Saturday, December 01, 2007

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

Today we remember the Jesuit Martyrs of England and Wales, who gave their lives seeking to bring the sacraments to persecuted English and Welsh Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Jesuit martyrs commemorated in today's liturgy number ten: 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). Though Campion and Southwell are the best-known names in this group, all of the Jesuit Martyrs of England and Wales labored heroically to keep the Catholic faith alive during a time of intense persecution. Some of the martyrs were famous men in their time, while others ministered in obscurity and attracted widespread notice only after their deaths. Through the work they did during their lives and in the manner of their deaths, the Jesuit Martyrs of England and Wales sought the greater glory of God and a closer sense of union with Jesus Christ.

Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell are the best-known of the saints commemorated today in part because both wrote prolifically and well. Campion's Challenge to the Privy Council, better known as "Campion's Brag," offers a stirring apologia for the missionary activities that cost Campion his life. Of a somewhat different nature but no less eloquent are the poems of Robert Southwell, many of which deal with the person of Christ and the events of his life. Here is one of Southwell's most famous poems, "A Child My Choice," which strikes me as a very appropriate meditation for Advent, which begins tonight:
Let folly praise that fancy loves, I praise and love that Child
Whose heart no thought, whose tongue no word, whose hand no deed defiled.

I praise Him most, I love Him best, all praise and love is His;
While Him I love, in Him I live, and cannot live amiss.

Love's sweetest mark, laud's highest theme, man's most desired light,
To love Him life, to leave Him death, to live in Him delight.

He mine by gift, I His by debt, thus each to other due;
First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him true.

Though young, yet wise; though small, yet strong; though man, yet God He is:
As wise, He knows; as strong, He can; as God, He loves to bless.

His knowledge rules, His strength defends, His love doth cherish all;
His birth our joy, His life our light, His death our end of thrall.

Alas! He weeps, He sighs, He pants, yet do His angels sing;
Out of His tears, His sighs and throbs, doth bud a joyful spring.

Almighty Babe, whose tender arms can force all foes to fly,
Correct my faults, protect my life, direct me when I die!
Best wishes for a blessed Advent! AMDG.


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