Martyrs of the Royal English College of S. Alban, Valladolid
Mr. Gregory Tomlin is a student of the Diocese of Nottingham, studying at the Royal English College at Valladolid. Here he describes for us the College celebrations for the feast day of those students of the College who met their end on the English Mission and are numbered among the English Martyrs.
"On the 25th of October 1970, Pope Paul VI Canonised the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. This was a day of great significance for the Church, as it drew attention to the immense sacrifices that were made by men and women, religious and lay, during the period of Catholic persecution that began with Henry VIII break with Rome.
"The English College in Valladolid was founded by the Jesuits for the very purpose of supplying the Catholic community in England and Wales with priests to support their faith when faced with such pressure from the state. Twenty-two Old Boys of the College have been Canonised or Beatified, all of them martyrs who gave their lives in England and Wales during this time of persecution. Each year the College celebrates these Old Boys on the 25th of October. In the College Chapel, the Jesuit altar is arranged to recognise the sacrifices of these men. A number of relics relating to the martyrs are placed on display at the start of Mass on the Feast Day (see photo), the most prominent of which is a chalice used by S. Ambrose Barlow OSB. Also placed there with them is the book listing the Old Boys of the College (photo). The pages to which it is opened shows the entry for S. Thomas Garnet, a Jesuit priest who studied at the College. The simple flower subsequently drawn beside his name indicates that he was martyred. However, whilst we rightly celebrate the generosity and faithfulness of the martyrs, we should also remember the far larger number of names on these pages that did not die as martyrs. Very many of these men also made their way to England and Wales, going on to serve the Catholic community for many years. They too had to hide from the authorities, endure separation from family, imprisonment, being sent into exile and living a life constantly on the move. Mercifully, they managed to avoid execution but the risks they faced and threats made against them were no less than those who did suffer that fate. It would be right to remember these individuals too in our prayers when the sacrifices of the martyrs is called to mind.
"The setting of the memorial by the Jesuit altar is appropriate for another reason. Inevitably some of the young men that made their way from England to Spain succumbed to illness whilst studying in Valladolid. The remains of some of those individuals who died during their time at the College are buried beneath the altar. Although they never managed to return home to serve the Church or faced the tribulations of those that did, it was a future their presence at the College indicated they were willing to accept had they lived. They did have to accept the risks of a lengthy journey and separation from family and friends they knew they may never see again when they left home. So although their names are not remembered with the fame that those of the martyrs are, our prayers could include them too as the God whom they loved and sought to serve will certainly know and cherish them for the love they showed they had for His Church despite the risks and costs."