Feast of Edward Jones and Anthony Middleton (May 6)   Leave a comment

English Roman Catholic Martyrs; died in 1590

Edward Jones and Anthony Middleton were Roman Catholic priests whom the Royal government martyred on May 6, 1590.  The method of execution was hanging, drawing, and quartering.

Jones, who was Welsh, had been a priest since 1588.  Authorities arrested, tortured, tried, and convicted him two years later for the crime of being a Roman Catholic priest.

Middleton, who was English, had been a priest since 1586.

Those of us who grew up with religious freedom and toleration might read of these martyred priests and take comfort in the fact that the conditions that led to their death occurred centuries ago.  Yet we should not become complacent.  Martin Luther King, Jr., said that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.  Today many of my coreligionists risk or suffer persecution or martyrdom in places beyond U.S. borders.  The fact that I do not face such risks has much to do with an accident of birth.  I was fortunate to be born where and when I was born.

One of the perverse elements of religious persecution is that many of those who execute these policies believe they are following the will of God.  To execute a former Muslim who has converted to Christianity is consistent with varieties of Islam, for example.  Holy books and allegedly holy books tell the faithful not to commit murder one page yet contain commands to smite the heathen and send them to Sheol or Hell on another.  The God of my faith commands me to love my neighbor as I love myself; this makes no room for smiting or killing.

Differences of religious opinion are inevitable; killing people because of them is not.  People can decide not to shed blood over such disagreements.

Meanwhile, I, as an Episcopalian, honor these Roman Catholics whose religious identity led to their deaths.  As I do this I recognize that those who murdered them did so in the name of Queen Elizabeth I and the Church of England.  Queen Mary I’s government martyred Anglicans in the name of defending Roman Catholicism.  Anglican governments martyred Roman Catholics.  On the European mainland Roman Catholics targeted Protestants of all varieties, Calvinists persecuted Anabaptists, Lutherans fought Calvinists, and Protestants murdered Roman Catholics.  All this was inexcusable bloodshed.


Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women who have put their lives at risk in witness to your love and truth.  Inspire us with the memory of Edward Jones and Anthony Middleton, whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38


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