We Owe So Much To Our Martyrs

Saints Margaret Clitherow, Ann Line & Margaret Ward

Feast Day: 30th August

Today we keep the feast of three women martyrs, who had one thing in common - a great love for the Mass. In dangerous times they were prepared to risk their lives to save their priests for if there was no priest there was no Mass.

Margaret Ward, noted as a 'gentlewoman of Congleton’ entered into the service of a recusant family in London. On hearing that a priest was in solitary confinement she visited and smuggled a rope to him. The priest escaped but Margaret was arrested and, refusing the Queen's pardon, was martyred at Tyburn on 30 August 1588.

Anne Line was a convert who kept house for priests. After people had been seen coming to her house to attend Mass, she was arrested and crushed to death in 1601.

Margaret Middleton was born in York in 1553 and, aged 18, married John Clitherow, a prosperous Protestant butcher and widower with two sons. The family lived over the shop in the Shambles in which she helped. It was a happy marriage.

About three years later Margaret began to learn about the sufferings of those who defended the Catholic faith, how they were imprisoned or executed for refusing to go to the Protestant church.

In 1570 Rome issued a Bull of Excommunication against Elizabeth for heresy. From this moment all Catholics were traitors.

Margaret started to ask questions about Catholicism and eventually became a Catholic along with many of her women friends. Their husbands obeyed the law to avoid losing their livelihood but paid their wives' fines for not attending the Protestant church.

Margaret placed herself in great danger in making her home a Mass centre for Catholic neighbours and friends, and in March 1586 it was raided by two sheriffs. One boy was bullied into betraying her. She was taken to the castle prison to face trial, and sentenced to be tortured by heavy weights on her. Friends tried to persuade Margaret to recant, but she stood firm. She was told to confess her treason; she said she died for love of Jesus and it took 15 minutes for her to die. She was buried at midnight in a rubbish tip but, six weeks later, her body was found to be incorrupt.

In 1943 Saint Margaret Clitherow was adopted by the Catholic Women’s League as their patroness. She was canonised in 1970, the same time as the 40 Martyrs.

May we treasure our Mass as these three martyrs did and may God give us an increase of good priests to give us our daily Bread.