are our Martyrs now
IS devotion to the English Martyrs on the wane? I heard this question discussed by a number of people, and it is one which readers might like to consider for themselves. Signs which suggest an increasing interest in the martyrs may be summarised thus;
I. The increasing popularity of the walk to Tyburn.
2. The gusto with which we all sing "Faith of Our Fathers."
3. The spontaneous and impressive cheering at the Wembley pageant when the martyrs crossed the stage.
4. The special novenas and prayers in recent years to honour Blessed Cuthbert Mayne, Blessed Edmund Campion, Blessed Margaret Cl itheroe. 5. A great increase in devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham.
On the other hand
THOSE who felt that devotion to the martyrs is decreasing, and rapidly, put forward the following points: 1. In the 20 years since their canonisation very little has been made of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. We still have only the one style of statue to them, and this is rarely seen outside churches, and in church rarely qualifies for candles and flowers. There are no small statues of the martyrs at a popular price.
2. Twenty years ago there were many books about the martyrs, and every Catholic had read "Come Rack, Come Rope" and Benson's other novels about them. Today the majority of younger people have never read these books or heard of Challoner's "Memoirs of Missionary Priests."
3. Few hymns to the martyrs have taken on. Their feast days are not great days among us, and they have not yet worked their way into our prayers for the conversion of England. The shrine of Blessed John Southworth in Westminster Cathedral has not become a place of pilgrimage.
4. The great majority of shrines, windows and memorials to the martyrs were erected before the first World War. The great writers who did so much for the cause of the martyrs Dom Bede Camm, Fr. Bridget, Fr. Pollen, Fr. Newdigate, Mgr. Benson, Mgr. Hallet are all dead.
What do you think ?
IT is difficult to decide between these two points of view. Devotion to the martyrs seems to flourish in schools and parishes where their story is known. Recently I visited a very big convent with a magnificent library which had no copies of Challoner, and met two distinguished priests who did not know that one could see St. Thomas More's cell in the Tower of London.
AT Harrow for the diamond jubilee of the church last week I was delighted to find a stainedglass window to Blessed Robert Southwell. Is it the only one in England to the great poet and martyr? Harrow rightly honours him now, for to Harrow he was lured by a lapsed Catholic girl who pretended to want confession, and be was arrested on his arrival. Harrow has two English martyrs of its own, Anthony Page and Francis Page, and a share in St. Thomas of Canterbury, for the Archbishop went from Harrow to Canterbury and his martyrdom.
THE diamond jubilee of the Harrow Church was most honourably celebrated, with the Cardinal in the sanctuary and the Charter Mayor, the Member of Parliament and a great number of distinguished citizens in the body of the church. Fr. Peter Harris, the parish priest, himself a distinguished convert and patron of Lords and Middlesex, staged the jubilee on a most impressive scale. A pleasing touch-not Fr. Harris'swas the head of Henry VIII, newly painted and swinging gaily as we moved to The King's Head for lunch. Another cheerful moment was Fr. Harris's speech on the progress of the parish and the wonderful outing to Cambridge the year before. "What," asked the parish priest, "could he more delightful than a lovely summer day in Cambridge?" "Oxford!" came back the spontaneous answer from a certain section of the diners led, I think, by a Monsignor.
THE retreat for priests' house/ keepers, mentioned previously in this column, was an unqualified success. Forty-five came, many driven to the convent by the parish priest. (Take the more charitable sense.) One housekeeper told us a delight. ful story of one of her colleagues who died and appeared before St. Peter, who would not let her in.
"We admit no pries t s' housekeepers here," he said, "None?" she said, surprised. "None," replied the saint.
"But," she said, "what about Miss Murphy. of St. Patrick's, who died last month? She was a saint." "We let her in," St. Peter said, "But she was a priest's housekeeper." St. Peter thought for a moment. "No," he said, "she thought she was."