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Thursday, 24 March 2011

'CAMPION'S BRAGGE' -' to the end we may at last be friends in heaven'

Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R very kindly allows me to borrow the occasional book from the Transalpine Redemptorist main library, sited temporarily on Stronsay, pending completion of the new  library on Papa Stronsay.  Recently I selected a book for my Lenten reading, entitled - 'Henry Garnet (1555-1606) and the Gunpowder Plot' by Philip Caraman S.J. I have read other books by this author, most if not all based on the lives of the English Martyrs in Elizabethan times,which without exception have made compelling reading.Tucked in this book I found a loose sheet of folded paper, with on one side a printed article entitled 'Campion Bragge', with 'Catholic Broadsheets No.1. Published by Michael White at 15 Broad Street Place, London, E.C.2.  Price 2d'.- along the bottom of the page, and on the other blank side, an address and postmark dated 17 July 1951. The whole sheet had originally been folded and sent through the post. I found this article extremely interesting and moving, and it may be that you will also.

                            Queen Elizabeth 1st  (Armada Portrait) 1588

"At the time of the Reformation in England, the fate of Catholic and Protestant alike hung for some time in the balance; but with the accession of Queen Elizabeth the tide turned finally against the Catholics. They were at first allowed to continue to exist, and there was every reason to suppose that without a hierarchy and without priests, they would die out in a generation. One man, Cardinal Allen, prevented this by his establishment of a seminary at Douai in Flanders.  To Douai came Edmund Campion, the brilliant scholar of Oxford – “one of the diamonds of England” he is called by a contemporary, and from Douai to Rome to join the newly founded Jesuits.

                                            Pope St Pius Vth

 In 1570,  Pope Pius V issued a Bull of Excommunication against Elizabeth, and with that the laws against Catholics were increased.  The Catholics were to be wiped out rather than allowed to die.  It was treason to be a priest or to harbour a priest.  Non-attendance at the Protestant church was fined so heavily that the well-to-do were ruined, the poor destitute. Hopelessness ruled over the English Catholics.
    And then, on June 24th,1580, Edmund Campion, with Fr Robert Persons arrived in England.  The first night they lay hidden at a house in Chancery Lane, the next at Hoxton. To see them at Hoxton came a friend Thomas Pounde.  Campion, fearing that he would be misrepresented if he should fall into the hands of the State authorities, produced a statement that was to be kept until he should be in prison and then published. He sat down there and then at a table, and wrote it in half an hour.  It was entrusted to Pounde but he was so excited and impressed by it that he forgot his orders and published it immediately.  Manuscript copies were circulated through the country.
    Campion became immediately famous.  To the Catholics he became a great rallying point.  New life was breathed into the down-hearted.  To the Protestants he was a man to be tracked down and sent to his death - which he was. But for rather more than a year he travelled throughout England bringing the Mass and the Sacraments and new hope to the hidden Catholics; always on the move, never dwelling two nights at the same house.  The end was inevitable and he was taken at Lyford Grange in Berkshire.  He was paraded through the streets of London as a prize capture, cast into the Tower, tortured, tried (a mockery of a trial), and  condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered, with sentence carried out at Tyburn gallows on December 1st, 1581.

                    Sir Francis Walsingham, Priest Hunter and Spy-Master

Campion's document is a model of lucidity at a time when so much writing was involved and obscure. But more than that, it is a voice of a saint and a document of heroic courage.  He speaks for all the English martyrs; he speaks for all English Catholics, then and now.  As he said at his trial, “in condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors, all the ancient priests, bishops and kings, for what have we taught that they did not teach?”
                                        St Edmund Campion SJ


To the Right Honourable Lords of Her Majestie’s Privy Council
Right Honourable

Whereas I have come out of Germanie and Boemeland, being sent by my Superiours, and adventured myself into this noble Realm, my deare Countrie, for the glorie of God and benefit of souls, I thought it like enough that, in this busie, watchful and suspicious worlde, I should either sooner or later be intercepted and stopped of my course.  Wherefore, providing for all events,  and uncertaine what may become of me, when God shall haply deliver my body into durance, I supposed it needful to put this writing in a readiness, desiringe your good Lordships to give it ye reading, for to know my cause.  This doing I trust I shall ease you of some labour.  For that which otherwise you must have sought for by practice of wit, I do now lay into your hands by plaine confession.  And to ye intent that the whole matter may be conceived in order, and so the better both understood and remembered, I make thereof these ix points or articles, directly, truly, and resolutely opening my full enterprise and purpose.

i.    I confess that I am (albeit unworthy) a priest of ye Catholike Church,  and through ye great mercie of God vowed now these viii years into the Religion of the Societie of Jhesus.  Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and eke resigned all my interest or possibilitie of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldlie felicitie.

ii.    At the voice of our General Provost, which is to me a warrant from heaven, and Oracle of Christ, I tooke my voyage from Prage to Rome (where our said General Father is always resident) and from Rome to England, as I might and would have done joyously into any part of Christendome or Heathenesse, had I been thereto assigned.

iii.    My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reforme sinners, to confute errors – in brief, to crie alarme spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance wherewith many my dear Countrymen are abused.

iv.    I never had mind, and am strictly forbidden by our Father that sent me, to deal in any respect with matter of State or Policy of this realm, as things which appertain not to my vocation, and from which I do gladly restrain and sequester my thoughts.

v.    I do ask, to the glory of God, with all humility, and under your correction, iii sortes of indifferent and quiet audiences: the first before your Honours, wherein I will discourse of religion, so far as it touches the common weale and your nobilities: the second, whereof I make more account, before the Doctors and Masters and chosen men of both Universities, wherein I undertake to avow the faith of our Catholike Church by proofs innumerable, Scriptures, Councils, Fathers, History, natural and moral reasons: the third before the lawyers, spiritual and temporal, wherein I will justify the said faith by the common wisdom of the laws standing yet in force and practice.

vi.    I would be loth to speak anything, that might sound of any insolent brag or challenge, especially being now as a dead man to this world and willing to put my head under every man’s foot, and to kiss the ground they tread upon. Yet have I such a courage in avouching the Majesty of Jhesus my King, and such affiance in his gracious favour, and such assurance in my quarrel, and my evidence so impregnable, and because I know perfectly that no one Protestant, nor all the Protestants living, nor any sect of our adversaries (howsoever they face men down in pulpits, and overrule us in their kingdom of grammarians and unlearned ears) can maintain their doctrine in disputation.  I am to sue most humbly and instantly for the combat with all and every of them, and the most principal that may be found:  protesting that in this trial the better furnished they come, the better welcome they shall be.

vii.     And because it hath pleased God to enrich the Queen my Sovereign Ladye with notable gifts of nature, learning, and princely education, I do verily trust that – if her Highness would vouchsafe her royal person and good attention to such a conference as,  in the ii part of my fifth article I have motioned, or to a few sermons, which in her or your hearing I am to utter,- such manifest and fair light by good method and plain dealing may be cast upon these controversies, that possibly her zeal of truth and love of her people shall incline her noble Grace to disfavour some proceedings hurtful to the realm, and procure towards us oppressed more equitie.

viii.    Moreover I doubt not but you her Highness’ Council being of such wisdom and discreet in cases most important,  when you shall have heard these questions of religion opened faithfully, which many times by our adversaries are huddled up and confounded, will see upon what substantial grounds our Catholike Faith is builded,  how feeble that side is which by sway of the time prevaileth against us, and so at last for your own souls, and for many thousand souls that depend upon your government,  will discountenance error when it is bewrayed, and hearken to those who would spend the best blood in their bodies for your salvation.  Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posteritie shall never die, which beyond seas gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes.  And touching our Societie be it known to you that we have made a league – all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England – cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons.  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.

ix.    If these my offers be refused, and my endeavours can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good, shall be rewarded with rigour, I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almightie God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us His grace, and set us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.

                           Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter  (Perugino)

We pray to the holy English Martyrs, for the conversion of our Country.

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