Christ the Lord has promised us the Holy Spirit: come, let us adore him, alleluia.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: White.
|Other saints: The Carthusian Martyrs|
Saints John Houghton, Robert Lawrence, Augustine Webster and fifteen Blessed companions
John Houghton, Prior of the London Charterhouse, was recognised as a man of sanctity even before his martyrdom. Under his rule the community was a model of observance and austerity. Henry VIII was well aware that if the Carthusians could be persuaded to accept first the Act of Succession (1533) and then the Act of Supremacy (1534) others would find it easy to follow their example.
Presented with the earlier Act, the Prior and his Procurator Humphrey Middlemore at first refused to swear, and were imprisoned for a month in the Tower. On advice from learned bishops, they agreed to take the oath “as far as the law of God allows”, and so were released.
The following year (1535) the King assumed his title of Supreme Head of the Church in England. The Treasons Act made it treason “maliciously” to deny this title. Prior Houghton began to prepare his community for the inevitable onslaught. He consulted other priors who were visiting London, Robert Lawrence of Beauvale, Nottinghamshire, and Augustine Webster of Axholme, Lincolnshire. They decided to approach the King’s Minister Thomas Cromwell directly, to ask for a form of the oath which they could accept in conscience. Cromwell’s response was immediately to commit them to the Tower. There they were joined by a Brigittine priest, Richard Reynolds, who was to suffer with them.
Their trial began on 27th April 1535. Cromwell became alarmed that they might be acquitted, threatened the jury with death if they did acquit, and finally went in person to persuade them to bring in the Guilty verdict. On 4th May they were dragged to Tyburn; the Prior was the first to suffer the barbarous execution by hanging, disembowelling and quartering of the body. Lawrence and Webster, undeterred by the dreadful scene, refused to recant and were similarly butchered. They were the first of a long line of martyrs for the Catholic faith in England.
But this was only the beginning of the trials of the London Charterhouse. Within weeks, three more of the Fathers were committed to prison and interrogated. These were Humphrey Middlemore, now the Vicar, William Exmew, the Procurator, and Sebastian Newdigate. These were singled out as being leading members of the Community, and of good birth (Newdigate had been brought up in the King’s household), in the hope of terrorising the others into submission. The three steadfastly refused the Oath, and went to their execution on 19th June 1535.
There followed a year during which the remaining Carthusians were constantly harassed and ill-treated. Then some of them were dispersed to other houses; in particular John Rochester and James Walworth to Hull, from where they were brought to trial and executed at York (11th May 1537). Now some brothers gave way to the continual pressure, and took the oath. Ten continued to refuse, and on 1st June 1537 were imprisoned in Newgate. There they were left, and all but one died of starvation and ill-usage. They were: Richard Bere, Thomas Johnson and Thomas Green, priests; John Davy, deacon; and Brothers William Greenwood, Thomas Scryven, Robert Salt, Walter Pierson, Thomas Redyng and William Horn. The last-named lingered in Newgate for nearly three years, and was finally executed on 4th August 1540.
Some of those who had taken the oath had been promised that if they did so their House would be spared; but within a year, on 15th November 1538, all who remained were expelled and the monastery was desecrated. Other priories suffered a similar fate. The return of the London Charterhouse community to Sheen under Queen Mary (1557) was short-lived; they were finally exiled by Elizabeth, and it was not until 1873 that the Carthusians returned to England, to Parkminster in the parish of West Grinstead.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Acts 2:32,36 ©|
God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. For this reason the whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Galatians 3:27-28 ©|
All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 Corinthians 5:7-8 ©|
Get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.