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The Forty Four: The Martyrs of the English College Rome

 Contents - May 2002AD2000 May 2002 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: A moral challenge for society - Peter Westmore
Liturgy: New edition of the Roman Missal released: vernacular translations to come - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
Catholicism in Australia: facing the challenges of Western secularism - Archbishop George Pell
General absolutions continue in the Toowoomba Diocese - Michael Gilchrist
US Jesuits' action against Father Fessio sparks worldwide protests - AD2000 Report
US research puts clerical sex-abuse in perspective - Philip Jenkins
Gregorian Chant's new lease of life in Brisbane - AD2000 Report
'The Resurrection in the university' - IMCSA National Conference in Sydney - Nicholas Rynne
Letters: Hymns (letter) - David Schutz
Letters: Farewell Mass for Fr Des Byrne (letter) - Barry O'Brien
Letters: Priestly formation (letter) - Cyril Drew
Letters: Liturgical abuses (letter) - Name and Address Supplied
Letters: Decline of the faith (letter) - Brian Carter
Letters: Christian principles (letter) - Errol P. Duke
Letters: Transubstantiation (letter) - Fr G.H. Duggan SM
Letters: Correct Greek (letter) - Fr J.B. Cotter
Letters: Need for prayer (letter) - Kevin Pitt
Letters: Harry Potter? (letter) - John F. Doherty
Poetry: Two Loves - John Meston
Books: Demons and Democrats: 1950s Labor at the Crossroads, by Gavan Duffy - Anthony Cappello (reviewer)
Books: The Forty Four: The Martyrs of the English College Rome - Christopher Quinn (reviewer)
Books: Beyond Gay, by David Morrison - John S. Webster
Books: Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, by Philip Jenkins - David Ross (reviewer)
Books: Prove It! Church, by Amy Welborn - Bill Muehlenberg (reviewer)
Books: Father Ian Falconer's Latin Course - Ken Bayliss (reviewer)
Books: New Titles from AD Books
Reflection: The Ascension: climax of Our Lord's life on earth - Fr Ian Falconer SJ

THE FORTY FOUR: The Martyrs of the English College Rome
(Saint Michael's Abbey Press, PO Box 180, Sumner Park Qld 4074, tel 07-3279 4915, 2000, 80pp, $47.20 plus $4.40 postage).

In 1581 the Venerable English College in Rome was described in a sermon as "the Pontifical Seminary of Martyrs." Its student-priests knew well that when they returned to Protestant England as Catholic priests, martyrdom was highly probable.

Students of the English College have compiled this book to commemorate the principal forty-four such, martyred between 1581-1679.

A short biography by one of six contributors, albeit of markedly differing style, is afforded each martyr. Whilst historically reliable, they do not pretend to be comprehensive: this would require several full-length biographies. However each - and this is the book's genius - allows readers to witness for themself the heroic willingness with which these men remained true to the Catholic faith unto death in spite of most gruesome suffering and torture.

Final address

The martyrs themselves speak on the pages of this book. From the gallowside we hear Saint Ralph Sherwin declare: "If to be a Catholic only, if to be a perfect Catholic, is to be a traitor, then I am a traitor." We have Saint Eustace White's final words to the crowd gathered for his execution at Tyburn: "If I had never so many lives, I would think them very few to bestow upon your Tyburns to defend my religion. I wish I had a great many more than one, you should have them all one after another."

And the final address of Saint David Lewis: "Friends, be firm of your faith, avoid mortal sin by frequenting the sacraments of Holy Church, patiently bear your persecutions and afflictions, forgive your enemies; your sufferings are great, I say be firm in your faith to the end, yea, even to death." These are but few.

Its presentation, the contemporary illustrations which enhance these accounts, the calendar of martyrdoms, the index and marker ribbon, all make The Forty Four a most useful devotional book. This hand-crafted volume, printed, sewn and bound by monks, is but one example of the renaissance of traditional monastic life taking place at England's Farnborough Abbey. In itself it is a beautiful work.

But it is more. It is, in the words of the preface by Mother McMonagle of Tyburn Convent, a timely reminder of "bedrock Christian reality, [of] the fact of martyrdom in its starkly violent and heroic reality, [of] heroism shorn of every vestige of glamour." To that end it is truly valuable.

Christopher Quinn is a Catholic journalist working in Europe.

Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 15 No 4 (May 2002), p. 17

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