By Mgr. Cyril TAYLOR
IREGRET to report that the Liverpool rally in honour of the Forty Martyrs on the Metropolitan Cathedral site last Sunday was distinctly disappointing. It attracted a congregation of no more than 5,000 including some thirty priests and sixty nuns.
For a Lancastrian and Liverpudlian like myself, who has seen gatherings in the past thirty years range from 400.000 to celebrate the centenary of Catholic Emancipation in 1929 to 40,000 at Brownlow Hill in 1951 for Festival year it was indeed a sad occasion.
I tried to find the reason. The weather was ideal, perhaps too good so that many could not resist the temptation of the country and the coast. I found, too, that many parish priests had not received the final official notice giving details of the rally. I did not receive it myself. This, I understood, to be the responsibility of the office of the Vice-Postulation,
The Liverpool-Lourdes pilgrimage with 700 pilgrims including many priests is away at present, and, inevitably at this time, many people are on holiday. Nevertheless, as one of a quarter of a million Catholics on Merseyside, like others I spoke to, I felt ashamed.
However there was some consoling compensation in the evident faith and devotion of those present.
Precisely at four o'clock Archbishop Heenan accompanied by Bishop Beck and six prelates and canons walked in procession from the Cathedral buildings to Lutyens' temporary altar erected for the foundation-stone laying in 1933. It has been the focal point of many historic gatherings in the past and was now being used for the last time. Shortly it will be demolished to make room for the new Cathedral.
The bishop offered a low Mass of the English Martyrs in dialogue form, the responses being led by Fr. Bernard Forshaw, the Liverpool liaison with the office of VicePostulation. The congregation responded admirably.
In his sermon Archbishop Heenan explained the purposes of the rally and gave a vivid description of the religious state of England four hundred years ago. He urged Catholics to take full advantage of their present religious freedom, and asked for prayers for the canonisation of the martyrs and for those now in religious captivity. He emphasised the possibility that in these uncertain days there may be occasions for martyrdom again in this country. He continued: " We are not thinking • of the martyrs today in order to avenge them. We think of them because we want to learn from them. It matters little now if their persecutors were acting in good or bad faith. We wish only to admire and imitate the Catholic priests arid people who so gladly suffered to defend the Faith. "The martyrs had a twofold object in making their sacrifice. They wanted to preserve the Mass for us and to bring back their friends and neighbours to the Ancient Faith. We must have the
same object in our own Catholic lives. We must preserve the Faith for our children and must spread it among our relatives and friends,
"No man can say whether or not we shall be called upon to suffer martyrdom, It is possible that in the coming months or years the armed might of atheistic powers may be flung against this country. Poles of this generation would never have believed that in their completely Catholic land priests and people would be imprisoned for their faith. But the day of martyrdom for Poland came-and the story of their sufferings is not yet fully told." After the canonisation prayers and the hymn to the English Martyrs the congregation knelt to receive a blessing simultaneously by the relics of four of the martyrs. They were those of Blessed Cuthbert Mayne, Blessed John Southworth, Blessed Edmund Campion and the Holy Hand of Blessed Edmund Arrowsmith.
At the conclusion the archbishop and bishop walked through the ranks -of the people giving their blessing and Liverpool's public tribute to the Forty Martyrs had ended.