Fr Thomas Tunstall was born in the small village of Whinfell, which was in the countryside about four miles north east of Kendal in Cumbria. The village no longer exists and the name 'Whinfell' is now little more than the name of a part of the parish of Kendal. The photo above shows the place of Whinfell, the last village before the Pennine hills of east Cumbria. The land, now as then, is farming land and, where there was once a village, there are now only occasional farmhouses.
This territory was once very Catholic and, during the 1600s, through sequestration of lands and heavy fines, the Catholics were diminished and livelihoods changed hands. Even so, this location feels like a place of grace, a place which welcomes and is nurtured by the Gospel. The religion of this State is not Catholic, but the religion of the land is.
Not far away, a little nearer to Kendal, one of those Catholic houses still stands. This region underwent huge challenges in the 1600s, yet the house and chapel at Dodding Green are still there, testimony to the originl religion of the land.
Three hundred years ago this territory was littered with such homes, homes which welcomed the priest and the Holy Eucharist. All it takes is for us to scratch the surface a little and there we find beauty and the desire to be Catholic.
It is good to remember, not just the martyr, Blessed Thomas Tunstall, but also the many families who payed a heavy price in order to remain Catholic. The land, at least, still honours their witness.