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.