Six of the best

Tuesday marks the Feast of the Six Martyrs of Wales and their Companions. These are six Welshmen among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales – two from the Tudor era, one from the reign of James I, and three from the so-called Popish Plot later in the seventeenth century.

St Richard Gwyn was from Montgomeryshire. A layman and school-teacher, he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Wrexham on 17 October 1584.
St John Jones, from Clynnog Fawr, Gwynned, was hanged, drawn, and quartered in London after two years imprisonment and torture on 12 July 1589.

St John Roberts, born in Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd, was executed at Tyburn on 10 December 1610.
St John Lloyd and St Philip Evans from Breconshire and Monmouth respectively. They were both executed at Cardiff in connection with the fake Popish Plot on 22 July 1679.
St David Lewis, from Abergavenny, was the last Welsh Martyr, executed at Usk on 27 August 1679.

There are also among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 1987

Blessed William Davies from Denbighshire; hanged drawn and quartered at Beaumaris Castle 27 July 1593. In addition, Blessed Charles Mahoney was Irish but was executed in Wales – his last words were: “Now Almighty God is pleased I should suffer this martyrdom. His Holy Name be praised since I die for my religion.”

England and Wales celebrate the 40 and the 85 together on 4 May – Feast Day for all the Catholic Martyrs of the English Reformation in England and Wales. However in Wales we also celebrate our own martyrs on a separate Feast Day on 25th October. That was the original date of the canonization of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and previously the Feast of the 40 Martyrs throughout England & Wales.

Fr Matthew

Mind the gap

Mind the gap – because the prayer is in the gap!

I’m talking about the Bidding Prayer / Intercessions / Prayer of the Faithful in Mass. And by the way, those are three names for the same thing. After hearing the World of God and responding with the Psalm and Alleluia, we confirm in the Creed that we believe in the God who has just spoken to us. Then, having sealed our relationship with the Father, we use that faith by bringing to God our prayers, for the Church, the world and the community. To pray for the world and God’s people is one of the duties flowing from our Baptism. This is the part of the Mass set aside for that specific purpose.
After an introduction by the priest, each prayer usually has two parts doesn’t it – the intention and then the invitation and response, such as “Lord, hear us – Lord, graciously hear us”. Wrong! Each prayer has three parts not two, because between the intention and the invitation is a pause, and what is that pause for? It is, in fact the most important part of the Prayers, because it is the prayer. The intention tells us what we are praying for, then we actually do the praying in that pause, so that the “Lord hear us” is asking God to hear the very prayers we have just offered. How can you have time to say something to God in half a second?
Readers – When it says “Pause” in the reader’s copy at the lectern, it means Pause – not half a second, or one or two seconds. Often the writer will have put “Five seconds” and that is about right. Do not be afraid of silence. I know it might feel awkward at first, but I do ask you to leave a genuine pause – count to five if you wish – to allow us all to really pray.
Writers – Please make sure that the first part, the invitation, is exactly that. It should not be a prayer itself, addressed to God, but an invitation to us to address ourselves to God. A good format is “Let us pray for x that y may happen”. We are invited to pray for needs and situation, then let us really do that, before bringing it together with “Lord in your mercy” or similar.

The prayer is in the gap – so mind the gap!

Jesus and which lepers?

How would you feel if somebody who had been to prison came to live next door to you? What if someone who had been to prison applied for a job with you? We feel safer if we think that people who have been to prison are a long way away, unable to threaten us. That is very much how ordinary people felt about lepers in the time of Jesus. Leprosy was seen as a punishment from God for some great sin committed. Lepers were feared and side-lined by respectable people. Made to live on the edge of towns, they had to ring a bell in front of them, and the law said you could not be near a leper, still less talk to one. Once again, we see Jesus breaking down barriers, treating everyone equally, as beloved children of God. He approaches them, talks to them, has mercy on them. They are healed of this disease which cuts them off from the rest of society, and we are reminded that everyone, regardless of race or nationality, can be close to God.
In many ways, people who have been to prison are the lepers of our age. They are set apart, the lowest of the low, and in the popular media often not treated as human beings. Now, indeed it is true that for everyone who is in prison there is at least one victim outside. It is true that some people who are in prison have committed some very serious crimes and will need expert monitoring for all their lives, whether in prison or in the community. We must never forget those things. But we must also remember that the reasons people get involved in criminal activity are very complex and often involve poverty, abuse, drug issues and feelings of alienation. What we do know is that some people in prison are very thankful for what the Church does for them. In a report “Belief and Belonging” recently commissioned by the Church, this gratitude is made very clear indeed.
In this Year of Mercy, one of the works of mercy is the ministry to prisoners. It has been commanded by Jesus in the gospel (Matt 25). Many Catholics work or volunteer with chaplaincies, and our main Catholic prison charity, PACT plays an enormous and significant role in helping prisoners to resettle among us, and also helps the families of prisoners who are so often damaged by the imprisonment.
Please pray for those in prison, and especially for those coming out who look for a welcome in their local Catholic parish. Pray for prisoners’ families in your parish affected by imprisonment. Pray for all whose lives have been damaged by crime and the actions of others. We should not be treating prisoners like lepers. We should follow the example of Jesus Christ and see in them human beings like ourselves.

Mgr Roger Reader, Catholic Bishops’ Prisons Adviser