Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 1 in Rome at the Venerable

From The Catholic World Report, a story about the annual remembrance of the English Catholic martyrs who studied at the Venerable English College in Rome before going on their mission home:

The annual Martyrs’ Day commemorations take place in the seminary’s main chapel, which is lit by candles for the occasion. A student reads a reflection written at the time of the persecutions – this year, a letter written by St. Ralph Sherwin the day before his martyrdom – and the relics of the VEC’s martyrs are displayed on the altar and venerated.

One of the highlights of the evening is the singing of the Te Deum in front of the Martyrs’ Painting, a 16th century image of the Trinity by Durante Alberti which hangs behind the altar. This tradition harkens back to a practice of the seminarians at the time of the Reformation every time news reached them of a former student’s martyrdom.

“If any ever news returned to Rome that one of their brother priests had been put to death in England, the College community would come and gather in front of the painting,” explained VEC vice rector Fr. Mark Harold. “They would sing a hymn of praise to God, Te Deum laudamus,” which is paraphrased in the English hymn “Holy God, we praise thy name”. . . .

On the upper level of the College chapel are a series of frescos, depicting the martyrdoms of St. Ralph Sherwin, St. Thomas More, and dozens of others, which originally dated back to the Reformation. The current paintings are based on reproductions of the originals which had been recorded in a book, as the chapel was severely damaged by Napoleon's forces in the 18th century.

The panels graphically depict the martyrdoms, Fr. Harold said, and are not for the faint of heart. “They’re a vivid reminder to us of what people gave their lives for and what a great sacrifice they made in the name of their faith and that we walk in that tradition.”

According to this site, those paintings were essential to the cause of the English martyrs in the 19th century, because they proved that devotion to the martyrs had developed.

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