Thursday 3 December 2015

Cross and Crown - Saint Alexander Briant, English Martyr, Elizabethan, Robert Persons, the English Mission, Mary's Dowry Productions

Saint Alexander Briant - Jesuit
Whilst in prison Saint Alexander Briant made a cross of such wood as he could get, apparently a small wooden trencher, and upon it he drew with charcoal a figure of our Lord. This crucifix he carried with him when he went to trial at Westminster Hall.
Saint Alexander Briant makes a small cross of wood
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Alexander Briant' DVD
He made shift also to shave his crown because he would signify in this way that he was a priest and not ashamed to show it. When the ministers reproached him and bade him cast his crucifix away, he answered, "Never will I do so, for I am a soldier of the cross, nor will I henceforth desert this standard unto death." Someone stretched forward and snatched the cross from his hand, upon which he said, "You may tear it from my hands, but you cannot take it from my heart. Nay, I shall die for Him who first died on it for me."
Saint Alexander Briant with his crucifix at his trial
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Alexander Briant' DVD
On the scaffold, his fair and honest face beaming with joy, he expressed his great happiness in being made worthy to die for the faith, and in company with Edmund Campion whom he heartily revered. As the words of the Miserere were on his lips the cart was drawn away. Alexander Briant was about twenty-five years old; he is counted among the Jesuit martyrs as he had made a vow to offer himself to the Society.
Saint Alexander Briant at the gallows of Tyburn, London 1581
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Alexander Briant' DVD
"God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world." - Gal. 6, 14.
Reading for December 3rd
Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales by Henry Sebastian Bowden of the Oratory
In 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions filmed some prayerful and reflective scenes from the lives of two English Martyrs for two new productions on DVD - Saint Alexander Briant and Saint Edmund Arrowsmith. We recreated some backdrops in the barn attached to our parish church which included rooms and prison cells where the young man portraying Saint Alexander Briant was able to kneel in prayer and participate in silent reconstructions of key events from his life.
Film set for 'Saint Alexander Briant'
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Saint Alexander Briant (17 August 1556 – 1 December 1581) was was born in Somerset, and entered Hart Hall, Oxford (now Hertford College), at an early age. While there, he became a pupil of Father Robert Parsons and he completed his studies with him at Balliol College, which, along with his association with Richard Holtby, led to his conversion. After leaving university, he entered the English College at Reims then went to the English College, Douai, and was ordained priest on 29 March 1578. Assigned to the English mission in August of the following year he laboured with zeal in his own county of Somerset.
Saint Alexander Briant and Robert Persons, the best of friends
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Alexander Briant' DVD
A party of the persecution, searching for Father Parsons, placed Alexander Briant under arrest on 28 April 1581, in the hope of extorting information. After fruitless attempts to this end at Counter Prison, London, he was taken to the Tower where he was subjected to torture. With six other priests he was arraigned on 16 November 1581, in Queen's Bench, Westminster, on the charge of high treason, and condemned to death. In his letter to the Jesuit Fathers he says that he felt no pain during the various tortures he underwent, and adds: "Whether this that I say be miraculous or no, God knoweth." He was twenty-five years old when he was executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered on 1 December 1581; Edmund Campion and Ralph Sherwin were also executed with him.
Alexander Briant was declared venerable on 8 December 1921 by Pope Pius XI and beatified one week later on 15 December. Blessed Alexander Briant was canonized nearly forty-nine years later in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales with a common feast day of 25 October. His feast day is celebrated on 1 December, the day of his martyrdom.
Saint Alexander Briant tries to catch rainwater in his hat in prison
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Alexander Briant' DVD
Father Robert Persons, being regarded as a most active and dangerous leader of Catholics, was ever an object of the pursuviants search; thy never succeeded in his capture, but many other prizes were secured in his stead. Amongst these was taken Alexander Briant, a young man of some twenty five years of age, of gentle manners and a countenance of striking beauty. After three years at Oxford, he was reconciled and entered Douay, and in 1579 started as a priest on the English Mission. He laboured first in his own county, Somersetshire, where he brought back Persons' father to the Church, and thence went to London and took lodgings next to Persons, his closest and dearest friend.
Filming Robert Persons and Alexander Briant on set
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
On his arrest, Alexander Briant was confined in the Counter, and in that revolting prison, in order to extract from him Persons' whereabouts, he was for two days and nights entirely deprived of food and drink. He then contrived to get some stale cheese and hard bread with a pint of beer, but this brought on a maddening thirst. After six days in the Counter nothing had been gained from him, and sharper methods were resolved on.
After almost dying of thirst at the Counter, he was transferred to the Tower, where Norton, the rack-master, put him to torture with unexampled ferocity (Norton indeed was reprimanded and punished - lightly). Father Briant would neither confess where he had seen Persons, how he was maintained, where he had said Mass, nor whose confessions he had heard. He bore all unmoved, and with constant mind and pleasant countenance said the Miserere, desiring God to forgive his tormentors.
Tortured in the Tower.
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Alexander Briant' DVD
Whereat an official said furiously, "What a thing is this! If a man were not settled in his religion, this were enough to convert him." He was torn upon the rack till his body was disjointed, and the next day racked yet more severely; but he resolved to die rather than hurt any living creature by a word of his. Norton asked him whether the queen was supreme head of the Church in England or not? To which he said, "I am a Catholic, and I believe in this as a Catholic should do." "Why," said Norton, "they say the pope is." "And so say I," answered Alexander Briant.
Our film about Saint Alexander Briant is a reflective and prayerful journey with one of our English Martyrs on DVD available through:
Saint Alexander Briant:
A touching and thought provoking journey with a very young and holy Catholic priest whose spiritual insight and wisdom of the Catholic Faith gave hope to the people of his day.  Although linked to St. Edmund Campion, his story stands alone, edged with the mystical.  From a young boy in Somerset to a young priest in the City of London, St. Alexander's story is filled with peace, encouragement and inspiration.

In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with this young and holy priest.
Length and Format:
The film runs for 30 minutes and is available worldwide on Region Free DVD.
We ship worldwide and region free

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