Friday, September 2, 2016

Martyrs and Contemplatives

The Provost at the London Oratory writes about the martyrs of the past and the contemplatives of the present at Tyburn:

Close to Marble Arch there is a traffic island at the beginning of the Edgware Road. At its centre lies a stone disc engraved with the words “The site of Tyburn Tree”. It was here that, between 1535 and 1681, 105 Catholic priests and laity suffered the horrible ordeal of being hanged, drawn and quartered, all for remaining loyal to the Faith of their fathers. Gentrification of the area in the eighteenth century would obliterate all reminders of the public executions, with the gallows removed, and Tyburn Road and Tyburn Lane becoming Oxford Street and Park Lane.

This intersection must be one of the noisiest and busiest corners of the city. Nearby, however, is a place of extraordinary tranquillity. In the early twentieth century a convent of Benedictine nuns was founded in the Bayswater Road. The crypt chapel of their convent is now filled with relics of the English Martyrs. There is even a replica of the gallows over the altar. Upstairs, in the public chapel, the sisters pray day and night before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

The memory of Tyburn Tree, then, is kept alive at Tyburn Convent. As the nuns keep vigil before the Sacred Host, they offer up a constant stream of prayers for the well-being and the conversion of our city and our realm. They have chosen the “better part” or “good portion” which Our Lord attributes to St Mary Magdalene in the Gospel. This “good portion” is the life of contemplation, lived at the foot of the Cross. We can be sure that if we make it to Heaven, we shall see just what extraordinary graces and blessings were secured for us, for the Church and for the human race in general by these lives devoted to prayer.

Father Julian Large goes on to discuss the different roles of martyrs and contemplatives in the Church; of course, sometimes Catholics are both. Among the many martyrs of England and Wales, there are several contemplatives who suffered martyrdom: most notably the Carthusians. Even the most active missionaries set time aside for contemplation. The Jesuit martyrs all practiced the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. 

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