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Feast of Blesseds Ralph Milner, Roger Dickinson, and Lawrence Humphrey (July 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED RALPH MILNER

BLESSED ROGER DICKINSON 

BLESSED LAWRENCE HUMPHREY

English Roman Catholic Martyrs, July 7, 1591

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), that great English conservative, debater, moralist, and linguist, was correct when he asserted,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

National security has long been a justification scoundrels have cited when appealing to a perverted variety of patriotism to justify the morally unjustifiable.  In the process, so much for freedom!

Consider the aftermath of the failed Spanish attempt to invade and conquer the British Isles in 1688, O reader.  Also consider the then-recent religious politics of the English Reformation, with some Roman Catholics becoming martyrs during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I, and some Anglicans and Protestants experiencing persecution (sometimes to the point of martyrdom) during the reign of “Bloody” Mary I (1553-1558).

“Live and let live” would have been an appropriate religious policy for the English government to follow.  Alas, simply being caught being a Roman Catholic priest in England was, for a time, sufficient for a charge of treason, usually punishable by hanging, drawing, and quartering.

Ralph Milner had long been a conventional Anglican.  He, born in Flacsted, Hants, was a farmer, a husband, and the father of eight children.  Lives of Roman Catholics in his region convinced Milner to convert to Roman Catholicism.  That decision changed his life, for there was no policy of religious toleration.  On the day Milner was to make his first communion as a Catholic authorities arrested him.  Milner was a prisoner for the rest of his life.  Nevertheless, he became such a trusted prisoner that the spent much time on parole and held the keys to the jail.  Milner helped other Catholic inmates and aided priests.  For a time he escorted Father Thomas Stanney (1558-1617), who, after expulsion from England, transferred to Belgium.  Then Milner escorted Father Roger Dickinson, a native of Lincoln.

Father Dickinson, who studied at Rheims, risked his life for his faith.  He, sent to England in 1583, served in Hampshire until arrest and exile.  He returned to England anyway, and served in Worcestershire.  Authorities arrested Milner and Dickinson together.  Milner even rejected the pleas of his children and an offer to spare his life if he attended Anglican services.

The third martyr on July 7, 1591, was Lawrence Humphrey, a convert to Roman Catholicism.  He, while in a fever-induced delirium, had denounced Queen Elizabeth I as a heretic.  Humphrey, when recovered, stated that he had no memory of making that statement.  Nevertheless, his offense was legally and politically sufficient to send him to a horrible death.

The fate of these three men at Winchester on July 7, 1591, was hanging, drawing, and quartering–certainly a Foucaultian form of execution, as well as excessive.  The men were innocent of treason, after all.  Besides, the form of execution was excessive, even for actual traitors.  Then there was the moral question of execution by any method.

Pope Pius XI beatified these martyrs, killed because of religious bigotry and fears related to national security, in 1929.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS STEFAN AND KAZIMIERZ GRELEWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS,  1941 AND 1942

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BUXTEHUDE, LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY DAY AND PETER LAURIN, COFOUNDERS OF THE CATHOLIC WORKER MOVEMENT

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs

Blessed Ralph Milner,

Blessed Roger Dickinson, 

and Blessed Lawrence Humphrey,

triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with them the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 714

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