Pope Adrian IV (c. AD 1100 – 1159)

[#14 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of December 2 – 8]

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HIS week, on December 4, the anniversary of his election as Pope, we remember Pope Adrian IV. Pope Adrian IV is the only Briton ever elected Pope.

Pope Adrian IV was born Nicholas Breakspear, son of Robert Breakspear, in Abbotts Langley, England. Robert later became a monk at St. Albans. Nicholas was refused admission to his local monastery, so he traveled to France and became a canon regular at St. Rufus monastery near Arles. He eventually became prior, then abbot in 1145. Continue reading

St. Edmund Campion, Martyr (AD 1540 – 1581)

[#13 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of November 25 – December 1]

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HIS week, on December 1, the day of his martyrdom, we celebrate St. Edmund Campion. St. Edmund Campion was the son of a Catholic bookseller whose family converted to Anglicanism. He attended Oxford University. Queen Elizabeth I offered to make him a deacon in the Church of England, but he refused, fled to the Continent, and later converted and joined the Jesuits. He was ordained in 1578.

He worked for a few years in Bohemia before returning to London as part of a Jesuit mission, disguised as a jewel merchant. In London, he worked with his fellow Jesuit St. Nicholas Owen. Continue reading

King St. Edmund, Martyr (c. AD 841 – 869)

[#12 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of November 18 – 24]

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HIS week, on November 20, the Ordinariates honor King St. Edmund, Martyr. St. Edmund was born in Nuremburg, Germany in 841. He was crowned the King of East Anglia on Christmas Day, 855 at the age of 14 by Bishop St. Humbert of Elmham. He was a model king who treated his subjects with justice. He spent an entire year memorizing all 150 Psalms by heart. He was martyred by the Vikings when they invaded East Anglia in 869. Continue reading

St. Hugh of Lincoln (c. AD 1135 – 1200)

[#11 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of November 11 – 17]

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AINT Hugh was actually born in Avalon, France, to a wealthy noble named William, Lord of Avalon, and his wife Anna. His English connections come later. He was the first canonized Carthusian. His feast day is November 17th.

Hugh’s mother died when Hugh was only eight years old. After Anna’s death, William retired from the world to a monastery and brought his son Hugh with him. Hugh’s older brother, also named William, carried on the affairs of the family while father and son sought God in holy contemplation as professed religious. Hugh made his perpetual vows at the age of fifteen. Continue reading

Blessed John Duns Scotus (AD 1266 – 1308)

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#10: Week of November 4 – 10:

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T is commonly said there are three medieval theologians who stand above all the rest in contribution: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, and this week’s Britannic feature, Blessed John Duns Scotus. Blessed John’s feast day is November 8th.

John was born to a wealthy farming family in the town of Duns just North of the Scottish border with England. He was reported to be a beautiful child both in appearance and behavior, and he received a solid moral education from his parents.

Blessed John Duns Scotus attended catechism classes at the Cistercian Melrose Abbey (also appearing in our article on St. Cuthbert) where he gained a deep devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary – for which the Cistercians are well-known – who would later be the subject of Scotus’ most significant theological contribution. Continue reading

Saint Winifred (AD 635 – 660) and Saint Bono (d. c. AD 650)

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AINT Winifred was born in Tegeingl, in Northeastern Wales, and her Feast Day is November 3rd. She was born into great wealth as the daughter of the Welsh nobleman Tyfid ap Eiludd during the period when Christianity was only beginning to have its effect in the British Isles.

Winifred appears to have been exposed to Catholic Christianity through her mother, Wenlo. Wenlo’s brother Bono is also venerated as a Saint by the church for his work as a founding abbot of the abbey of Caernarfon. During Winifred’s life, women had no say in their marriage partner, and marital unions were typically arranged by parents in order to secure political alliances. Continue reading

The Six Welsh Martyrs: Saint Richard Gwyn (c. AD 1537 – 1584)

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URING the terrible persecution of Catholics under the execrable Henry VIII and his successors, many hundreds of righteous English men and women attained the crown of martyrdom. On October 25, Welsh Ordinariate Catholics feast in particular six Welsh martyrs who died in the English Reformation. Despite its distinct language and culture, Wales has been effectively part of England since AD 1284 when King Edward I annexed it and made the heir to the English throne the “Prince of Wales”. One of its most famous symbols is the red Welsh Dragon, depicted on its flag. Today there is one stable Ordinariate Mission in Wales located in Newport with two other communities in formation in the towns of Swansea and Presteigne. Continue reading