Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oxford Pilgrimage: Procession

Following my post about the Mass here.

After a break for lunch, the pilgrims reassembled in Cornmarket for the procession, an integral part of the pilgrimage since its inception. We gathered outside St Michael at the North Gate, the oldest church in Oxford with a Saxon tower, from which (according to legend, at any rate) Archbishop Cranmer watched Latimer and Ridley being burnt at the stake. Next to this tower was the Bocardo prison, where the laymen martyred in 1589, Bl Thomas Belson and Bl Humphrey Prichard, were held the night before their execution (the priests were held in the Castle). The priests, Bl George Nichols and Bl Richard Yaxley, would have joined the others here to go in a grim procession to the place of execution, the Town Gallows. We follow that route, in a spirit of thanksgiving for their courage and witness to the Faith, and for the glory they gave God on that day.

We set off, with Fr Thomas Crean OP. A processional cross (from Blackfriars) goes first, followed by the newly blessed processional statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, the LMS banner and the Juventutem flag. Then Fr Thomas, the Schola Abelis, and the rest of the Faithful. There were about 65 of us in the procession (there were about 90 at Mass).

We passed a regular animal-rights protest. 'Oxford University tortures animals'. Well I suppose that's a step up from the torture of Catholics! University authorities were involved in the prosecution of the martyrs of 1589, and even more so in the legal process of Bl George Napier, who was martyred in Oxford in 1610. Bl Thomas Belson was an alumnus of Mary Hall, since absorbed by Oriel, and Bl George Nichols was an alumnus of Brasenose.

We also passed groups of students going to graduation ceremonies, and groups of tourists.

We stop at the site of the martyrdoms. Among the scaffolding on the end house the plaque blessed in 2008, marking the approximate site, can be seen. Fr Thomas read the Collect of the Mass of the Martyrs of Oxford University.

Whereas the Catholic martyrs died on the ordinary public scaffolds of the town, Latimer and Ridley, and then Cranmer, died on a specially constructed pyre in the town ditch. The spot is marked by a cobblestone cross in Broad Street, which we crossed on our route; here are two or my children on it on our return journey.

We returned past the Protestant 'Martyrs' Memorial' and the Ashmolean.

Fr Thomas gave us Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. This was accompanied by the Schola Abelis, and concluded the Pilgrimage.


The weather was glorious and the procession was very enjoyable. We sang the Great Litany, the Te Deum, Faith of Our Fathers and Firmly I Believe and Truly, and finally the Litany of Loreto (of Our Lady). It is a bit shorter than the procession to the other site of martyrdom, in the Castle, where on the return journey we can fit in a couple more hymns!

Well done to everyone who turned out to make the point that people died in Oxford for England's ancient and true Faith, for unity with the Pope in Rome, and for Our Lady. Blessed Martyrs of Oxford, pray for us!

The equivalent date in 2012 is Saturday 20th October.


  1. Ioannes Patricius10:36 pm

    And thanks goodness it is shorter, else you might have sentenced us to that dreadful 50s hymn about St George - bleurgh!

    Was a great day!

  2. Joseph Shaw10:42 am

    You really hate that hymn don't you? Well it is not that brilliant I must admit!