Martyrs Mementoes - Week 6
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 5: 6–12 FEBRUARY
This sixth week, St John Fisher, a resolute and courageous Bishop at the start of the Protestant Reformation who put faith first and became a shining example to English Catholics. Sainthood is not at all reserved for the clergy; everyone can live witness to the one faith of the Catholic Church and attain everlasting glory as show the first two stories.
February 6 THE SUNAMITESS REWARDED MARGARET POWELL, 1642 OF good birth, she was reduced to great poverty through her sufferings for the faith. Her chief devotion was ministering to the priests in prison, and, though her husband was a Protestant, she generally managed to maintain one in her house. It was under her roof in the city of London that Father Bullaker was seized while saying Mass, and Margaret and her boy, aged twelve, who was serving the Mass, were taken with him. At her trial, in October 1642, being threatened with death for her religion, she expressed her joy at the prospect of laying down her life for the faith in which she had been born, and which she hoped with God's mercy to bear unspotted to the grave. When the judge, who was a Puritan, urged her to think of her soul and her family and embrace the national religion, instead of dying for papistical superstition, she replied that Parliament must first choose what that religion was to be, for at present it was a matter of dispute. She was sent back to prison, and there, on hearing that Father Bullaker was condemned to death, but that her sentence was deferred, she burst into tears; yet quickly recovering her self, she offered her new lease of life to God as obediently as she had accepted death. "Now there was a great woman there who detained him (Eliseus) to eat bread, and as he often passed that way, he turned into her house to eat bread." 4 KINGS iv. 8.
February 7 TRUE TO A TRUST B. THOMAS SHERWOOD, L., 1578 His parents both suffered much for the faith. His mother was a sister of Mr. Francis Tregian, in whose house B. Cuthbert Mayne was taken. Their son Thomas, one of fourteen children, followed his father's trade of draper, intending however to cross to Douay and become a priest. One day when walking in the streets of London he was seized on the cry of "Stop the traitor!" raised by a youth Martin Tregony, a virulent papist-hunter. His mother, Lady Tregony, was a pious Catholic, and Sherwood frequently visited her, and Martin suspected him of assisting in having Mass said in her house. At his condemnation Sherwood declared that the Pope and not the Queen was the head of the Church in England, and was then most cruelly racked to discover where he had heard Mass. He could not be induced, however, to betray or bring any man into danger. After this he was cast into a filthy, dark dungeon, swarming with loathsome and ferocious rats, and only left it twice during three months to be again tortured on the rack. He had lost the use of his limbs, was starving, and searched with pain, but no compromising words passed his lips. He was executed at Tyburn, February 7, 1578, aged twenty-seven. "Keep that which is committed to thy trust." 2 TIM. vi. 20.
February 8 PRAYERS WITH TEARS B. JOHN FISHER, Card. B., 1535 "HE never omitted so much as one collect of his daily service, which he used commonly to say to himself alone, without the help of any chaplain, not in such speed or hasty manner to be at an end, as many will do, but in most reverent and devout manner, so distinctly and tractably pronouncing every word, that he seemed a very devourer of heavenly food, never satiated nor filled therewith. Insomuch that talking on a time with a Carthusian monk, who much commended his zeal and diligent pains in compiling his book against Luther, he answered again, saying that he wished that time of writing had been spent in prayer, thinking that prayer would have done more good and was of more merit. "And to help this devotion he caused a great hole to be digged through the wall of his church at Rochester, whereby he might the more commodiously have prospect into the church at Mass and Evensong times. When he himself used to say Mass, as many times he used to do, if he was not letted by some urgent and great cause, ye might then perceive in him such earnest devotion that many times the tears would fall from his cheeks." "With a strong cry and tears offering up prayers." HEB. v. 7.
February 9 THE STONES OF ISRAEL B. JOHN FISHER, Card. B,. 1535 AFTER reminding our Lord of His promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, he recalls how the Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost, and then offered a prayer to be fulfilled in himself. "So, good Lord, do now in like manner again with Thy Church militant, change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in Thy Church strong and mighty pillars, that may suffer and endure great labours watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold, and heat which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer, with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. ... Oh ! if it would please our Lord God to show this great goodness and mercy in our days, the memorial of His so doing ought, of very right, to be left in perpetual writing, never to be forgotten of all our posterity, that every generation might love and worship Him time without end." "His bow rested upon the strong, and the bands of his arms and his hands were loosed, by the hands of the mighty one of Jacob, thence forth he came forth a pastor, the Stone of Israel." GEN. xlix. 24.
February 10 FATHER OF THE POOR B. JOHN FISHER, Card. B., 1535 To poor sick persons he was a physician, to the lame he was a staff, to poor widows an advocate, to orphans a tutor, and to poor travellers a host. Wheresoever he lay, either at Rochester or elsewhere, his order was to inquire where any poor sick folks lay near him, which after he once knew, he would diligently visit them. And when he saw any of them likely to die he would preach to them, teaching them the way to die, with such godly persuasions that for the most part he never departed till the sick persons were well satisfied and contented with death. Many times it was his chance to come to such poor houses as, for want of chimnies, were unbearable for the smoke, yet himself would there sit three or four hours together when none of his servants were able to abide in the house. And in some other poor houses where stairs were wanting, he would never disdain to climb up a ladder for such a good purpose. And when he had given them such ghostly comfort as he thought expedient for their souls, he would at his departure leave behind him his charitable alms, giving charge to his steward daily to prepare meat for them if they were poor. "Because I had delivered the poor man that cried out : and the fatherless that had no helper, the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me and I comforted the heart of the widow." JOB xxix. 12.
February 11 SORROW TURNED TO JOY Ven. GEORGE HAYDOCK, Pr., 1584 HE was the son of Verran Haydock, the representative of an ancient Catholic family of Cottam Hall, Lancashire; his mother, a Westby of Westby, York. When on her deathbed, to console her sorrowing husband, she pointed, with the infant George in her arms, to the motto embroidered at the foot of the bed, "Tristitia vestra in gaudium vertetur." ["Your sorrow will be turned into joy"]. But the joy prophesied was not to be of this world. The widowed husband, seeing how persecution was ravaging the Church in England, to offer some reparation made over his property to his son William, and went over to Douay with the two others, Richard and George, all three to be trained for the priesthood. The father became procurator of the Douay College in England, and filled the office with great success. Richard after varied missionary work died in Rome, and George returned to England as a priest in February 1581, and was betrayed on arriving by an old tenant of his father's who had apostatised. His aged father on the previous All Souls Eve, when about to say the accustomed midnight Mass, seemed to see his son's severed head above the altar, and to hear the words, "Tristitia vestra, c.," and, swooning away, gave back his soul to God to find his sorrow turned to joy. "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." JOHN xvi. 20.
February 12 A ROYAL HYPOCRITE Ven. GEORGE HAYDOCK, Pr., 1584 ARRESTED as a priest in February 1582 in St. Paul's Churchyard, he was confined in the Tower, where he was robbed of all his money, and suffered much from the hardships of his imprisonment, and from a lingering disease that he had contracted in Italy. On February 7, 1583, he was sentenced to death for having been made priest by the Pope's authority beyond the seas. He attributed this happy event to the prayers of St. Dorothy, Virgin and Martyr, whose day it was, and he marked it in the Calendar of his Breviary, which he left to Dr. Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, then a prisoner in the Tower. But to his sorrow he heard that the Queen had changed her mind, and that he was not to suffer. His Confessor, however, a man of great experience, encouraged him by the assurance that these rumours were industriously spread abroad only to represent the Queen as averse from these cruelties, and to remove any odium from her, as if they were extorted from her against her inclinations. The falseness of the Queen's reported leniency was proved by the event. Father Haydock, without a sign of any pardon, was hung at Tyburn, and the whole butchery performed February 12, 1584. "They spoke indeed peacefully to me: and speaking in anger of the earth they devised guilt." Ps. xxxiv. 20.