In the handlist of the English Martyrs, I have counted some 58 whose witness honours this (now apostate) University. Today is their combined liturgical commemoration; the day having been chosen because it was on December 1 1581 that three of them were martyred at Tyburn: S Edmund Campion, scholar and fellow of S John's College and Public Orator; S Ralph Sherwin, fellow of Exeter College; and S Alexander Briant, of Hart Hall, now represented by own college.
[I think it right to regard this day as a Greater Double, or Second Class feast, because, since it was entered on the Calendars of some English dioceses, many Beati have been canonised.]
"We have no slight outfit for our opening warfare. Can we religiously suppose that the blood of our Martyrs, three centuries ago and since, shall never receive its recompense? Those priests, secular and regular, did they suffer for no end? or rather, for an end which is not yet accomplished? The long imprisonment, the fetid dungeon, the weary suspense, the tyrannous trial, the barbarous sentence, the savage execution, the rack, the gibbet the knife, the cauldron, the numberless tortures of those holy victims, O my God, are they to have no reward? Are Thy Martyrs to cry from under Thine altar for their loving vengeance on this guilty people, and to cry in vain? Shall they lose life, and not gain a better life for the children of those who persecuted them? Is this Thy way, O my God, righteous and true? Is it according to Thy promise, O King of Saints, if I may dare to talk to Thee of justice? ... And in that day of trial and desolation for England, when hearts were pierced through and through with Mary's woe, at the crucifixion of Thy body mystical, was not every tear that flowed, and every drop of blood that was shed, the seeds of a future harvest, when they who sowed in sorrow were to reap in joy?"
S John Henry Newman.