Sunday, February 10, 2013
Pope Pius XI and England's Catholic Martyrs
Pope Pius XI died on February 10, 1939. He was pope during the period of the persecution of Catholics during the Calles presidency in Mexico and wrote three encyclicals on the crisis of the Cristeros. He established the Feast of Christ the King, He beatified many martyrs, including groups from the French Revolution and from the English Reformation. He also canonized John Fisher and Thomas More.
On December 15, 1929 he beatified a group of 136 Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales, many of whom I have highlighted on this blog, and many of whom later were canonized by Pope Paul VI as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales:
On May 19, 1935, he canonized St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More at the Vatican. Here is an excerpt from the homily he preached for these two great martyr saints (Englished by The Tablet in 1935):
As Jesus Christ, according to the words of St. Paul, is eternal and immutable, “yesterday and today, and the same forever,” so the Church founded by Him is destined never to perish. Generations follow and succeed each other with their perennial vicissitudes. But whereas human institutions give way and disappear before the levelling tide of time, and human sciences, reflecting inconstant light, undergo repeated transformations, the Cross of Christ, reared steadfast above the engulfing billows, never ceases to illumine mankind with the beneficent splendour of Eternal Truth.
From time to time new heresies make their appearance and, under the guise of truth, gain strength and popularity; but the seamless garment of Christ can never be rent in twain. Unbelievers and enemies of the Catholic faith, blinded by presumption, may indeed constantly renew their violent attacks against the Christian name, but in wresting from the bosom of the militant Church those whom they put to death, they become the instruments of their martyrdom and of their heavenly glory. No less beautiful than true are the words of St. Leo the Great: “The religion of Christ, founded on the mystery of the Cross, cannot be destroyed by any sort of cruelty; persecutions do not weaken, they strengthen the Church. The field of the Lord is ever ripening with new harvests, while the grains shaken loose by the tempest take root and are multiplied.” These thoughts, full of hope and comfort, spring up in Our mind as We, in this majestic Vatican Basilica, are about to proclaim briefly the praises of our two new Saints after having raised them to the honours of the altar. They, the bright champions and the glory of their nation, were given to the Christian people, in the words of the prophet Jeremias, “as a fortified city, and a pillar of iron, and a wall of brass.” Therefore they could not be shaken by the fallacies of heretics, nor frightened by the threats of the powerful. They were, so to speak, the leaders and chieftains of that illustrious band of men who, from all classes of the people and from every part of Great Britain, resisted the new errors with unflinching spirit, and in shedding their blood, testified their loyal devotedness to the Holy See.