Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sat June 23rd


...starting at Tower Hill and ending at Tyburn. This was the Martyrs Walk, organised by a team from Miles Jesu and it was all well worth while. A number of people came from St Thomas More parish in Seaford, Sussex, led by their priest Father Tony Churchill, who preached and gave us Benediction at St Patrick's Soho Square. . The idea was to commemorate and honour the Catholic Englishmen who died for the Faith in the years of terrible persecution - and we started at Tower Hill with honour to Sts John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and St Thomas More, Chancellor,executed there in 1535. The site of the execution block is now commemorated with plaques listing the names of those who died there, and history has given the whole area further sense of solemnity - lying as it does near the Thames and the London Docks, this stretch is set aside as a memorial garden to the men of the Merchant Navy lost at sea in the two World Wars...hundreds of individual names on long panels lining the walls...

I was asked to give a talk there to start things off, then we divided into two groups, one led by me and the other by a fellow history-enthuasist, as we walked through the City and told the story of the various churches. My group had a route which took us to St Olave's (links with Norway) St Peter-upon-Cornhill and its neighbour St Michael (on the site of the earliest known Christian church in Britain, dating back to Roman times ie 2nd century AD) and St Laurence Jewry (right by the Guildhall - did you know there are the remains of a Colliseum beneath it? I did a BBC radio brodcast from there when excavators came across the site while digging the new Tube line to link with the Docklands Light Railway back in the 1990s).


For the final part of the Walk, following St Patrick's and an earlier stop at Greyfriars for an excellent talk by Fr Nicholas Schofield we sang a Litany of the Martyrs as we made our way to Tyburn. It's very touching to hear the names of ourMartyrs read out - they are so...well...English...They could be the names on a War Memorial...

which adjoins the site where so many Catholic martyrs died, gave us a warm welcome and the chapel was packed for Mass, with people having to spill over and go through into the nuns' choir stalls.

The rain had held off all day. After the Mass everything felt too inspiriing and one couldn't just to get on to the Tube for a mundane ride, ,so I thought I'd walk. As I was halfway across Hyde Park, there was a low rumble in the sky and then the Heavens opened, and rain poured down in torrents! There was a pop concert going on in one part of the park, which carried on regardless, and elsewhere people were sploshing through puddles and laughing and as they huddled under dripping trees - it was the sort of crazy summer downpour that cannot be resented and simply has to be enjoyed. I was soaked through by the time I finally got home, and it was hard to walk as my skirt was so heavy with water.


Rich Leonardi said...

Sounds wonderful, Joanna. I actually attempted a last-minute trip to London to attend the walk, but it would have required a two-stop departure and traveling all day Sunday for the return -- a lot of time in airplanes without much time on the ground. If it's to be an annual event, I may consider taking my two oldest with me next year.

And by the way, the area around Tower Hill evidently was quite shabby in the immediate postwar period. Here is H.V. Morton's description of it in his In Search of London:

If you wish to see the site of the scaffold where all except six of the victims of royal displeasure met their death, you must go outside the Tower and walk up Tower Hill to the shabby little park known as Trinity Gardens, opposite the Port of London Authority building.

When I went there I found the site in a shocking condition. The rails which surround it had been invaded by rubbish and rubble. An old shoe, dirty scraps of newspaper and broken tiles lay about, and one of the terminal obelisks had been thrown down. It looked as if it was nobody's job to look after it.

Lying on the site of the scaffold was a scrap of paper attached to a withered bunch of flowers, and written upon the paper I read: "In honour of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, who died on this spot for the glory of God and the Holy Catholic Faith."

Pro Ecclesia said...

Wish I could have been there. Like Rich, maybe another year if this becomes an annual event.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Joanna...your little talks at all the churches along the way were very interesting...i really enjoyed meeting you!

God bless

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I got the 148 back to Victoria then Joanna!


Anonymous said...

Malcolm McLean:
In Britain it is impossible to be a martyr nowadays because Catholics were emancipated in 1829. Today we have to be confessors and that is almost as hard as being a martyr because it may well involve a lifetime spent resisting indifference, opposition, mockery, insult and persecution from without the Church and, regrettably, from within. If you live in Africa, India, the middle and far east there is every likelihood that you might be called to martyrdom. But not here.

Jay said...

Let me take this opportunity to say thanks for your lovely and very informative talks on the way to Tyburn. I tried to arrange several pictures and bit of description on my blog on 23rd of June. The walk was a blessing! Thanks again!