Ampleforth Abbey

25 February 2018

Echoes of the Word 4th May 2017

All Martyrs of England & Wales                         Matt 10:17-20

In the Gospel for today’s Feast of the English and Welsh Martyrs, Jesus warns his disciples that they will be scourged and dragged before the authorities to bear witness (Greek: martyrion). Only a little earlier in the chapter, he had given them their mission to preach the Good News of the Kingdom and the power to drive out demons and sickness. It was all sounding quite exhilarating – but then Jesus seemed to start piling up the bad news: you are to live frugally, carrying no more than necessary, and you’re going to be persecuted, both in the name of God and by pagan unbelievers. In fact, Jesus is simply making plain what following him necessarily involves. To follow in Jesus’s footsteps, we have to lay down some of the unnecessary baggage which clutters our lives and set our hearts on him and his Kingdom. And if, like the martyrs, we set our hearts on his Kingdom of love and truth, we will find ourselves opposed by the anti-kingdom of hatred and falsehood. But the Good News remains good news: following Jesus and seeking his kingdom is liberating and leads to glory. That is the joyful message of this Easter season: precisely by treading the way of the Cross, Christ has risen to glory and made the Cross a door through which we too can enter into glory and undying joy.

A monk of Ampleforth

Reflection on The English & Welsh Martyrs

I prayed at the shrines of the English Martyrs; a traffic isle at Marble Arch [Tyburn Tree]; the Chapel of the English Martyrs in Westminster Cathedral, the tomb of St John Southworth; the English College in Rome, this sacred building; a bridge over the river in York where they crushed St Margaret Clitheroe. For nearly two centuries it was high treason to be a priest in England or to have a priest in your house. The celebration of Mass was an act of treason. From 1535 to 1679 many died: of these, 42 are canonized and another 242 beatified. They include St Edmund Campion, St Robert Southwell the poet who probably inspired Shakespeare, St Nicholas Owen who built hiding places for priests, St Alban Roe, monk of this Ampleforth Community of St Laurence. They died with joy and prayer. They died to defend the doctrine of the Mass, and for the primacy of Peter - as witnesses to the Catholic Faith - and affirming their allegiance to the Crown of England. 4 May is the Feast of the English and Welsh Martyrs. The martyrs are at the very cornerstone of the faith of Catholics of England and Wales.

Fr Francis Dobson OSB