Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dying as Hidden Servants of Christ

On June 15, 1537, the second group of those Carthusians held in Newgate Prison, without charge, or trial, or sentence, or any other mark of justice except for the will of Henry VIII, began to die. Brothers Thomas Scryven and Thomas Redyng died on June 15 and June 16--Dom Richard Bere did not die till August 9, and the priest Thomas Johnson not until September 20, so they must have received some nutrition, according to the King's great mercy.

One survived this starvation ordeal: Brother William Horne. He was finally attainted by Parliament in 1540 and executed at Tyburn on August 4, 1540.

In his book Saints and Scholars, David Knowles eulogizes the Newgate prison group:

The third and most numerous band was denied even the dignity of a formal trial and execution. They had asked to live as hidden servants of Christ; they died, silent witnesses to his words, hidden from the eyes of all. Chained without possibility of movement in a foul atmosphere, and systematically starved . . .

Rarely indeed in the annals of the Church have any confessors of the faith endured trials longer, more varied or more bitter then these unknown monks. They had left the world, as they hoped, for good; but the children of the world, to gain their private ends, had violated their solitude to demand of them an approval and a submission which they could not give. They had long made of their austere and exacting Rule a means to the loving and joyful service of God; pain and desolation, therefor, when they came, held no terrors for them. When bishops and theologians paltered or denied they were not ashamed to confess the Son of Man. They died faithful witnesses to the Catholic teaching that Christ had built his Church upon a rock.

Blessed Carthusian martyrs, pray for us.

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