Campion, Herald writers review his life, his mission, his courage, and the relevance of his role today.
NEXT Tuesday, December I, is the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Edmund Campion. He was born in London in 1539, son of a bookseller, and was the first great scholar produced by Christ Church Hospital, the "Bluecoat School'', as a Protestant foundation.
At 13 he gave a Latin oration before Queen Mary. Thirteen years later, as an orator of established reputation at Oxford, he was chosen to speak before Queen Elizabeth I when she visited the university. His talents and personality earned him her good will. He received the diaconate of the Anglican Church, but already troubled in his conscience, he went to Ireland. Whilst there he compiled his "History of Ireland." He was so horrified and disgusted at the atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion that he decided to become a Catholic. He went to the English college at Douai, where he applied himself "as well to the study of divinity as to the acquiring of the knowledge of God and himself — the true science of the saints." Later he went to Rome and in 1573 was admitted a member of the Society of Jesus by the General of the Order.
After one month in Rome he was sent to Bohemia, where he remained seven years, "teaching, preaching, catechising, writing, and labouring for the Church of God.He became so famous as a result of his great success in converting heretics, that in 1580, his General sent him back to work in England.
He landed at Dover the day after midsummer.The rage against Catholics was at its height. The laws and feelings of the people were intensely bitter against priests, and especially against Jesuits and
Fr. Campion was both.
However, he braved the penalties of the harsh religious laws and for 13 months he was busily engaged in making converts, reconciling Catholics to their Faith, and celebrating the forbidden rites.
After a long search he was betrayed, and on July 17, 1581, he was found in a secret closet of a Catholic gentleman's house.
On July 22, Campion was delivered to the custody of the Lieutenant of the Tower of London. The very next day he was placed upon the rack.
When it was found he would not renounce his faith he was accused of treason.
Eventually, in the company of seven other prisoners, he was brought to trial. The chief count in the indictment charged him with conspiring beyond the seas to dethrone the Queen and put her to death. to foment
rebellion and invade England from abroad.
All the prisoners were condemned as guilty, and the first day of December was fixed for the execution of Fr. Campion.
He was promised life and liberty if he renounced the Faith. Three days before his death his sister went to see him when the Lieutenant of the Tower told her that if her brother would only yield any change in his religion he would secure for himself a pension of f1100 a year.
On the scaffold at Tyburn. he was pressed again to admit guilt. and was interrupted as he prayed. He was told to "ask the Queen's forgiveness and pray for her-. He said: "I have prayed, and do pray, for her.
The cart on which he stood was then drawn away and he was left hanging. A little later, he was cut down. possibly already dead, and his body butchered.