Stabat Mater Menevia

Stabat Mater Menevia
We praise you O Lord and we bless you, for by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world

Monday, 5 March 2012

A historical note for Confraternity members

Courtesy of Last Welsh Martyr Blog



Who are the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales? They are a group of Catholic martyrs executed by the authorities during the Reformation. More than 600 Catholics, priests, laymen and women, are known to have died during the persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries. Some offences were so trivial as to be almost unbelievable to us today. For instance, there were those who were executed for obtaining a papal license to marry. Then there was one Thomas Bosgrave. Bosgrave met on the road a priest named John Cornelius who was being taken away by the priest hunters. The priest had been hastily dragged off and was bareheaded. Thomas Bosgrave offered his cap to the priest and for this he was immediately arrested. Several months later Thomas Bosgrave was executed - for offering his cap to a priest!

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales were selected from the hundreds who gave their lives for the Catholic Faith. As early as 1642 the first steps were taken to initiate the canonical process but owing to the ongoing persecutions the process had to be suspended. After the restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850 the Cause was resumed. Eventually, on 15th December 1929, Pope Pius XI beatified 136 of the martyrs. At last, after long and careful investigation and deliberation, three Carthusians, one Brigittine, thirteen secular priests, ten Jesuits, three Benedictines, two Franciscans, one Augustinian, four laymen and three laywomen were canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970. Collectively, they are known as the "Forty Martyrs of England and Wales".

Before concluding this post, I think it right to remind ourselves that this unfortunate period of English history was a time of great upheaval in the country. It was a time of turmoil, suspicion, mistrust and of fear. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Protestants, Catholics and Non-Conformists all suffered for their religious beliefs, depending on who was in power at the time. Under Catholic Queen Mary hundreds of Protestants were burnt at the stake. Her father, Henry VIII, executed all who had the temerity to oppose him, notwithstanding their religious beliefs! Thank God we live in saner times, at least in this country. Surely it behoves us to pray for those who live in countries where to be a Christian still marks one out for persecution and death.