Thursday, April 9, 2015

Time for More Canonized Martyrs of England and Wales

In The Catholic Herald, Simon Caldwell proposes that the time has come for the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales and other beatified martyrs to be canonized during the pontificate of Pope Francis. He cites the devotion to these martyrs seen at Tyburn Convent:

Mother Xavier McMonagle, the assistant mother general of Tyburn Convent, the enclosed religious community at the site of the Tyburn Tree, says interest in the English martyrs has soared in recent years and the international cult surrounding them is “plainly evident in the ever-increasing stream of pilgrims to the crypt of these martyrs at Tyburn Convent”.

Some of the interest, she suggests, derives from a “desire to learn more about martyrdom as a phenomenon” in an age when Christians are once again being violently persecuted. She says this “highlights the religious heroism of our Reformation martyrs also, and drives people to seek out the truth of what really took place in their lives and what inspired their heroic acceptance of a cruel and barbaric death”.

She believes there is a powerful case, in particular, for the canonisation of the 85 martyrs beatified by St John Paul in 1987. This group included a substantial number of lay Catholics, people with ordinary occupations such as a glover, a servant, a joiner, a tailor and a bookseller. But there are also 50 martyrs beatified by Leo XIII and 108 people beatified by Pius XI. Some of them make very compelling cases indeed.

Because we are living in a time of Christian martyrdom around the world, Caldwell believes that Pope Francis will canonize these men and women, if the bishops of England and Wales ask:

Perhaps it is time to shake off this excessive timidity and wake up to changes in the Church under Pope Francis, particularly in the way the Holy Father is approaching canonisations. We need to grasp that this may be the moment Rome again bends a sympathetic ear to a plea for our beatified martyrs to be finally recognised as saints.

Most popes tend to bring their own personal touch to proclaiming saints, and in this Holy Father we can see a pontiff performing canonisations at a faster rate than his predecessors. In just two years, Francis has canonised 829 saints, surpassing the number previously recognised by any single pope, including St John Paul II, who canonised 483 saints in his 27-year reign. But since the figures are skewed by Francis’s group canonisation of the 812 Otranto martyrs, a more reliable indicator of changing patterns would perhaps be the number of canonisation ceremonies performed by each pope. Yet even when this is taken into account, Francis emerges as the most enthusiastic of modern popes when it comes to canonisations.

I agree--it is time. Also, these saints should be on the universal Roman Calendar. Large groups of martyred saints from Japan, Mexico, Africa, China, and Canada are honored on the calendar. May 4th should be a universal feast for the English Martyrs: "St. John Houghton and companions, Martyrs"!

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