When I was a younger lad, my mother gave me a book to read about this English guy named Edmund Campion. I didn’t know anything about him, but I was sure it was a saint book because my Mom always had saint books for me.
When I became a man, I found a podcast called “Campion’s Brag“, by my friends and holy mentors at “Catholic Stuff You Should Know”. I’m blatantly ripping them off for this topic, but I asked permission and they are worth listening to every week! Now, if you don’t know anything about him, I highly recommend reading the book. But, short summary – really smart Brit, first ordained a deacon in the Anglican church in the time of Elizabeth I, then escaped, converted, was ordained a Jesuit, then returned to England where he was eventually killed in 1581. He was canonized in 1970.
Why do I bring this up? Well, as my last post mentioned, I see patterns. And, my friends Mike, Iliana, and Rick all are in England and have talked to me about Canterbury cathedral. And now I’m thinking about St. Thomas Becket, Henry VIII (I am I am), and England. I guess the whole Ireland referendum thing got me thinking (apparently Catholic hospitals will be now forced to perform abortions). Then thinking about it brought Edmund Campion to mind, and I’d like to share it with you.
Campion was a convert, but when sent back to England on the Jesuit mission, he was concerned he wouldn’t have the fortitude to keep the faith. They sent him anyway. And while he was there, being pursued, he was told he needed to write a declaration of why he was there. It was called “Challenge to the Privy Council”, more popularly known as “Campion’s Brag”. The whole government is after this papist priest, which was illegal in England, trying to get him to relent and revert, or be killed.
The brag consists of a challenge to Queen Elizabeth I. “Liz,” he says, “I’m telling you why I’m here. I’m a Catholic priest, sent by the Jesuits, here to freely preach the true gospel and minister to Catholics and convert the Anglicans. I’m not to enter into politics. I will gladly speak to any of you in person to debate and offer ‘innumerable proofs’. I have confidence that even you, Liz, will be open to hearing it.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course. Everyone knows she went by “Lizzie”.)
He closes with this, and I quote (emphasis added):
“And touching our Societie, be it known to you that we have made a league—-all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England-cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored.”
How powerful is that? It gives me goosebumps! You want more goosebumps, listen to Fr. John Nepil read it out loud in the podcast!
What does it mean, then? I added the emphasis, but what does it mean? This bloke openly declares to the blooming Queen of England that he is there to uphold the Catholic Faith – to the woman who is outlawing that religion and killing its practitioners! He isn’t hiding it, he’s proudly ringing the bell! He’s an Englishman, he remained an Englishman, but he’s going against the law of the land to preach and minister an outlawed religion at the expense of his own life. He was hung, drawn, and quartered at the Tyburn.
Why does he come to mind, then? Well, I see patterns. I openly now invite you all to look historically at the world, especially at Catholic England and see how and why it shifted to Church of England, England. And what happened to the Catholics. Then compare it to what is happening all around us, in any country, the US, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, the Philipines – is the practice of “your personal religion” allowed in public or is it frowned upon and “embarrassing” in the public sphere, where we don’t want to upset anyone by statements or beliefs? In some countries, practising religious beliefs can be a hate crime (Canada). In others, Catholic hospitals will be forced to perform abortions, the murder of babies (Ireland). In the US, legalized abortion, discrimination against those who wish to uphold their religious beliefs. In Mexico and the Philipines, priests are being murdered (I think up to 7 this year as of this writing?)
I know, you’ll tell me that I’m overreacting and that we aren’t in Elizabethan England. And I’ll tell you that they didn’t think that either. And that if you don’t pay attention you’ll be doomed to repeat history.
More importantly, I’d tell you that if we don’t even entertain the possibility of it happening, how hard will it be for us if it does happen? If it’s hard for me to even tell the intake person at the hospital that I’m Catholic, (because she so dismissively talked about religious preference), how difficult will it be for me to say so if confronted with something worse than that?
(And I’m going to confession for that. Fathers who read this blog, let me know.)
Edmund Campion was worried about it. He was sent anyway. Then wrote the brag, and lived by it- he didn’t compromise his faith. I hope that we all have his courage. “The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored.”
Special thanks to Fr John Nepil and Fr Mike Rapp who initially brought this topic to mind years ago before they were priests, and who graciously said it was ok to use their pod to write a post. I highly recommend their entire catalogue of pods, and they should be having Merch soon enough.