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Edmund Campion: Jesuit and Martyr (9) (Penguin Classics Waugh 09) Hardcover – 29 Sep 2011
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About the Author
Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903. His first novel, Decline and Fall, was published in 1928 and it was soon followed by: Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). He travelled extensively, served in the Royal Marines and the Royal Horse Guards and continued to write, winning many prestigious literary awards. Brideshead Revisited was first published in 1945. Evelyn Waugh died in 1966.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
First, where do I draw the line between my faith in the next world, and accommodation to this one? Campion was offered an easier, more richly rewarded life as an Anglican. "Fit in" and be rewarded with all manner of social approvals. We all face this dynamic in modern society. And it's an invidious slippery slope in which one little accommodation leads to another.
Second, how far do I take my faith in terms of action? Campion could have stayed in continental Europe but chose certain death -- and a most horrible one at that. Life does not ask many of us to make such a choice, but we are presented every day with possibilities for smaller acts of Christian heroism.
Come for the Waugh the stylist, stay for Campion the saintly one.
Mr. Waugh brings his literary skills to bear in the biographical genre to tell us this moving story of this great hero of the faith. Campion had all the promise as a young man in England and Ireland to make a renowned scholar. Mentioning a fellow English scholar of that time, Mr. Waugh makes the profound observation, "Tobie Matthew died full of honours in 1628. There, but for the Grace of God, went Edmund Campion." Campion's life would not end with mere honors of man but the the great honor God gives to those who give their lives for others. Campion's ignominious and gruesome death won him a far greater honor than he might have accomplished as a renowned scholar. He is venerated today as a canonized saint with good reason. His life was one of service and love for his fellow man to the point of facing death in order to encourage those under the brutal persecution of Elizabeth's reign.
When the sovereigns of England attempted to squash the Catholic faith, a school for under-cover priests was founded on the continent. Campion attended and took on the austere life of a Society of Jesus eventually teaching at seminaries far from his home. But always his heart ached for his own country. But, as Waugh observes, "Campion could help the English Mission best by realising his own sanctity." And so he did, eventually landing under cover on his home island to pray for and preach the Catholics denied freedom of worship there. But his capture, long torture and brutal martyrdom were not a defeat. As Waugh says of Campion and the martyr priests like him, "We are the heirs of their conquest, and enjoy, at our ease, the plenty which they died to win."
The final chapter conveys the story of one man present at Campion's death. This man, literally splattered with the blood of the martyr, left England to follow the same path of study to priesthood to return and a common end. The blood of the martyrs are indeed the seeds of the Church. Saint Edmund Campion, pray for us.
I was struck by a few items in this book. The first was Queen Elizabeth I's remark to her bishops and clergy as she neared death, calling them "hedge priests", meaning not being actually ordained and shooing them out. The other was the shear emptiness of the English people's lives created merely to satisfy the political and power ambitions of the English Government and ministers as opposed by the people at large who were generally sympathetic and preferred to remain Catholic. Evelyn Waugh commented about the Queen's Government doing all that it could to "removing the people from the Sacraments of the Church so that it would die out in a generation" was quite striking and saddening to picture. How desolute were their lives already, but to take away the one thing that they had for hundreds of years? Mr. Waugh also points out the destruction of the abbeys and great places of learning, "...that flowed to and from Europe, suddenly cutting off England from the rest of the Church", and the greatest minds and service of the monks and priests of the Church from the English people.
In Ireland, it was well known to us in America that there were safe houses and secret rooms to hide the priests and the vessels and vestments for Mass. I was surprised that this also occurred in England. I think that in many areas of history, Americans hear an "anglicized version" of the event and we see that prejudice in our books and common history.
I highly recommend this book. It can be painful to read, but should be read. I would recommend some research first on the creation of the Church of England by King Henry VIII, and the Penal Laws, the Law of Supremecy, and the Catholic Faith in England first. This system of suppression remained in force until the middle of the 19th Century! There is a whole litany of English saints and martyrs that have been lost, but are waiting to be rediscovered by you.