‘The great day dawned, and fourteen thousand English Catholics were crowded into St Peter’s. With typical Roman incompetence, we had to be seated an hour early while technicians shouted “Pronto, pronto” through the loudspeaker systems. The service itself was the traditional Roman mixture of high pomp and shoddiness: as a concession to the modern age, the doves, which for some reason are traditionally presented to the Pope in cases of gold and silver, were caged in chromium. But it was curiously and undeniably moving to see 14,000 Englishmen gathered 2,000 miles away from home in the thoroughly un-English splendour of St Peter’s to honour the memory of co-religionists put to death in the most squalid circumstances 400 years before. The hymns had all been carefully chosen several months in advance, so as to give no offence to Anglicans. Some were even Anglican hymns, which, being unknown to the congregation, passed by in almost total silence. Above all it was decided that this was not an occasion for singing the triumphalist anthem of English Roman Catholicism, “Faith of our Fathers”. Unfortunately, it is also an old favourite, and the organisers did not reckon with that long wait. About half an hour before the Pope was due to enter, a whisper started among the massed ranks.
“Faith of our fathers, living still In spite of dungeon, fire and sword!” Within a few minutes it had grown to a mighty roar, defying all the organisers efforts to sabotage it with impromptu voluntaries: “Faith of our fathers Mary’s prayers Shall win our country back to thee: And through the truth that comes from God England shall then indeed be free”.
The five days which followed can only be described as an ecumenicist's nightmare, as triumphalist demonstration succeeded triumphalist demonstration. Romans had never seen Pope Paul greeted with such enthusiasm before. Nobody who took part in the extraordinary week can seriously doubt that there is enormous goodwill between the Christian communities to unite and settle their differences; but equally nobody can fail to have their doubts whether the present leaders of the Churches are adequate in the task of achieving that reconciliation’.
Auberon Waugh, 1939-2001, writing in The Spectator, November 1970
on the Canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales
O merciful God, who, when thy Church on earth was torn apart by the ravages of sin, didst raise up men and women in England who witnessed to their faith with courage and constancy: Give unto thy Church that peace which is thy will, and grant that those who have been divided on earth may be reconciled in heaven and be partakers together in the vision of thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon