Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Benedictines, Carmelites and the Carthusians at the Charterhouse

I don't want to let May get away without mentioning again the commemoration of the Carthusian Martyrs at the Charterhouse in London on May 4. According to the Independent Catholic News site,
Members of the Carmelite Family in Britain to part in events in London to commemorate the Carthusian Martyrs of the Reformation, and reflected together on the spirituality of the Carthusian Order last week.

On 4 May 1535 the prior of Charterhouse, John Houghton, was executed at Tyburn for refusing to accept Henry VIII's claim to be supreme governor of the Church in England. Houghton was killed alongside two fellow Carthusian monks, and two other Catholic clerics. Over the following five years a further 15 Carthusians were executed in London and in York, as well as many other Catholics who refused to accept King Henry's break with the Roman Catholic Church. The Carthusian monastery in London, and all other communities of religious orders in England and wales, were dissolved as part of the English Reformation.

The Carthusian monastery in London became an almshouse for elderly men, known as Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse. To this day it remains an almshouse, mostly for retired Anglican clergy, known as the Brothers of Charterhouse. Since 2005 Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse has commemorated the martyrdom of the Carthusian Martyrs on 4 May which is celebrated as the feast of the Martyrs of the English Reformation in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.

Substantial portions of the former Carthusian monastery, including the cloister remain at Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse. On the evening of 4 May several members of the Carmelite Family - mostly from the 'Carmel in the City' Carmelite Spirituality Group in London - attended this year's commemoration there, together with Benedictine sisters from Tyburn Convent where a shrine commemorates the martyrs executed at the Tyburn Tree by present-day Marble Arch. Anglican priests, clergy and laity from the Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches also took part in the commemorative service.

The service began in the chapel, where the Preacher of Charterhouse, Reverend Canon Hugh Williams, introduced the service by recalling the story of St. John Houghton and his companions. Hymns were sung and Psalms were prayed, and the Mother General of the Tyburn Nuns read an extract from a medieval Carthusian spiritual text.

The congregation then moved into Chapel Court where a stone slab marks the site of the high altar in the Carthusian monastery. On the slab was a miniature model of the Tyburn Tree. Here the 'Passion of the Carthusian Martyrs' - an account of the final days of the London Carthusians by Dom. Maurice Chauncy - was read aloud.

After a period of silence, Brothers of Charterhouse came forward and placed a rose in the model of the Tyburn Tree, as the preacher called out the names of the martyrs.

Brothers of the Charterhouse placed roses in the Tyburn Tree. The names of the martyrs are engraved on a memorial behind the site of the high altar. The service concluded with further prayers, including the Russian Orthodox Contakion of the Dead.

There are photos of the events here. Holy Martyrs of the Carthusians, pray for us!

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