December 1, 2010

Feast of St. Edmund Campion

St. Edmund Campion, Martyr (1540-1581)
St. Edmund was raised in England in the tumultuous time of the Protestant Reformation. His parents, originally Catholic, joined the Protestant movement and became Anglicans. In 1564 it is believed he took the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging Elizabeth as head of the church in England and was offered a position as an Anglican deacon.

There are disputing accounts as to whether he actually accepted the offer, but it is known that within just a few years he began to have serious doubts as to the validity of Protestantism. As his studies progressed, he found himself increasingly drawn to the Catholic faith that his family had once rejected.

He eventually joined the Jesuits, was ordained, and then sent to be a missionary among the English people. His ultimate goal was to lead the people back to the Catholic faith. He went about his mission, which was quite dangerous given the atmosphere of Protestant England at the time, by secretly taking up residence at a Catholic house for one or two nights. He would arrive during the day, preach and hear confessions during the evening, and then celebrate Mass in the morning before moving on to the next location. During this time he wrote a book entitled Rationes decem ("Ten Reasons"), which you can read yourself here, that gave arguments to prove the truth of Catholicism and the falsity of Protestantism.

His apologetic work caused such a stir in England that it eventually led to his arrest and imprisonment. In the presence of Queen Elizabeth he was offered many luxuries and dignities in exchange for his loyalty to the Church of England and rejection of his Catholic faith, but St. Edmund repeatedly refused. He was tortured on the rack twice. When it was clear St. Edmund was to stand firm in his faith, he was found guilty of high treason and was sentenced to death by hanging.

He responded by saying, "In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England — the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter."

As he was dragged through the streets of London, St. Edmund forgave those who condemned him. He was then hung, after which the executioner cut him down, tore out his heart and intestines, and cut his body into pieces. The pieces of flesh were then displayed around the city as a warning to other Catholics.

He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 9 December, 1886, and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. His relics now reside at Rome, Prague, London, Oxford, Stonyhurst, and Roehampton.

"As to the treasons which have been laid to my charge, and for which I come here to suffer, I desire you all to bear witness with me that I am thereto altogether innocent. I am a Catholic man and a priest; in that Faith I have lived, and in that Faith do I intend to die. If you esteem my Religion treason, then I am guilty; as for the other treason, I never committed any, God is my judge."  (St. Edmund Campion)

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