upsurge of rational fervour '11/ occurred in the first year of a campaign for canonisation ■IPPI'
Answer to Christian `sceptics'
By Hugh Kay
EIGHT or nine prima fade miracles
under investigation and an abnormally swift upsurge of popular devotion have marked the first year since the Hierarchy of England and Wales decided to re-open the campaign for the canonisation of the Blessed English and Welsh Martyrs.
This is seen by the Vice-Postulators of the Cause, Fr. Philip Caraman, S.J., and Fr. James Walsh, S.J., as a strong indication that the finger of God is at work—not only from the point of view of the Martyrs themselves, but also as an assertion of the spiritual order against a materialistic age.
It has become fashionable for some "intellectual" Catholics to allow a proper scepticism to overspill into a certain practical contempt for the miracle.
They should call on the office of the Vice-Postulation at Farm Street and examine the investigation dossiers, revealing as they do the Sacred Congregation of Rites' rigorous insistence on a degree of proof far higher than the standards of evidence accepted in a British court of law.
They would also find an elaborate hank of testimony building up in regard to a number of cures which have occurred over the past 12 months after prayers to the Martyrs. It is extremely rare for so many cases, hacked by such cogent evidence. to emerge in the first year of official enquiry.
In an exclusive interview at the weekend, Fr. Cararnan told me:—
"A year ago it was said that no miracles had ever come from prayer to the martyrs. Subsequent evidence of cures . and lesser favours now suggests that the martyrs have proved to be exceptionally powerful.
"It was said, too, that apart from pockets of interest among people like historians. there was no real devotion in this country to the English and Welsh Martyrs. In fact, however, the various religious celebrations relating to the Martyrs over the past year have brought staggering expressions of popular enthusiasm.
"They have given special encouragement to those Bishops whose flocks are scattered. One celebration in the Menevia diocese was expected to produce a crowd of 200. In fact. two thousand people turned up. At Louth, an area with a handful of 300 Catholics in Lincolnshire, as many as 1,500 people flocked to a rally organised in connection with Blessed Eustace White.
"It was anticipated that in choosing only 40 of the Blessed Martyrs for the Canonisation Cause we should be laying ourselves open to severe criticism in the process of selection. In fact, no criticisms
HISTORY AND APOLOGETICS]
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have arisen at all. What's more, sonic of the more obscure Martyrs, like Blessed Eustace himself, have come to take on flesh and blood for large numbers of the faithful.
"This Cause, in fact, has established a new principle. Ordinarily, groups of Martyrs are selected from one persecution and within a fairly narrow framework of time—like the Canadian or Boxer Martyrs. In this case, however, Martyrs have been chosen from periods extending over 150 years, and the only common factor between them has been that they were all either English or Welsh.
"This suggests that something similar might be done with regard to the Irish Martyrs, for instance."
Fr. Caraman went on to talk about the unfailing encouragement given to the Cause by Cardinal Godfrey and the rest of the Hierarchy, and by Fr. Paul Molinari, S.J., the Postulator. He referred, • too, to the 14 handsomely produced pamphlets on the Martyrs' lives now being ordered in heavy consignments from the Vice-Postulation Office. While f was with him, one order came in for f70 worth of copies to he sent off at once. The pamphlets have the unusual quality of attractive illustration.
"The enthusiasm mounting throughout the country." Fr. Caraman continued, "bears all the marks of a rational fervour based on knowledge, with a resultant increase of faith. There is not a trace of fanaticism—and this is particu
tarty apt in view of the balance and sense of humour so characteristic of the martyrs themselves."
From the point of view of faith and conversion, Fr. Caraman believes that, while the Scotsman continues to find himself at home with the strictly theological approach, the Englishman reacts more readily to history—a living encounter with a person in a dramatic context.
This helps to explain the rapid response to the Cause and there is no doubt about the special appeal to young men and boys of Martyrs who are more actual to them hecause they conic from our own country and tradition, and arc more easily encountered as real persons.
The prima fade miracles now under close investigation include the case of a West Country woman with a cancer of the breast judged to be beyond hope of medical assistance. Severe haemorrhages followed an operation. After the patient was blessed with a relic of Blessed Cuthbert Mayne. she was immediately very sick. Since then she has steadily improved and now eats heartily.
Another case of incurable cancer —a mother of 10 children—was pronounced by the doctors to be incurable. After a novena to the Martyrs by two parishes, Mrs. C.M. recovered and has now left hospital.
Then there was the student at the English College, Valladolid, who sustained a depressed fracture of the skull after an accident, with loss of brain tissue and bone. There was no movement in the left leg. headaches were extremely severe, and there was a danger that the right eye would be lost. Within a week, all this had cleared up.
Mr. T.T. sustained a cancerous blockage of the lower intestine. After discharge from hospital he had to he re-admitted with a further obstruction. He was given three or four days to live. His relatives made a novena to the Martyrs and on the last day of it he improved. He can now drive a car.
Forthcoming events include: SUNDAY, JULY 2: Pageant of the 40 Martyrs at Preston with Pontifical High Mass in the presence of Bishop Flynn of Lancaster in Preston North End Football Ground (celebrations start at 4 p.m.) The preacher will be Fr. James Walsh, S.J.
SUNDAY, JULY 9: Pageant of the 40 Martyrs in the Borough Parish, London, S.E.I, starting at 6 p.m. from John Gerard House, Union Street. Bishop Cowderoy of Southwark will preach.
Pageant of the Martyrs and High Mass at Stonor Park, Henley-onThames, at 4 p.m.. when Fr. Caraman will preach. It was at Stonor Park that 131. Edmund Campion wrote his "Ten Reasons".
This is Martyrs' Sunday throughout England and Wales.