Memorial of Ss. Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, and Companions, martyrs
“True friends stab you in the front.” Oscar Wilde’s remark captures well today’s feast of Edmund Campion and companions. The reading proper to the day is from Isaiah 53, about the suffering servant, words that gained new meaning after the Crucifixion. Jesus knew who betrayed Him, that some even called Him “friend,” and still forgave them. Edmund Campion was a rising star at Oxford before he converted to Catholicism, impressing many people who would later call for his brutal torture and death. Before returning to England as a priest, St. Edmund wrote to Queen Elizabeth’s advisors what was later called “Campion’s Brag.” St. Edmund ends his letter hoping that “we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgiven.” He wrote that knowing full well what those injuries would be when he was captured.
As with Jesus and Campion, there is no lack of injury needing forgiveness today. Whether in our own experience or just reading the paper, we know full well the hurt that people are causing now. But how do we forgive without papering over the hurt and saying “it doesn’t matter,” when it really does? For Campion, he remembered his friendships. He remembered old times, and how these people wanted to do more than just hunt him down. St. John Paul II observed that the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much, but too little. The same may be true of violence. Violence does not show us the whole person, but only a part–the darkest part–which we make into the whole. Campion saw the whole person, including the part that is still a child of God, and wished to see his friends (and torturers) once again in heaven.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.