Above: English Flag
MARTYRED MAY 30, 1582
Their Feast transferred from May 30
After having written hagiographies of various English martyrs. I have exhausted my small supply of non-repetitive statements to express. So, at this time and place, I repeat that (A) holding certain religious opinions ought never to meet a legal or extra-legal definition of treason, (B) it is shameful for Christians to martyr each other, and (C) I honor those who, regardless of affiliation, have become Christian martyrs.
We begin with St. Luke Kirby (1549-1582), a Cambridge graduate and adult convert to Roman Catholicism. He studied at Douai, France, and at Rome in 1576-1577. Ordained in 1577, he began his English mission in 1580. It was brief, for authorities arrested the saint soon after he arrived. The charge was treason, with the fact that he was a Roman Catholic priest functioning as evidence against him. Imprisoned and tortured in the Tower of London, the saint died on May 30, 1582. The Roman Catholic Church canonized him in 1970.
Kirby died on the same day as three other martyrs, all Blesseds in the Roman Catholic Church since 1886. Thomas Cottam (1549-1582), an Oxford graduate and erstwhile grammar school master, had converted to Roman Catholicism, studied at Douai then became a deacon in 1577. He had become a Jesuit novice two years later in hopes of going to India as a missionary. Yet illness prevented the dreamed-of journey to the subcontinent. Ordained to the priesthood in 1580, Cottam went to England instead. A missionary journey to India might still be possible, he had hoped. Betrayed and arrested that year, Cottam had endured imprisonment and torture at the Tower of London before his death.
Blessed William Filby (circa 1560-1582) and Blessed Laurence Richardson (d. 1582), both Oxford-educated, were also priests. Filby, ordained priest in 1581, had studied at Reims. Richardson, ordained priest in 1577, had studied at Douai. Each man had begun his English mission the same year he had become a priest and suffered in the Tower of London.
Religious opinions vary; that is predictable. Yet to criminalize theology is to treat holding an opinion as committing a felony. That is wrong at all times and places. Thought crimes ought not to exist. If someone has committed a violent act or conspired to do so, laws cover such actions. But those are matters of behavior. Call me a civil libertarian (to a certain extent), O reader; I confess without apology.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 21, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT MALRUBIUS OF APPLECROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MISSIONARY
THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM, ARCHBISHOP OF THEOLOGIAN
THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES, POET AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the hearts of your holy martyrs
Saint Luke Kirby,
Blessed Thomas Cottam,
Blessed William Filby, and
Blessed Laurence Richardson:
Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love,
that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 124 or 31:1-5
1 Peter 4:12-19
—Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 715