Friday, 7 March 2008

An SJMV pilgrimage of grace

Yesterday, Fr Julian and myself lead a group of young people on a pilgrimage of grace, in honour of the English Martyrs, to the Tower of London and then to the Tyburn Convent near Marble Arch. We were privilaged to have been given permission to enter the cells, within the Bell Tower, in which St Thomas More and St John Fisher were held.
In St Thomas More's cell we experienced what so many experience there - a place much prayed in. There too we prayed for the conversion of our country. We looked through the cross-bow slit windows, towards the main gate of the Tower, from which St Thomas and his daughter had seen the Cathusian martyrs being lead out towards Tyburn on the morning of 4th May 1535.

Through the Beauchamp Tower and along the Queens walk we entered the cell above in which St John Fisher, the rebel-Cardinal, had been held. This cell, somewhat better proportioned than More's cell was a place for a renewed encounter with that tremendous seam of grace which has been given to the Church in this country by the witness of the Martyrs.

Here in this cell we stood and spoke together quietly about the courage and the foresight of this singular Bishop who lead the Church during the great persecution. It was a real blessing for Fr Julian and myself to be joined by Fr Augsutine CFR, and to share our identity as priests in this place with the young people who were with us.

After the Bell Tower we visited the crypt of St Peter's church where the bodies of More and Fisher were interred after their execution. Then we visited a sucession of cells in which the Martyrs had been held: in the Beauchamp Tower, Cradle Tower, Salt Tower, Broad Arrow Tower and Martin Tower. The photo above shows the inscription which St Henry Walpole made in his cell in the Salt Tower. This priest was tortured fourteen times in the Tower before being sent for execution at the Knavesmire in York. We were amazed by the enormous record left by the Martyrs and others on the stone walls of cells - no visitor to the Tower should miss the poignancy or the significance of these inscriptions which are a record of a great struggle which these martyrs endured for Christ.

Finally, we visited the Mortar Room in the Basement of the White Tower. This room, rebuilt in the 1700s, was the torture chamber of old. It was in this place that the struggle was endured at its fiercest. Here St Edmund Campion and the others were racked. Here St Nicholas Owen, John Gerrard and others were suspended by manacles. Here in this place were numerous hideous cells, including The Little Ease, in which Campion was encarcerated during long periods.
We emerged again into the bright sunlight and, after lunch, took the river launch up to Westminster and then on to Marble Arch and the site of Tyburn.

The Tyburn Sisters made us very welcome and lead us down to their crypt chapel - the Shrine to the Martyrs. We venerated a huge array of relics of the men and women, priests, religious and lay people who were hung, drawn and quartered for the Faith at these gallows. I had no idea that such a huge collection of relics existed, nor before this day's pilgrimage had I realised how terrible and how fierce the persecution had been.
We celebrated Mass in honour of the Martyrs and opened ourselves in a renewed way to the call of Christ today. The call to embrace the gift of grace and to take part in the building up of the Church today.
Their witness and the inspiration they give us is without compare. Pray for us, all you holy Martyrs of England and Wales; pray for the conversion and evangelisation of our country.


Kate said...

Amen to that. Conversion and Evangelisation of our country-bring it on!
God bless

Tom said...

It was a great day and I was glad to see you there. By the way, I hope you don't mind me nicking your photos :-P.

God bless,

Fr Richard Aladics said...

Not at all Tomas. I can let you have complete files if you like.

Tom said...

Oh, that would be great! Would it be OK for you to e-mail them to me once you have time?

Fr Richard Aladics said...

No, I'll bring them down to you. Takes too long to email.

Tom said...

Ok, that's even better in fact. Thank you Father!

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for you wonderful account of your visit and the photographs. I have a deep personal devotion to St. Thomas More as well as to St. John Fisher. Though I live in the US, I am of Anglo-Catholic ancestry and am most interested in the health of the Church in Britain.