1 December 2023

The Holy and Blessed Martyrs of Oxford

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.


Simon Cotton said...

December 1st is kept as a feast of St Edmund Campion in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

PseudonymousposterJohn said...

I have long considered that this day ought to be used to honour all of the martyred priests of this land and to be in the universal kalendar, alongside Saint Margaret Clitheroe, the Carthusian Martyrs, Fisher-More and the 4th. May feast. For them not to be seems like some sort of political gesture to the anglican establishment in the days of gunboats off Algeciras... but those days are gone. They could not avoid putting them in the local calendars, but not putting them in the kalendars of France, Hungary, Bavaria and Spain lessens the dignity practically to the point of insult. If Edward “the confessor” is universal, a fortiori Saint Thomas More, Saints John, Edmund, Margaret etc, deserve to be. I fear the Vatican has long been a primarily political institution. Sad that it seems to lack the courage of its own convictions if other considerations seem important, in this case, keeping up diplomatic relations with the heirs of the Cecil regime under its frontman the ill-favoured illegitimate offspring of Ann Boleyn.

Richard Duncan said...

One of the volume's I retrieved from the room of the late Fr Paul Chavasse was a set of breviary propers for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, which has the feast of Bb Martyrum Academiae Oxoniensis for 1 December. The Second Nocturn starts thus:

Oxonia, quae olim sanctis confessoribus et virgine patrona Frideswida gaudebat, saeculo decimo sexto etiam martyres qui pro Christi Ecclesia sanguinem suum fuderunt, inter academiae suae alumnos computavit. Cum enim Henricus rex auctoritatem Apostolicae Sedis abjiceret, quatuor Oxonienses, usque ad sanguinem nefando conatui resisterunt.