, by the only preachers and scaffold-players of this new religion all things are changed and turned upside down. Obedience is gone, humility and meekness clean abolished, virtuous, chaste, and straight living abandoned. "Her priests have despised my law and have defiled my sanctuaries. Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood and destroy souls." EZEK. xxii. 26, 27.
January 6 THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN Father JOHN GENINGS, O.S.F., d. 1660 THE news of his brother's martyrdom in December 1591 caused John Genings joy rather than sorrow, since he deemed it an escape from all Edmund's arguments and persuasions in favour of the Catholic religion, being himself strongly against the faith. But about ten days after his brother's execution, having spent all that day in sport and jollity, being weary with play, he returned home. There his heart felt heavy, and he began to weigh how idly he had passed the day. His brother's death came before him, and how he had abandoned all worldly pleasures, and for the sake of religion alone endured intolerable torments. Then the contrast of their two lives the one mortified, fearing sin, the other spent in self-indulgence and in every kind of vice. Struck with remorse, he wept bitterly and besought God to show him the truth. In an instant joy filled his heart with a tender reverence for the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, of whom he had scarcely heard. He longed now to be of his brother's faith, and gloried in his eternal happiness. He left England secretly, was made priest at Douay, became a Franciscan, and the first Provincial of the renewed English Province. "I will arise and go to my Father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee." LUKE xv. 8.
January 7 BALAAM'S ASS Bl. EDWARD WATERSON, Pr., d. 1593 HE was born in London and brought up in the Protestant religion. In company with certain merchants he travelled to Turkey to see the East, and there a rich Turk, taking a fancy to him, offered him his daughter in marriage if he would renounce Christianity. Waterson, however, refused the proposal with horror, and taking Rome on his way homewards was in structed and reconciled to the Church. He was then admitted as a student at Rheims, and though he had but little learning, his zeal mastered all difficulties, and he was ordained priest in Mid-Lent 1592 and sent to England. Shortly after his arrival he was apprehended and condemned on account of his priesthood. Catholic eye-witnesses relate that, as he was being drawn to his execution, the hurdle suddenly stood still, and the officers in vain flogged the horses to move it. Fresh animals were secured, but they broke the traces, and the hurdle remained fixed. Waterson had therefore to be led on foot to the gallows; there the ladder shook violently of itself till the martyr by the sign of the Cross made it still, and ascending won his crown. "And when the ass saw the angel standing she fell under the feet of the rider, who, being angry, beat her sides more vehemently with a staff." NUM. xxii. 27.