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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Fr Alexander Crow, Martyr. ----- 'Mary's Meals'

You will notice at the top of the side-bar, the prayer for the beatification of the Venerable Bishop Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic of the London District in England, from 1758-1781. Among his many literary works was ‘Martyrs to the Catholic Faith’ Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholics of both sexes, that have suffered death in England on religious accounts from the year 1577 to 1684’. This is an impressive and broadly based work, briefly relating the lives and circumstances of death of some three hundred martyrs, ‘carefully collected from the accounts of eye-witnesses, contemporary authors, and manuscripts kept in the English convents and Colleges abroad.’ Reading these accounts is truly humbling, and is a reminder that today there are many Catholics in the world suffering terrible persecution and death for their faith. ‘Please God, give them courage and faith in their suffering, and may we all be loyal soldiers of Christ.’ This post is primarily on one of the English martyrs included in Bishop Challoner’s book, the Rev. Alexander Crow.

                                 'Ecce Homo' - Munkacsy Mihaly (1844-1900)

Alexander Crow,  Priest.

Alexander Crow was born in Yorkshire, and for some time followed a trade in York.   ‘But going beyond the seas, out of his zeal to God and his country,’ says my manuscript, ‘he fell to his studies at Rheims, and became a priest, being, both for his said zeal and virtue, well esteemed of by his superiors, and by them sent on an orderly mission into England for the salvation of souls, anno 1584.  After he had laboured here some time, with much edification to all that knew him, he was taken at South Duffield, coming hither to christen a child of one Cecily Garnet; and at the assize held at York in November was arraigned and condemned for being a priest and remaining in England contrary to the laws of the realm.  He was hanged, drawn, and quartered at York, the 30th November 1586,’ according to this relation;  but Yepez, Wilson, Molanus, Raissius, and the manuscript annals, say 1587, being about the age of thirty-five.
    The manuscript annals give this short account of Mr Crow, anno Eliz.29:- ‘On the 30th day of the month of November, Alexander Crow, a priest of Douay College, after he had strenuously laboured in those difficult times in gathering together the sheep of Christ that had been scattered, falling into the hands of the wolves stoutly laid down his life for Christ and His sheep, being put to death at York in the like manner as the other martyrs above mentioned.’
    But the Bishop of Tarrasona, in his history above quoted, has something very remarkable relating to Mr Crow which we must not omit.  His words are as follow:- 

             ‘Another thing, not less worthy of notice happened to a priest of the Seminary of Rheims, named Alexander Crow, in the year 1587.  This priest and soldier of Jesus Christ was a prisoner in York Castle, where, after much ill-treatment, he received sentence of death; whereupon he began to be exceedingly comforted, and to show so great joy in the court that all that were present took notice of it; and returning to the prison (where he was lodged with another Catholic), he could not contain himself all that day, so great was the satisfaction he conceived by thinking that he was to die the next morning. When the night came, and the time of going to bed, he told the other Catholic to take his rest; but for my part, said he, for this one night which remains of life, I am willing to watch in prayer with Christ our Lord.  And when the other Catholic insisted that either the Father should come to bed also, or should admit him to bear him company in his watching, he would not consent, but bid him go to bed and leave him alone.  The Catholic submitted, and went to bed, and the priest, lighting a taper that was there, and setting it upon the stool, knelt down, and began to enter into very quiet prayer, as his companion took notice, who remained awake to see what passed.

                  Christ's Crowning with Thorns - Carravagio (c. 1604)

 ‘After an hour of silent prayer, the Father began to speak as if he were holding a colloquy, and by little and little to enter into a heat, so that his voice began to change like a man that was disturbed.  At length, getting up, he went to the bed where his companion lay, and touching him with his hand, asked him if he were asleep; his companion answered no. The priest begged of him then that he would recommend him, to the best of his power, to our Lord, because he stood in need of his prayers.  So he returned again to his place, and began in the same manner, to be troubled as before, giving signs in his exterior of being in great anguish, and, as it were, out of himself, till at length he put out with his own hand, like a man in anger, the taper that was burning by him.  With all this his trouble did not cease, but he still continued, as it were, in a conflict and agony, sometimes speaking low, and begging the assistance of our Lord and the Saints, at other times raising his voice as one angry and in a rage; and this lasted for the space of half an hour after he had put out the light, whilst the poor gentleman in bed was not a little terrified at seeing and hearing what passed, and begged of our Lord as well as he was able, to deliver him from this affliction, for he plainly perceived that he was in a conflict.
    ‘At length he saw him coming towards the bed, reciting with much joy the psalm,’Laudate Dominum de Coelis, etc. – Praise ye the Lord in the Heavens, &c., continuing it to the end; and then, as one inebriated with an abundance of consolations, he broke out into other praises of our Lord God, admiring His unspeakable mercies and His divine sweetness towards the children of men.  He set himself down on the bed by his companion, not having been able for many days to lift his feet up from the ground for the great weight of the bolts and chains, and remained as one asleep
for a quarter of an hour; but at length he broke out again into the praises of God, and asked his companion if he had not been frightened.  The gentleman answered that he had, and withal begged of him that he would tell him what was the meaning of that great noise and of those changes and alterations he had discovered that night.  The priest answered, that though as to his own part it would signify little to relate it, yet, as it might be of some comfort to the Catholics to know what had passed, he would tell him the whole matter.

                                           Way of the Cross - Tiepolo (1696-1770)
‘After a while, said he, that I had been in quiet prayer, my flesh began to creep upon me and my hair to stand on end, and I perceived myself quite changed, and on a sudden I saw before my eyes a most ugly monster which began to terrify me, and when I least looked for it assaulted me with these words:  Thou thinkest tomorrow to be a martyr, and to go straight to heaven, but I assure thee it will not be so, for I know thou art condemned to hell, and that the sentence is passed against thee in God’s tribunal, which cannot be recalled;  and tomorrow, though thou shalt be drawn to the gallows, thou shalt not be executed, but they will keep thee two years longer in prison with these bolts and chains which thou hast on, and will give thee only two morsels of black bread and a little water every day, and thou shalt be abhorred by all, and shalt lead the most miserable life that ever man led upon earth; therefore that thou mayest be delivered from so great sufferings it will be better for thee at present to put an end to thy life by a knife or a halter, and not to wait for tomorrow.  And though I shook him off, said the Father, many times, answering what God put in my mind, he never left off importuning me, and whatever way I turned my eyes, he placed himself always before me, giving me intolerable trouble with his horrid figure.  And when I extinguished the light, it was that I might no longer see so frightful a sight; but he still continued terrifying and molesting me very much, and the conflict went on still increasing, till our merciful Lord, taking pity on my weakness, sent me succour from heaven.  And this was, that at the time when I found myself in the greatest straits, I saw a great light come in at the door with two persons, who, as I believe, were our Lady and St John the Evangelist, who by their presence gave me unspeakable comfort; and then the monster that had troubled me began to draw back and tremble; and one of them said to him, Begone from hence, thou cursed creature! Thou hast no part in this servant of Christ, who will shed his blood tomorrow for his Lord, and will enter into his joy.  Immediately the monster disappeared, and they likewise, leaving me so full of consolation that I cannot express it.  Upon this, I came with great joy of heart and canticles of praise in my mouth, and sat me down here in this manner that you saw, not being sensible whether I was on the ground or in bed, in heaven or in earth.  This one thing I beg of you for Christ’s sake, that you do not speak one word of this to any one till you see my race finished, and till I am delivered of the burden of the flesh.  Having said this, they both glorified our Lord, and so continued till the morning, discoursing together with great satisfaction of heavenly things, &c.

                                        Crucifixion of Christ  -  Tintoretto (1568)

 ‘But the impudent enemy was not contented with having failed in this first attempt, but returned again to persecute this soldier of Christ, who being now upon the ladder at the gallows in profound prayer, before the hangman had put the rope about his neck, the devil, envying the happiness with which God rewarded His servant, and the consolation that he gave him in prayer, flung him down off the ladder; but yet he received no manner of hurt, though the fall was very high and with great violence, as it appeared to the standers-by.  This gave occasion to the heretics that were there to cry out that the Papist was in despair, and that he wanted to kill himself. But the Father mounted the ladder again, and told them with great serenity of countenance and of heart, smiling, It is not as you think, my brethren, that I had a mind to kill myself, but it was the enemy who wanted to rob me of this glorious death, and out of envy flung me off the ladder, and this is not the first time he has sought to deprive me of the crown which God gives me, who has permitted him to do what he has done in your presence that you might know how little he is able to do;  for how much so-ever he has sought it, he has not been able to do me any hurt either in soul or body, neither can he do any hurt to the servants of God more than their Lord is pleased to permit for their greater good; and upon this occasion, speaking more at large and with greater liberty to the people, he delivered many things of edification, exhorting them to the Catholic faith;  and passing through the usual course of the ordinary butchery, he gloriously finished his career, and went to enjoy his God for ever.’

                     Resurrection of Christ - Gerard Seghers (1591-1651)

 'Mary's Meals'

 Just a few words about a book I read recently, entitled 'The Shed that Fed a Million Children', by Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow.  The author, born in Aberdeen, and now living with his wife and family at Dalmally in Argyll, tells the extraordinary story of the work of 'Mary's Meals', a charity set up by him, supported by family and friends, some years ago, with the ambitious but simple aim of providing food and education to starving and illiterate children throughout the world. Initially the author's experience of this type of work, involved  organizing the collection and transportation of clothing, medical supplies, and food, to Romania, followed by similar missions to the Balkan countries. The logistics involved considerable organizational planning over many years, leading ultimately to the decision to diversify and expand the mission through the medium of the re-named 'Mary's Meals'.
Incredibly, through belief and deep spiritual conviction, backed up by great courage and perseverance, and the  support of individuals and local communities, the system is now in place whereby 'Mary's Meals' provides a million children worldwide, with one good meal a day and basic education, without which they would be trapped in a life-circle of ignorance and poverty. Many will know of the work of 'Mary's Meals' and many I'm sure support this as far as their means allow, however I strongly recommend to all this inspiring and heart-warming book which once started is hard to put down! It is available through Amazon and no doubt other booksellers, with all royalties from the sale of the book going direct to Mary's Meals.

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