A priest who serves as pastor of a church named for the English Catholic Martyrs, Father Matthew Pittam, comments on some renovations at the church that actually celebrate the martyrs for The Catholic Herald (you'll see pictures of the artwork at the site) and why they had never been there before:
I have become increasingly aware of a sense that devotion to the English Martyrs is slightly out of fashion and viewed as politically incorrect. When was the last time you heard of someone who had a devotion to St John Fisher or St Margaret Clitherow?
There appeared to be a renewal around the time of the Canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, which is testified to by the number of Churches of the English Martyrs which originate from that period. Since then things appear to have waned a little.
A significant contributing factor has been the ecumenical dialogue that has taken place over the last forty or so years. The pursuit of Christian unity led a focus upon what Catholics and non-Catholics hold in common and to de-emphasise aspects of the faith which make us different. In this context, both Protestant and Catholic martyrs can easily be seen as a sign of division and a stumbling block to unity.
A couple of years ago, I concelebrated at a Mass of Consecration of a new church. The final hymn was the much loved, Faith of our Fathers. Afterwards one of my fellow priests became a bit hot under the clerical collar about this musical choice because he was aware that there were representatives of other Christian Churches present. He was worried that offence would be caused and relationships could be affected.
As a consequence of such sensibilities, many Catholics today have forgotten the stories of the English Martyrs. We may remember some of the bigger names like St Thomas More or St Nicholas Owen but many of the other inspiring lives have slipped from our common consciousness. Airbrushing and sanitising history will not help in our dialogue with other Christians and we lose something of the depth of our faith if we downplay the sacrifice and heroic witness of our martyrs.
The Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales (and of Scotland and Ireland) have always been controversial because they were willing to die for the Catholic faith in spite of the fact that the destruction of that faith in England was part of the progress toward liberty and enlightenment England has achieved. While the government, monarchical and parliamentarian, that encouraged the progress lauded by the Whig historians, used the most "medieval" methods of torture and execution possible, these men and women suffered for Christ and His Church. Their devotion to the Eucharist, to the unity of the Church, to the priesthood, is a great puzzle for those who aren't Catholic or religious--and, as Father Pittam suggests, even some Catholics might think it best to downplay those aspects of our Faith in the cause of celebrating what we share with others.
One way to develop devotion to the Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation is through the publication of prayer books like this one from the Catholic Truth Society--the other is through the arts as Father Pittam has done at his parish. Those parishes throughout England named for the English Martyrs could establish special devotions to the martyrs.