27 January 2010

Victory is at Hand

Dom Maurice Chauncy, writer of “The Passion and Martyrdom of the Holy English Carthusian Fathers,” was a sixteenth-century English Carthusian monk. In 1535 and again in 1537 many Carthusians of England refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, which swore allegiance to the king and the Church of England. Not taking the oath meant indictment for treason. Saint Thomas More, for example, was executed for treason. Among the Carthusian martyrs were: John Houghton, Augustine Webster, Robert Lawrence, Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmewe, Sebastian Newdigate, John Rochester, James Walworth, Thomas Green, Richard Beere, Thomas Johnson, John Davy, Robert Salte, Walter Peerson, Thomas Scriven, Thomas Reeding, William Greenwood, and William Horne. These men were from the London Charterhouse, with the exception of John Houghton (House of the Salutation), Augustine Webster (House of the Visitation), and Robert Lawrence (Beauvale, Nottinghamshire). All of them courageously walked in the Footsteps of Jesus. It is said that Dom Maurice Chauncy, who took the Oath of Supremacy, was distressed by his personal decision, and thus authored a number of books which told the story of his valiant Carthusian brothers. Here is a portion of what is written in the aforementioned book.

Now the wicked rejoice. Now the enemies of Christ exult. They boast that they have got their way, seeing the men delivered into their hands for whose innocent blood they longed with a thirst unquenchable. Seizing their prey with cruel joy like savage lions, they conducted them to the usual prison quarters of the city, preceded by an emblem which betokened condemnation. Who can count all the miseries and wrongs, all the scornful taunts that those gentle lambs suffered from the savage wolves? Who can describe all the mockeries and reproaches, the insults and affronts, the pains and tribulations which those holy men endured in those five days at the hands of bitter foes, malicious enemies of all truth and virtue, persecutors of them, persecutors of holy religion? The foes exult in their victims’ capture and sufferings as victors exult when they divide the spoils; they rage against them as a hungry wolf against the gentle lamb held fast in his jaws. How madly they rush like savage dogs, spitting all their venom at saints of the Lord! They treat them as wild beasts might. Whatever gratified their inexhaustible and uncontrollable malice they were allowed, as still they are allowed, to do. There was no one to hinder them.

Meanwhile the prisoners were gentle, meek and patient, following the great example of Him Who, like a sheep before her shearer, opened not His Mouth. When they were reviled, they reviled not again; when they suffered they threatened not. In the face of all their wrongs they were silent, as if deaf and dumb. They did not open their lips except perchance to pray for their persecutors and to thank God for their persecutions. In the depth of their hearts they remembered and dwelt upon the thought how the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be, and how those who suffer for righteousness’ sake are declared blessed by the eternal truth of God’s Word which, schooling sufferers to endure, says, “By your patience ye shall win your souls.” Brave wrestlers for Christ! Unvanquished champions in God’s cause! Quit yourselves like men and let your heart be comforted. Now your sufferings are cruel and undeserved, but a day shall come when it will be a joy to remember them. It is not the first time that you have suffered for Christ. Be comforted therefore and be strong. You have known sufferings more grievous, and of these too God will grant an end. Be brave, be staunch; rejoice, exult and clap your hands. Clap your hands, I say, as victors, for your victory is at hand.

Five days hence shall be your Easter, when you will pass from this distressful misery to an eternal feast, when you will quit this vale of woe and exile bound for everlasting happiness in the heavenly home where after your bitter fare you shall find a splendid and choice supper prepared for you. Fight therefore, fight on like brave soldiers; faint not, be not discouraged, but find consolation in these words – the time of your eternal consolation and reward is at hand.