Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster

English Martyrs Offer a 'Witness that Challenges Us,' says Cardinal Vincent

In a homily given at Westminster Cathedral at the blessing of the new decorative scheme of the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs and the new glass doors in the west porch, Cardinal Vincent said that the martyrs offer ‘a witness that challenges us to assess afresh our own commitment to the faith’.

Comparing the martyrs to the twelve apostles, he noted that the apostles had no special standing, but 'they offered themselves as they were'. He added, 'For the most part, and despite any number of setbacks along the way, they remained faithful. Their fidelity has brought such a light into our world!'

By contrast, many of the English Martyrs had 'considerable status in the world'. Like the apostles before them, 'their courage and faithfulness, expressed in quite different stories, speak to us of an integrity and a courage rarely seen,' he said,

Referring to the reason for their martyrdom at Tyburn, he explained that 'two miles from here and four hundred or so years ago, the truths enshrined in the Catholic faith and the expectations of the state clashed in the most violent of ways'.

Alluding to the flames bearing the names of each of these martyrs in the dark mosaic sky of the chapel, he added: 'They light up more than the ceiling of the chapel. They offer us a witness that challenges us to assess afresh our own commitment to the faith and our practice of it.'

Speaking of the recently completed glass doors, the Cardinal noted the contrast between the rush and endless noise of Victoria Street and 'the peace and uplifting space which embrace all who enter the cathedral'.  

'Their greatest value lies in the fact that their presence allows the great west doors to be stood open more often, inviting the passer-by to pause from their business, put their phone away, and enter into the peace of the cathedral, a space where God has a chance of speaking more insistently than the clamour of a text message,' he said.

He expressed the hope that 'many will be attracted to this sacred space, drawn by what they see through the new doors' and 'that the peace and the holiness they find in this house of prayer may encourage them to seek its Source'.

The blessing took place after Mass on the Feast of Ss Simon and Jude, 28 October 2016.

The full text of the Cardinal's homily can be found here.

An article by cathedral architect Michael Drury on the new decorative scheme of the Chapel of St George can be found here.

Additional photos of the new decorative scheme of the chapel can be found here.

Latest news