Wednesday 24 October 2018

We remember the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales canonized 25th October 1970 by Pope Saint Paul VI


Since 2007 Mary's Dowry Productions have been producing Catholic films on DVD about the lives of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, many of which have been broadcast on EWTN and thus been introduced to Catholics who were unaware of these great English Martyrs.
Tomorrow (25th October) we remember especially this date in 1970 when Pope Saint Paul VI canonized the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.

Pope Saint Paul VI said some important and inspiring things about the 40 Martyrs, taking several individuals as examples. The following text is taken from the homily of Pope Saint Paul VI at the canonization of the 40 Martyrs.

From the Canonization homily of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales:

"Our time needs Saints, and especially the example of those who gave the supreme witness of their love for Christ and his Church: "no one has greater love than he who gives his life for his friends ( Me. l5, l3). These words of the Divine Master, which refer in the first instance to the sacrifice that he himself performed on the cross offering himself for the salvation of all mankind, are also valid for the great and chosen group of martyrs of all time, from the first persecutions of the Church rising up to those - perhaps more hidden but not less cruel - of our days."

"In its long and glorious history, Great Britain, an island of saints, has given the world many men and women who have loved God with this sincere and loyal love: this is why we are pleased to have counted 40 other sons of this noble land today. among those whom the Church publicly recognizes as saints, proposing them with this to the veneration of his faithful, and because these portray a vivid example from their lives."

"To those who have read and admired the acts of their martyrdom, it is clear, we would like to say clearly, that they are the worthy emulators of the greatest martyrs of the past, because of the great humility, intrepidity, simplicity and serenity with which they accepted their sentence and their death, indeed, even more with a spiritual joy and an admirable and radiant charity."

"We have among the 40 Holy Martyrs secular and regular priests, religious of various orders and of different rank, lay people, men of very noble descent as well as of modest condition; we have women who were married and mothers of the family: what unites them all is that interior attitude of fidelity to the call God asked of them, as an answer of love. And the response of the martyrs was unanimous: "I can not but repeat that I die for God and because of my religion; - so said the Saint Philip Evans - and I consider myself so happy that if I could ever have many other lives, I would be very willing to sacrifice them all for such a noble cause"

"And, indeed like many others, the Holy Philip Howard,Earl of Arundel also asserted: "I regret to have only one life to offer for this noble cause." And Margaret Clitherow, with a moving simplicity expressed the meaning of her life and her death: "I die for the love of my Lord Jesus". "What a small thing this is, compared to the much crueler death that Christ has suffered for me," cried the Holy Alban Roe."

"Like many of their fellow countrymen who died in similar circumstances, these forty men and women of England and Wales wanted to be, and were, loyal to their homeland that they loved with all their heart; they wanted to be, and were in fact, faithful subjects of the real power that everyone - without exception - recognized, until their death, as legitimate in all that belongs to the civil and political order.

But this was precisely the drama of the existence of these martyrs, namely that their honest and sincere loyalty to the civil authority came to be in contrast with fidelity to God and with what, according to the dictates of their conscience illuminated by the Catholic faith, they knew to involve the revealed truths, especially on the Holy Eucharist and on the inalienable prerogatives of the successor of Peter, who, at the behest of God, is the universal Pastor of the Church of Christ.

"Placed before the choice to remain steadfast in their faith and therefore to die for it, or to have saved their life by denying the former, they, without a moment of hesitation, and with a truly supernatural force, sided with God and joyfully they faced martyrdom.

But so great was their spirit, so noble were their feelings, so Christian was the inspiration of their existence, that many of them died praying for their beloved homeland, for the King or the Queen, and even for those that they were directly responsible for their capture, their torments, and the ignominious circumstances of their atrocious death.

The last words and the last prayer of Saint John Plessington were these: "God bless the King and his family and grant His Majesty a prosperous kingdom in this life and a crown of glory in the other. God grant peace to his subjects allowing them to live and die in true faith, hope and charity".

"So the Holy Alban Roe, just before the hanging, prayed: "Forgive, O my God, my innumerable offenses, as I lose my persecutors", and, like him, Thomas Garnet who - after having forgiven those who had betrayed him, arrested him and condemned him - begged God saying: "May they all obtain salvation and with me reach heaven".

Reading the acts of their martyrdom and meditating on the rich material collected with so much care over the historical circumstances of their life and their martyrdom, we are struck above all by what unequivocally and radiantly shines in their existence; it, by its very nature, is such as to transcend the centuries, and therefore to remain always fully current and, especially in our days, of paramount importance.

We refer to the fact that these heroic sons and daughters of England and Wales took their faith seriously: this means that they accepted it as the only norm of their life and of their whole conduct, portraying a great serenity and a profound spiritual joy. With a freshness and spontaneity not without that precious gift that is the typical mood of their people.

"The Church and the world today have the greatest need of such men and women, of every state of life: priests, religious and laity, because only people of such stature and holiness will be able to change our tormented world and to give that spiritual and truly Christian orientation to which every man intimately yearns - even sometimes without being aware of it - and of which we all so much need.

"Our gratitude goes to God for having, in his providential goodness, aroused in these Holy Martyrs, the industriousness and the sacrifice of which they have contributed to the preservation of the Catholic faith in England and Wales.

May the Lord continue to raise up in the Church the laity, religious and priests who are worthy emigrants of these heralds of faith.

May God, in his love, also flourish and develop centers of study, formation, prayer and acts to prepare the holy priests and missionaries as they were, in those times, the Venerable Colleges of Rome and Valladolid and the glorious Seminars of St. Omer and Douai, from which some of the Forty Martyrs came out

May the Lord grant us the grace that, in these times of religious indifference and practical materialism, the example and intercession of the Holy Forty Martyrs will comfort us in the faith, reinforce our authentic love for God, for his Church and for all men.

May be be strengthened in this hope by the heavenly friendship of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who are canonized today. Amen." Pope Saint Paul IV, 25th October 1970."


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