Monday, April 25, 2011

Pope John Paul II and the English Martyrs

Picking up the series of posts on Venerable John Paul II and the English Reformation as we prepare for his beatification in Rome on the Second Sunday of Easter:

On Sunday, 22 November 1987, the Feast of Christ the King, Pope John Paul II beatified 85 English Martyrs. In his homily, he highlighted some of the last words of the martyrs:

Blessed Nicholas Postgate welcomed his execution "as a short cut to heaven". Blessed Joseph Lambton encouraged those who were to die with him with the words "Let us be merry, for tomorrow I hope we shall have a heavenly breakfast". Blessed Hugh Taylor, not knowing the day of his death, said: "How happy I should be if on this Friday, on which Christ died for me, I might encounter death for him". He was executed on that very day, Friday 6 November 1585. Blessed Henry Heath, who died in 1643, thanked the court for condemning him and giving him the "singular honour to die with Christ".

He emphasized how the martyred priests and laity had worked together and died together:

The twenty-two laymen in this group of martyrs shared to the full the same love of the Eucharist. They, too, repeatedly risked their lives, working together with their priests, assisting, protecting and sheltering them. Laymen and priests worked together; together they stood on the scaffold and together welcomed death. Many women, too, not included today in this group of martyrs, suffered for their faith and died in prison. They have earned our undying admiration and remembrance.

And he referred to the martyrs that Pope Paul VI had canonized previously:

Seventeen years ago forty of the glorious company of martyrs were canonized. It was the prayer of the Church on that day that the blood of those martyrs would be a source of healing for the divisions between Christians. Today we may fittingly give thanks for the progress made in the intervening years towards fuller communion between Anglicans and Catholics. We rejoice in the deeper understanding, broader collaboration and common witness that have taken place through the power of God.

Among the 85 beatified that day were two men whose relics are now venerated at Leeds Cathedral, Father Peter Snow and Ralph Grimston, a layman. Their heads were found in the Cathedral and a local forensic scientist reconstructed their faces, as illustrated above. Ralph Grimston tried to protect the young priest as they travelled to York, but they were arrested, tried, and found guilty of being a Catholic priest and a Catholic layman protecting a Catholic priest. Blessed Peter Snow was 32 years old; he was hung, drawn and quartered. He looks so very young! Blessed Ralph Grimston was hung and beheaded. Both were executed under statute 27 Eliz. c. 2, which made it high treason for a Catholic priest to even be in England and a felony to harbor or aid a priest.

No comments:

Post a Comment