This fascinating book recounts the stories of English martyrs persecuted during the 16th century reformation. It includes the well-known stories of More, Fisher, Campion, and Margaret of Clitherow, but also the stories such as the Martyrs of York, the victims of the Northern Rising, and lesser known martyrs such as Ralph Sherwood and Philip Arundel. Most valuably, it tells the story of the vicious, villianous activities of the chief spies and persecutors of English Catholics. The stories of the sadistic tormentors of English Catholics,—such as Richard Topcliffe, Francis Walsingham, and George Eliot—should be as well known as that of Torquemada or the Duke of Alba.
EXECUTION OF MARGARET POLE, COUNTESS OF SALISBURY.
By Dom Bede Camm, O.S.B.
I have been asked to introduce this book to the public on the ground that the idea of it was obtained from some of my writings, and I have felt it impossible to refuse, though, of course, the author needs no introduction from me. For I am glad to have this opportunity of expressing once more my conviction of the extreme importance of familiarizing our Catholic children with the story of all that our Fathers suffered in order to keep the Faith alive in England. We owe them everything, and we cannot afford to forget the debt. I am certain that devotion to these heroes of ours will do more than anything else to keep our own faith fervent, and, by helping our children to realize at what a price this glorious heritage has been preserved to them, make them cherish it as their own most priceless possession. It is therefore not only a duty of gratitude, but also an apostolate, to make the story of the Martyrs known. For we cannot love those whom we do not know, and we shall not strive to follow those whom we have not learnt to love.
There is yet another reason for making this story known, and that is the charity which we owe to those whom we are taught to pray for as our "separated brethren." There is nothing which refutes so simply and so irresistibly the sophisms of modern Anglican theories of "Continuity" and the like, as the simple, unvarnished history of those who died in England for the Pope and for the Mass.
The present writer was brought up, as are so many nowadays, in the firm belief that the Church by Law Established was the true representative of the old Catholic Church in England, the Church of Anselm, Dunstan and More. It was the Beatification of our Martyrs in 1886 which first directed his attention to them, and in reading their history he soon found the whole fabric of this belief tumbling about his ears like a pack of cards. Why did these Martyrs suffer torture and death? Simply for clinging to the Faith of their Fathers. They had not changed their religion, they were not the innovators; they died because they held dearer than life the old Faith of old England. We cannot serve two masters; we must choose between the cause for which these men fought, that is the old religion, and the new religion of their persecutors. If we wish to have our part with More and Campion, we cannot serve the Church of Cramer and Elizabeth.
Thus the history of the Martyrs has an important apologetic value, and we trust that among the readers of this book there will be many to whom the facts recounted may come as a revelation, as a first gleam of light in the darkness. For the Martyrs of England are still carrying on their apostolate, still pointing their beloved countrymen to the Rock whence they were hewn.
But the primary intention of the author has been to make Catholic children familiar with their glorious story, and so to make them more enthusiastic lovers of their holy religion. And I think that this aim is accomplished, for the book is written with knowledge and is instinct with enthusiasm. I hope that she will be encouraged by the reception it receives to continue the story into the seventeenth century, where there are Martyrs not less splendid to tell of, stories not less full of high adventure and thrilling interest than those here recounted.
The reader will not fail to grasp how futile are the calumnies which would brand our Martyrs as traitors to the State. As one of them said at the very foot of the gallows, "You may make the saying of a blessed Mass treason, you may make the saying of a Hail Mary treason, but other treason than this have I never committed." These men prayed with their dying breath for the Sovereign whose cruel laws sent them to their doom, and not one of them but might have saved his life had he consented to attend even once the Protestant service. Not disloyalty, not treason, but conscience was their true offence.
We hope that no one will think that we have any desire to rake up old grievances, or to stir up the dying embers of controversial strife, by thus dwelling on the memories of these heroes of the Faith. We have long ago forgiven the horrors of Tyburn: the only revenge that we desire is the divine vengeance of Christ's Martyrs who cry beneath the Altar of God, "How long, O Lord, How long?" Their one desire on earth was the conversion of their dear England; that, we may be sure, is their prayer now. It is also our own. Of late years, devotion to our Martyrs has happily found a local center among us at Tyburn Convent. The ceaseless intercession, the public Novenas, the processions, the pilgrimages there, have done very much to enkindle and to strengthen enthusiasm and love for their dear memories.
It would be well if all who read this work were able to make a pilgrimage to Tyburn, to honor those whose outpoured blood has made it the holiest spot in all our land. There they will find many memorials; relics, statues, pictures, stained glass windows, telling the deathless story of suffering and triumph. Children should be taken there to learn the stories in the windows, and to pray before the sacred images of those whom this book will then have taught them to love.
DOWNSIDE ABBEY, 4th March, 1915.
It has been the endeavor of the writer of this book to tell the Story of the English Martyrs, wherever possible, in the actual words of the records or letters of the time. There has been no need, and no attempt to color the story in order to heighten its interest; for the accounts available, though matter-of-fact enough, and very simple, breathe a spirit of fervent faith and high adventure that should appeal to every right-minded boy and girl of to-day.
That the story told here is incomplete goes without saying. It has, indeed, only been possible to include the two-and-thirty martyrs, whose lives form the subject matter of this book, by grouping them together according to the particular point of history which their martyrdom best illustrates.
The story has also been confined to the sixteenth century by limits of space, and because the next century opens up a new phase in the Persecution, which can best be dealt with in a separate volume.
For much fuller information and further illustration of this most interesting period of Catholic history, amongst the many to whom the author owes a debt of gratitude, she would send her young readers to the following volumes:
- Cardinal Gasquet: HENRY VIII AND THE ENGLISH MONASTERIES and LAST ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY
- Father Morris: TROUBLES OF OUR CATHOLIC FORE-FATHERS and LIFE OF FATHER JOHN GERARD
- Father Bridgett: BLESSED THOMAS MORE and BLESSED JOHN FISHER
- Dom Beded Cassius: LIVES OF THE ENGLISH MARTYRS, I AND II and FORGOTTEN SHRINES
- Dr. Allen: MARTYRDOM OF CAMPION and DEFENCE OF ENGLISH CATHOLICS
- Parson: LIFE OF CAMPION
- Richard Simpson: LIFE
- Canon Jessopp: ONE GENERATION OF A NORFOLK HOUSE
- Challoner: MEMOIRS OF MISSIONARY PRIESTS
- Gillow: DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH CATHOLICS
E. M. W. B.
Hove, Easter 1915