Monday, December 1, 2014
Today, the first of December, is a special day in the liturgical calendar of the Society of Jesus—the religious institute to which I belong. It is the feast of the martyrs Saints Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, and companions. Of course the English and Welsh Church offered up a good number of members of other institutes, the secular priesthood, and the laity who would not compromise on their Catholic faith but, by the same token, did not betray their loyalty as subjects of the temporal realm. In spite of what the temporal powers demanded of them, they simultaneously remained true to the faith and their sovereign.
It could have been Campion and Southwell and their companions that Cardinal George had in mind when he recently figuratively (and, perhaps, literally) stated that he would likely die in his bed; his successor in prison; and the latter’s successor a martyr for doing what Saint Paul in the letter to Titus reminds all Christians to be their duty: to encourage others in sound doctrine and to refute those who oppose it. [Campion and some of his companions were teachers, and they understood the value of authentic academic freedom to search for and present in public fashion the truth of God.] While such talk may be dismissed as hyperbole in the present age, is it?
We do not have to look far today to see that there are still martyrs, usually folk from ordinary walks of life, who are dying for the Catholic faith and for no other reason. This has been the history of the Church since its beginning; the tradition continues because people like Campion and his fellow martyred Jesuits understood well that they joined the enterprise of the Society of Jesus for one purpose alone: to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.
This is evident from reading Campion’s apologia which Father Campion submitted to Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council after his capture and before his execution. [The apologia (oft referred to as “Campion’s Brag”) is HERE] His words do not betray any disloyalty to his sovereign, but they confirm the sincerity and profundity of his faith in Christ and His holy Church. The so-called Brag is worth studying carefully, but these words stand out for me and, perhaps, others:
…The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: so it must be restored…
Saints Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, and companions: pray for us!