10 July 2008


I would very much like to have a liturgical commemoration of the Anglicans who died in the massacres (amounting, in Devon and Cornwall, to genocide, and distinctly nasty in Oxfordshire too) when the Tudor government, in 1549, sent its foreign mercenaries to put down the rebellions of that year. These insurrections began on Whitmonday, the day after the First Cranmerian Prayer Book came into use. In their suppression, gentry and peasants were slaughtered; clergy were hanged in their mass vestments from the towers of their churches.

Were these martyrs specifically papalists? Well, their clergy in many cases had accepted preferment from bishops who had in turn accepted consecration or translation from Henry's or Edward's governments without papal consents. So, in a sense, they were all compromised by acquiescence in schism. And the 'Articles' they put out did not even mention the restoration of unity with the Holy See.

But they did what they could. They could not with their own hands mend the canonical breach between England and Rome; they could hang up the Blessed Sacrament again over the altarss of their churches and worship It.

Mind you, as the rebellion gathered strength and confidence, they did what they could to restore the unity of Christ's Church as well; they added to their Articles a demand that the Lord Cardinal Pole be called back to England under a free pardon and made 'first or second' of the King's Council; and this within a decade of the publication of Pole's book on Chrisian Unity which had led to a Henrician cull of Pole's family and friends. No wonder the rapacious heretics who sat around Edward's Council table trembled in their boots.

The 'ritualist' clergy of the Catholic Revival are a similar case. They had not sundered their parishes from the unity of Peter and it did not lie in their hands to undo, in a moment, the accumulated evil of four hundred years. But they did what they could, in Cornish villages and in the slums of Oxford (as at S Thomas's) and London and Leeds.

The martyrs of 1549 have not, of course, been beatified by the Holy See. But it seems a shame not liturgically to commemorate them, the known and the unknown, the learned and the unlettered, who are our Catholic Anglican forerunners and inspiration. Can anyone suggest a way round this problem?


Shawn Shafer said...

One could be very old traditional and say a votive office for these martyrs of the faith. Or, perhaps more conventionally, say a requiem mass for them on their year's mind, June 10, unless impeded, or on a date of your choosing for all those martyred for the Catholic faith in England. Would that be suitable enough?

johnf said...

In history the practice of veneration of Saints and Martyrs began from a groundswell of public opinion, so you have made a start Father by making them better known.

As a Catholic I was taught about the Pilgrimage of Grace and how that ended, as well as the Catholic Martyrs (and of Queen Mary's atrocities at Smithfield). But of these martyrs - nothing until your blog post this morning.

In Dorchester, there is a set of statues commemorating the Chideock Martyrs and our parish website has a reference to them, and a photograph:


Maybe something similar somewhere in Devon, Cornwall or Oxford might be arranged. More immediately and cheaply a website could be set up.

Is there a monograph describing these events which your Bishop of Ebbsfleet might present to Pope Benedict when he sees him (as is reported in the press)?

It seems the appropriate time to remind the Holy Father of the blood shed by his separated brethren for the fundamental tenets of the Catholic Church.

Orielensis said...

A Requiem Mass would not be at all inappropriate, so that is one way to commemorate these victims. Pilgrimage to places associated with the uprisings is a way of drawing attention to past events, as well as informing present generations. The depth of ignorance of people can be amazing - I recall trying to organize a commemoration of the Pilgrimage of Grace in my native Yorkshire in 1986 for its 450th anniversary. Virtually no-one had heard of it, let alone wanted to commemorate the events.
As to books - well there is the reprint of Fr Caraman's study "The Western Rising 1549" (Southwell Books if memory serves me aright), and on the Oxfordshire Rising there is Fr Jerome Bertam's succinct, privately printed account - I am sure he would be happy to provide copies if approached. There is also, I believe, a new piece on the Oxfordshire Rising in the pipeline of the IHR in a forthcoming volume of "Historical Research".