Friday, 1 December 2006

Martyrs' Day

This is a day sacred to all those priests who studied at the Venerable English College in Rome: Martyrs' Day, when we commemorate those former students who died for their faith in 16th and 17th century England. According to a College tradition, when news of the death of a former student on the 'English Mission' was received in Rome, seminarians gathered in the Chapel before the Martyrs' Picture (above) to sing the Te Deum - the great hymn of praise to God.

The custom remains in Rome, where Mass in the College Church (above) today culminates in the Te Deum - and at various locations around England and Wales, where alumni gather to remember their martyrs, and their beloved College.

The Venerable English College boasts that it is the oldest English institution abroad. Founded as a Hospice for English pilgrims in 1362, it was converted into a seminary in 1576 by Pope Gregory XIII. Among its former students are many of the leaders of the Catholic community of England and Wales - both the first Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, and the present, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, were rectors of the College.

'Old Romans' in London gather today at Tyburn Convent, near Marble Arch, commemorating nearby Tyburn gallows where many of the College martyrs suffered, most notably St Ralph Sherwin, whose feast it is today. He was the first of the seminary's students to suffer, famously declaring that he was ready to die "Hodie quam Cras" ('today, rather than tomorrow'). The celebrant at Mass will be Bishop Paul Hendrick, auxiliary in Southwark, and we shall retire afterwards for a hearty Italian meal at St Mary Moorfields.

Father, we celebrate the memory of the Martyrs of the Venerable English College who died for their faithful witnessing to Christ.
Give us strength to follow their example,
loyal and faithful to the end. Amen

No comments: