I was watching EWTN tonight, and there was a show on about Saint Etheldreda’s at Ely Place. They talked about the chapel, second oldest Catholic Church in England, and the history of the Church in England. Once again, I was stunned by the brutality of Henry VIII and the extremes he and his heirs (save Queen Mary, of course) went to in order to prevent Catholics from remaining faithful to the Church. The martyrs! God, the things that were done to them! People who resisted or helped the imprisoned (especially the clergy) were killed in brutal fashion. Eventually, Mass itself was illegal and attending Mass was a hanging offense. For three hundred years, you could be put to death for going to Mass. Catholics couldn’t vote, couldn’t own or inheret land, join the army, and were generally suppressed and treated as second-class. Little by little, most of the anti-Catholic laws were repealed. (Interestingly enough, you still can’t be prime minister and Catholic. Illegal, you see.)
Saint Etheldreda’s has gone through a lot in the years since it was built. Just to spite the Catholics who attended Mass there, a tavern was built adjoining it. Bar room brawls would often threaten to disrupt Mass.
The Germans bombed the church, and the windows were completely lost. They have been lovingly restored, though. In addition, there are numerous statues of various saints and martyrs throughout the chapel. Check your local listings to see if EWTN will be showing “Silent Witness” again. You can also watch it online, and their online schedule shows that it will repeat on Saturday. (EWTN is actually having a slew of specials, including one on Saint Thomas More. Jay, are you listening?)
Jackie, Catholic Mom of 10, has been highlighting the Walk of Martyrs that she’ll be participating in with her family. Remember these martyrs in your prayers, and ask them to intercede for you, as well. And thank God that, for now, you are able to practice your faith without the threat of death hanging over you. It’s not that easy for everyone, and there may come a day when we are once again in the catacombs.