St Edmund Campion (1540-1581)
“Edmund Campion was born in London on January 25, 1540, received his early education at Christ’s Hospital, and, as the best of the London scholars, was chosen aged thirteen to make the complimentary speech when Queen Mary visited the city. He then attended St John’s College, Oxford, becoming a fellow in 1557 and taking the Oath of Supremacy on the occasion of his degree in 1564. Two years later he welcomed Queen Elizabeth to the university, and won her lasting regard. He was chosen amongst the scholars to lead a public debate in front of the queen. People were now talking of Campion in terms of being a future Archbishop of Canterbury, in the newly established Church of England. Although holding Catholic doctrines, reinforced by his reading of the early Fathers, he received deacon’s orders in the Anglican Church. Inwardly “he took a remorse of conscience and detestation of mind.” Eventually he went to Douai where he was reconciled to the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist that he had denied himself for the last twelve years. The college was a centre of intellectual excellence and Campion found himself reunited with many of his former Oxford friends. His studies completed he left for Rome, travelling on foot and alone in the guise of a poor pilgrim. He then entered a novitiate with the Jesuits, and spent some years in Vienna and Prague.
In 1580, the Jesuit mission to England began. Campion entered England in the guise of a jewel merchant, and at once began to preach. His presence soon became known to the authorities, not least because of the challenge he made, known as the “Challenge to the Privy Council” to his allies and as “Campion’s Brag” to his enemies. As a result his position became increasingly difficult. He led a hunted life, preaching and ministering to Catholics in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Lancashire. On his way to Norfolk, he stopped at Lyford, near Wantage, where he celebrated Mass and preached both on July 14 and on the following day. Here after a long search he was found in hiding above the gateway. He was taken to London with his arms pinioned and bearing on his hat a paper with the inscription, “Campion, the Seditious Jesuit.” Committed to the Tower of London, he was questioned in the presence (it is said) of Elizabeth, who asked him if he acknowledged her to be the true Queen of England. He replied in the affirmative, and she offered him wealth and dignities, but on condition of rejecting his Catholic faith, which he refused to do.”
“He was kept a long time in prison, where he was twice racked, and every effort was made to shake his defiance. He took part in a number of public debates and reportedly conducted himself so easily and readily that he won the admiration of most of the audience. He was indicted at Westminster on a charge of having conspired, along with others, in Rome and Reims to ‘raise a sedition in the realm’ and dethrone the Queen. He was sentenced to death as a traitor. He answered: “In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England — the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.” After spending his last days in prayer he was led with two companions to Tyburn and hanged, drawn and quartered on December 1, 1581, aged 41.”
Source: Universalis. RC Calendar App on my iPhone.