When I was in Primary School we were joined briefly by a Scottish girl who was under the impression that we English Catholics sought the intercession of "four tomatoes"! I remember our teacher- who clearly had a better handle on her accent than many of us had- patiently explaining that we were not addressing fruit! This memory came to mind on account of the above image, a copy of which hung outside the classroom in which I spent the last two years of Junior School. A few years later some men landed on the moon and the following year saw Pope Paul VI canonise the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
At school we were occasionally reminded of the martyrs and that the literal meaning of the word was "witness". We were remined too that our Christian calling involved being "witnesses for Christ" and therefore, in a sense, "martyrs". This reminder was invariably qualified by "Of course it is most unlikely that we will be required to actually die for the faith" - a qualification naturally occasioning some relief! Forty years on I am not sure one could speak quite so confidently about the unlikelihood of real persecution if not in the immediate future then somewhere not so far away.
How must have things looked in the early years of Henry VIII's reign? Over three hundred years had passed since the exceptional martyrdom of St Thomas Becket while large scale persecution had belonged to the earliest days of the Churches history before Constantine. Who could have imagined the great deluge so soon to come? Yet come it did -like storms after a long dry summer.
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