Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Notes on the Memorial of SS. Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and Companions.

Today the Society of Jesus celebrates the memory of the Jesuit Martyrs of England and Wales, a group of ten priests and brothers who were killed for refusing to acknowledge royal supremacy over the Church of England and for providing pastoral and sacramental ministry to English and Welsh Catholics who had chosen to remain faithful to Rome. The martyrs commemorated today include Edmund Campion (†1581), Robert Southwell (†1595), Edmund Arrowsmith (†1628), Alexander Briant (†1581), Philip Evans (†1679), Thomas Garnet (†1608), David Lewis (†1679), Henry Morse (†1645), Nicholas Owen (†1606) and Henry Walpole (†1595). Some of these men became famous during their earthly lives, while others labored in quiet obscurity. All ten gave faithful and heroic service to the Church in a time of grave persecution, dedicating their lives to the greater glory of God and shedding their own blood in imitation of Christ.

The martyrs remembered today include at least two talented writers, Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell. Both attracted notice during their lives as authors of apologetic works, the most famous of which is probably Campion's Challenge to the Privy Council, better known as "Campion's Brag." Southwell was known particularly for his poetry, much of which dealt with explicitly Christian themes. In the past, I've referenced a couple of Southwell's poems reflecting on the themes of Advent and the Nativity of Christ. For today, I'd like to share another of Southwell's poems, "Man's Civil War," which also strikes me as highly appropriate for Advent:
My hovering thoughts would fly to heaven
And quiet nestle in the sky,
Fain would my ship in Virtue's shore
Without remove at anchor lie.

But mounting thoughts are halèd down
With heavy poise of mortal load,
And blustring storms deny my ship
In Virtue's haven secure abode.

When inward eye to heavenly sights
Doth draw my longing heart's desire,
The world with jesses of delights
Would to her perch my thoughts retire,

Fon Fancy trains to Pleasure's lure,
Though Reason stiffy do repine ;
Though Wisdom woo me to the saint,
Yet Sense would win me to the shrine.

Where Reason loathes, there Fancy loves,
And overrules the captive will ;
Foes senses are to Virtue's lore,
They draw the wit their wish to fill.

Need craves consent of soul to sense,
Yet divers bents breed civil fray ;
Hard hap where halves must disagree,
Or truce halves the whole betray !

O cruel fight! where fighting friend
With love doth kill a favoring foe,
Where peace with sense is war with God,
And self-delight the seed of woe !

Dame Pleasure's drugs are steeped in sin,
Their sugared taste doth breed annoy ;
O fickle sense! beware her gin,
Sell not thy soul to brittle joy!
It strikes me that Southwell's sentiments resonate a bit with the words of Alfred Delp that I shared on Sunday. In different ways, Delp and Southwell both draw our attention to one of the great challenges of Advent: to overcome the distractions and temptations of the passing world so that we may more keenly perceive the true riches and deep sense of fulfillment that God offers to us. If we can see beyond the "brittle joy" that too often captures our imagination, we can begin to make ourselves ready to welcome Christ into our midst. May our Advent journey prepare us to do just that. AMDG.


At 12/01/2009 6:38 PM, Blogger Salvatore said...

Freshman year I made a movie about St. Ignatius for one of the retreats that we went on, called "Iggy Goes to College" and Fr. Joyce asked us to make a sequel about Edmund Campion. This reminded me that I should definitely do it!!!


That's the video. There's a Fr. Joyce educational section halfway through it. HAHAHA.

At 12/01/2009 7:55 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Cool video - the cameos by Fr. Florio and Phil Martelli are priceless. I look forward to the sequel. (Incidentally, I never knew that Xavier had purple hair...)


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