The Bishop of Plymouth, Bishop Mark O’Toole, has encouraged those who can, to return to Mass, to be physically present in a church. Recognising that the world is in many ways “shrouded in gloom” at this time because of the “deadly virus”, Bishop Mark, asked parishioners who were not vulnerable and not having to shield, “to be present once more at the holy sacrifice of the Mass.” He stressed that they could do so, “safely, whilst observing all the necessary protocols”.
On the 25 October, the Catholic Church marks the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of St Cuthbert and the thirty-nine other Martyrs, who died during a dark chapter of English history, when it was illegal to practise the Catholic faith. Quoting from the homily of Pope Paul VI, at the Canonisation ceremony, the Bishop highlighted that among the forty holy martyrs were “secular and regular priests, religious of various orders, and of different rank, lay people of very noble descent, as well as of modest condition……..women who were married, mothers with a family”.
The Bishop drew attention to the witness and example of St Cuthbert Mayne, who was born in Devon and who ministered as a priest in Cornwall. He was captured there in 1577 and imprisoned in Launceston Castle for several months before being hung, drawn and quartered in the Market Square on 29 November 1577. He is known as “the protomartyr”, or first, of the “Martyrs of Douai”, some 158 priests who, over a period of a hundred years, were formed for the priesthood at the College of Douai, in France, and who then surreptitiously returned to this country, to minster to the Catholic faithful in secret. When caught, they ended up on the scaffold, many of them inspiringly testifying to the truth of their faith, and at the same time, pledging their loyalty to the King or Queen.
Bishop Mark highlighted that what united these martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was their witness to “two truths, the sacrifice of Jesus manifest anew in the sacrifice of the Mass and communion with the Holy Father.” He commented that these two traits have, “for many centuries, been the hallmarks of the Catholic Faith in these islands”.
Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, spoken in the Canonisation homily, Bishop Mark urged that, “the Church and the world today have the greatest need of such men and women, of every state of life: priests, religious and laity, because only people of such stature and holiness will be able to change our tormented world and to give that spiritual and truly Christian orientation to which every person intimately yearns – even sometimes without being aware of it – and of which we all so much need”.