By a Special Correspondent
This Sunday, November 29, is the feast of Blessed Cuthbert Mayne, Protomartyr of the Seminary Priests of Douai, and the feslival will be commemorated by the solemn veneration of his relics at the Church of the English Martyrs, Launceston, the Cornish town where Blessed Cuthbert Mayne was martyred exactly 365 years ago.
As the festival occurs on Advent Sunday, it will not be possible to observe the day with full solemnities, but the veneration of the relics, which include the skull of the martyr, will follow the usual mid-morning sung Mass.
Blessed Cuthbert Mayne was born at Barnstable, North Devbn, of yeoman stock, in the year 1544. He was educated at the expense of his uncle, an Anglican clergyman, who wished his nephew to succeed him in a lucrative living. The young man was sent to Oxford, where he graduated and was ordained when he was scarcely nineteen years of age. He became the Anglican chaplain of St. John's College, but after a short time he was converted to the Faith and resigned his appointment. Shortly afterwards he set out for Douai, where he wee...trained for the priesthood. He was dIdained in 1575 and came back to England in the following year to exercise his ministry, knowing full well the risk he was tinning.
He desired to minister in his own beloved West country, and to that end he obtained hospitality with Mr. Francis Tregian, lord of the manor of Golden, near Truro, Cornwall, who, like so many of the Cornish, still hung on the Faith.
It was while he was staying in this manor house that Blessed Cuthbert Mayne was arrested. He was taken to Launceston Gaol on June 7, 1577, where he was confined in a filthy underground cell until his trial on September 16 of that year.
He was indicted on six counts, namely (1) having a copy of the Papal Bull of Jubilee of 1575 in his possession. (2) the publishing of this Bull, (31 with upholding the ecclesiastical authority of the Pope, (4) bringing into this country an Agnus Dei which had been blessed by the Pope and which he had given to .Mr. Tregian, (5) the giving of an Agnus Dei to another person, and (6) with saying Mass. The only capital charge was that of publishing the Boll, but his defence was that the time limit of its use as an executable faculty had already expired, and, in any case, it was only a spiritual instrurnent, having nothing to do with the secular power.
MARTYRED AT LAUNCESTON He was condemned to death, although the date of his execution was deferred through a disagreement among his judges. He was martyred in the Market Placeoaf Launceston on November 30, 1577, although his festival is commemorated on the preceding day.
Francis Tregian had also been arrested at the same time as Blessed Cuthbert Mayne, and because he had given shelter to the priest he was deprived of all his estates.
Blessed Cuthbert Mayne was beatified in 1886, and a chapel in the Church of the English Martyrs at Launceston has been established as the national shrine of this holy martyr. In peace time this shrine is a popular place of pilgrimage among Catholics in the West country.
Further, an annual pilgrimage was held, usually attended by over 2,000 persons, when the pilgrims assembled on Castle Green, near the spot where the martyr was imprisoned. The pilgrims were then blessed with the Relics, after which they went in procession through the streets of Launceston, along the same way an Blessed Cuthbert Mayne was dragged on a hurdle to the scene of his martyrdom in the Market Place. This annual pilgrimage will be resumed again as soon as peace is restored.
The feast of Blessed Cuthbert Mayne is authorised for observance in the dioceses of Westminster, Liverpool, Lancaster, Northampton 'and Plymouth.
(It will be of particular interest to recall the fact that the "English Missal for the Laity." published by an Anglican firm for the use of Anglo-Catholics, contains the feast of Blessed Cuthbert Mayne, with the Proper for the Mass of the festival.)