In Search of the English Martyrs

The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun;
it is of God, it cannot be withstood.
So the faith was planted: so it must be restored.

– Saint Edmund Campion, hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in witness to the truth of the Catholic Faith.

A few weeks ago I had the grace to visit the site of the martyrdom of so many English men and women who held fast to the ancient faith of the English people. When I stood Tyburn Tree, the beautiful words of the hymn “Faith of Our Fathers” echoed through my mind. These words, authored by Father Faber, who converted from Anglicanism to the ancient faith of the English people, struck so deeply in my heart. These martyrs held fast to their conscience “in spite of dungeon, fire, and sword.”

That hymn was written to commemorate the English martyrs of the 16th and 17th century and the perseverance of Catholics in England through the continuing persecution in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A government-sanctioned persecution of the faith that spanned almost 400 years… and today the Catholic faith is alive in England.

In these days ahead we too are called to reflect deeply on the meaning of conscience and pray for the docility to be formed by the same Catholic tradition so we can stand in freedom before God. The faith of our fathers to which the English martyrs testified by their very lives is the faith to which are called to be true to death.

Get to know these martyrs, especially those in the group called the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. One is Father John Southworth, whose remains are now in Westminster Cathedral, who gave his ministry to ministering to Catholics and Protestants, so he offered himself as an oblation on the altar of the humanity for which Our Lord became incarnate for our salvation.

Pray through the intercession of Mary for our country. She is powerful in that she sustains the church in her suffering since a sword pierced her heart. She knows what it is to suffer for her Son. She, and the Forty Martyrs, and that great cloud of witnesses, pray with us and testify to the truth of the Catholic faith. This should be for us a cause of joy in the face of near-insurmountable challenges.