By Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.
Complementing Mr. Coulombe’s talk, Brother André introduced us to a great English martyr, Saint Robert Southwell. We learn from Brother that the saint was born into a wealthy family, his father being a courtier in Norfolk. Richard Southwell, his father, wavered between Catholicism and apostasy, drawn to the latter for a time, but dying with the Faith. His mother was a pious Catholic. At the age of fifteen, Robert entered the Jesuit English College of Douay in Flanders. He received a heavy cross however when he was rejected by the Society. Undaunted, he walked to Rome in order to apply directly to the Jesuit Novitiate there. Having been accepted in Rome he made his profession in 1580 continuing his studies there at the Gregorian University. Here is where he developed his prodigious skills in writing Latin poetry. One of his teachers was Saint Robert Bellarmine. Ordained a priest in 1584, Southwell, after reading about the martyrdom of Saint Edmund Campion, petitioned the Superior General to be sent to the English mission. As he and his companion, Father Garnet, left Rome, the General is said to have murmured, “lambs to the slaughter.” Arriving in England he took up residence in the home of Earl Phillip Howard, a convert, who would be martyred soon after Father Southwell. In London and its environs Father Southwell administered in secret to the English Catholics. When he could, he wrote poetry in English, concentrating heavily on spurring on the faithful to embrace perfect contrition for their sins. This, he believed, would prepare them for a possible imprisonment where they would not have the last rites. Our Jesuit was arrested in 1593 and was tortured by a horrible invention called “the manacles.” Brother André provides the details of his martyrdom three years later in 1595. Brother also shared some of Southwell’s exquisite and heart-rending poetry.
From 2016 SBC Conference
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