Campion is special to me for several reasons. Having studied in
England for six years, I became fascinated with the history of recusant
England and the activities of the Catholic martyrs of the protestant
reformation; I also was privileged to attend Campion and companions’
canonization by Pope Paul VI in October 1970.
Campion was born in London in 1540 and after becoming a Catholic
(a dangerous thing to do in the reign of Elizabeth I) he entered
the Society of Jesus in 1573. He was one of the first Jesuits to
be assigned to the English mission. Hunted because of his priesthood,
he carried on his ministry to English Catholics in secret. He was
arrested and executed by hanging, and his body was then drawn and
quartered on this day in 1581.
Today’s readings reflect a bit on the fate and
faith of martyrs as well as the temper of our times. Ordinary time
is coming to an end and the grace-filled season of Advent
is upon us. The days are growing shorter, darker and colder on the
Great Plains. The scripture these past days are eschatological—suggesting
the end of time, the four last things, and the final judgment.
St. Luke gets our attention when he exhorts us in the gospel, “To
beware that your hearts do not become drowsy…with the anxieties
of daily life…” lest you are surprised by the coming
of the last day when you are to stand before the Son of Man.
While not certain, it is somewhat safe to say that the final coming
is not imminent; but if it were how to respond?
The gospel continues, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that
you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are presently
with us.” This is our focus. How do we respond to the issues
of the day as they effect how we live our lives—spiritual
Look to the tribulations one cannot escape on this December morning;
Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, migration of peoples, mortgages, health
care, presidential politics, drought; or rent, insurance, kids,
safety on the streets, December snow! You know your own situation,
your own tribulations.
And the response for all of us is Luke’s advice to “Be
vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape
Great advice! Pray—focus—pray—and more prayer.
Read the signs of the times, do not be surprised with what is set
before you. We each have our unique set of tribulations. The remedy,
recipe, antidote is simply to acknowledge those challenges, isolate
them and pray that you have the strength to escape, avoid, or minimize
these tribulations. Keep in mind, these tribulations will always
be with you; they come with living.
As the first reading from Daniel notes: “I, Daniel, found
my spirit anguished within its sheath of flesh, and I was terrified
by the visions of my mind.”
We are all Daniel. We all have these same fears,
these same internal visions.
Only prayer, rooted in faith, hope and love, will relax these visions
and soothe the anguished spirit.
The grace-filled season of Advent can help us to be vigilant and
prayerful amidst the challenges around us.