Page 10, 2nd June 1939

2nd June 1939
Page 10
Page 10, 2nd June 1939 — FORGOTTEN ANCIENT SHRINES

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IHE Birmingham province is rich in associations connected with the penal times, or farther back still in memorials of the faith and piety of Catholic centuries. Dom Bede Camm, 0.S.B., in his volume, Forgotten Shrines—happily it can be said nowadays that most of these places are rather among NotForgotten shrines—has described many such hallowed spots. Similarly, Mr Peter F. Anson has mentioned and illustrated a large number of the " Pilgrim Shrines of England and Wales," in pages bearing that title.

Taking the Archdiocese first, a mansion of memories is Harvington Hall, near Kidderminster, associated with the Franciscan martyr, Fr. Joachim of St. Anne (John Wall), and interesting in its own venerable fabric by several " hiding holes." Now diocesan property, and the scene, every year, of an imposing pilgrimage. Harvington Hall has become well and widely known to Catholics throughout the country. In the beautiful church at Chaddesley Corbet, not far away, is the tomb of . Lady Yate, the courageous hostess of the martyr on his visits to the house.

A pilgrim journey from Stafford can include, in one itinerary, the ruins of the convent of Whiteladies, once occupied by Austin Canonesses, and their venerated image of Our Lady, now preserved in St. Mary's at Brewood. On this ancient wooden statue may be seen the sword cuts said to have been made by Roundhead soldiery. Interest of another kind in that neighbourhood belongs to Boscobel, with its connection with perilous hours for King Charles, whom the Penderells there kept hidden from his enemies.

Lichfield, renowned for the soaring dignity of its spires, the "Ladies of the Vale," draws many Catholics each year to St. Chad's Well. The relics of St. Chad, patron saint of Birmingham's Metropolitan Cathedral, are fittingly preserved in that building. From their shrine-chapel these relics are borne in honour, through the city's streets, as the saint's feast-day conies round.

At Maryvale, Old Oscott, a few miles only from Birmingham itself, the Sisters of Mercy preserve in their oratory the first English shrine in honour of the Sacred Heart, in the form of a small painted window. This shrine is a link with the days of Bishop Milner, who is said to have brought the glass picture from Rome in 1814 and to have had it placed above the altar when the little chapel was opened. There, to this day, it remains, a much-sought centre of prayer.

In the great chapel of Christ Church College at Oxford, now also an Anglican cathedral, is a pathetic reminder of the work of the shrine despoilers and image-breakers: the stone base of what was once the shrine of St. Frideswide, whose relics are believed to lie beneath the paving nearby.

While we are in Oxford we must go, too, a short way beyond the university city, to make pilgrimage to what is left of the Manor House of Holywell, near the old church of Holy Cross. For this house was the home of Blessed George Napier, martyred early in the seventeenth century on account of his priesthood.

Oxfordshire holds for us, likewise, the interest of Stonor Park, the historic home of the famous Catholic family of that name. Its little church, dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity, was built in the fourteenth century. It was at Stonor Park that Blessed Edmund Campion's book, his Ten Reasons in defence of the faith, was printed at great risk.

Near Warwick is the famous Baddesley Clinton Hall, like Harvington a mooted house and one full of Catholic memories. Baddesley Clinton kept the faith throughout the dark days of persecution : it has never been in Protestant hands. In its chapel Mass has been offered by priests who ran risk of death for the performance of their sacred ministry.

In the Suffragan Dioceses

The dioceses of Clifton. Plymouth, and Shrewsbury all form part of the Birmingham province, and here again there are shrines and other centres of interest for the pilgrim. In the firstnamed see, the beauty of the abbey church at Downside is not, for Irish Catholics especially, the chief attraction of that stately building, but the fact that there are the relics of Blessed Oliver Plunket, the martyred Archbishop of Armagh.

To Glastonbury, pilgrimage is made in honour of other martyrs: the intrepid Abbot Whiting and his companions, who gained their crown, 400 years ago, on the Tor gallows.

The Martyr of Launceston

The Plymouth diocese invites us to Launceston, far in the west, that we may there honour the memory, and venerate the relic, of the first of the seminary martyrs, Blessed Cuthbert Mayne.

It is a shorter journey to the ancient church of St. White, or Witte, at Whitchurch Canonicorum, where, if tradition may be believed, the undisturbed remains of the saint himself lie entombed. This village with an engaging name is only a few miles from Bridport.

Past and present interest combine at Buckfast Abbey, Devon, a house with a history too well known to need repetition here.

Penal-time memories linger around more than one centre in Mgr. Barrett's territory, notably at Lanherne. In that venerable Cornish manor house, where Carmelite nuns have been installed since the eighteenth century, a hiding place exists which long gave shelter to an Elizabethanpriest. • At Lulworth Castle, in Dorset, is the historic church of St. Mary, a building which, at the suggestion of no less than King George the Third, took the form and apparent intention of a mausoleum, the law still frowning, at that time, upon the erection of a Catholic church as such,

Salop and Cheshire

In the diocese of Shrewsbury the treasure, so far as the past is concerned, lies chiefly in local history. On the Town Walls of Shrewsbury itself we are in a cathedral church of only nineteenth-century building; but Mass was being said, for the city's faithful few, at least 220 years ago. Middleton, near Ludlow, will take us back farther still, to the seventeenth century; and at Newport, another Shropshire centre, the Catholic records date from about the same period.

Chester, even if it possesses no martyr's shrine, will keep green the memory of Blessed John, or William, Plesington, a worthy priest whom the panic attendant upon the invented " Popish Plot " sent into martyrdom in 1679. July 19 will be Fr. Plesington's anniversary.

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