1st February 1645
I had occasion to visit a Jesuit website this week and was not a little knocked back by the photographs of priests of the order - not a clerical collar in sight!
It seems rather sad that, after receiving the vocational call and undergoing years of study and sacrificing so many of life's comforts, a priest should discard his 'badge of office' to appear as an ordinary layman.
St Henry Morse SJ did not wear a dog collar either but, the times in which he lived were somewhat different, as were the style of clothes worn by a Catholic priest. But I somehow believe that this man, if he lived today, would not walk around wearing a shirt and a tie but the clerical black.
Interestingly, this website carried a history of the order in England and Wales and made much of their priests through the years but one of their greats, Fr Clement Tigar, late of this world and Campion house in Osterley, was missing.
Was it because this quiet man was a traditionalist I wonder?
But back to Fr Morse, born into the Protestant faith in 1595 in rural Suffolk.
What follows now is Fr Morse's statement from the scaffold at Tyburn, uttered as preparations were made for him to be hanged, drawn and quartered on February 1st 1645.
It is a most moving statement and one that, in these troublesome times for the Faith, we can draw a great deal of comfort from:
"I am come hither to die for my religion, for that religion which is professed by the Catholic Roman Church, founded by Christ, established by the Apostles, propagated through all ages by a hierarchy always visible to this day, grounded on the testimonies of Holy Scriptures, upheld by the authority of the Fathers and Councils, out of which, in fine, there can be no hope of salvation.
Time was when I was a Protestant, being then a student of the law in the Inns of Court in town, till, being suspicious of the truth of my religon, I went abroad into Flanders, and upon full conviction I renounced my former errors and was reconciled to the Church of Rome, the mistress of all Churches.
Upon my return to England I was committed to prison for refusing to take the oath of supremacy, and banished.
After even years I returned to England as a priest, and devoted myself to the poor and the plague-stricken".
"No self-glorification here" interrupted the Sheriff,
"I will glory you only in God" continued the martyr, "who has pleased to allow me to seal the Catholic faith with my blood, and I pray that my death may atone for the sins of this nation, for which end and in testimony of the one true Catholic faith confirmed by miracles now as ever, I willing die"
St Henry Morse SJ - Ora pro nobis!
And pray also that the Jesuit order returns to its greatness!