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Monday, May 7, 2012

CARTHUSIANS and CARMELITES (UK): The Martyrs Feast 4 May


Carmelites commemorate Carthusians
07 May 2012

On 4th and 5th May 2012 members of the Carmelite Family in Britain took part in events in London commemorating the Carthusian Martyrs of the English Protestant Reformation, and reflected together on the spirituality of the Carthusian Order.

On 4th May 1535 the prior of the Carthusian Order's monastery - known as a Charterhouse - in London, John Houghton, was executed at the King's Gallows at Tyburn for refusing to accept Henry VIII's claim to be supreme governor of the Church in England. Houghton was killed alongside two fellow Carthusian monks, and two other Catholic clerics. Over the following five years a further 15 Carthusians would be executed in London and in York, as well as many other Catholics who refused to accept King Henry's break with the Roman Catholic Church. The Carthusian monastery in London, and all other communities of religious orders in England and wales, were dissolved as part of the 'English Reformation'.

The Carthusian monastery in London became an almshouse for elderly men, known as Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse. To this day it remains an almshouse, mostly for retired Anglican clergy, known as the Brothers of Charterhouse. Since 2005 Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse has commemorated the martyrdom of the Carthusian Martyrs on 4th May which is celebrated as the feast of the Martyrs of the English Reformation in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.

Substantial portions of the former Carthusian monastery, including the cloister (right) remain at Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse.

On the evening of 4th May several members of the Carmelite Family - mostly from the 'Carmel in the City' Carmelite Spirituality Group in London - attended this year's commemoration in Charterhouse, as did Benedictine sisters from the nearby Tyburn Convent where a shrine commemorates the martyrs executed at the King's Gallows, known as the Tyburn Tree. As well as Anglican priests, clergy and laity from the Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches took part in the commemorative service.

One of the courtyards at Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse.

The service began in the chapel, where the Preacher of Charterhouse, Reverend Canon Hugh Williams, introduced the service by recalling the story of St. John Houghton and his companions. Hymns were sung and Psalms were prayed, and the Mother General of the Tyburn Nuns read an extract from a medieval Carthusian spiritual text.

The Preacher of Charterhouse (left) leading the service in the chapel.

The congregation then moved into Chapel Court where a stone slab marks the site of the high altar in the Carthusian monastery. On the slab was a miniature model of the Tyburn Tree. Here the 'Passion of the Carthusian Martyrs' - an account of the final days of the London Carthusians by Dom. Maurice Chauncy - was read aloud.

Pilgrims gathered around the site of the high altar, listening to the Passion account.

After a period of silence, Brothers of Charterhouse came forward and placed a rose in the model of the Tyburn Tree, as the preacher called out the names of the martyrs.

Brothers of the Charterhouse placed roses in the Tyburn Tree. The names of the martyrs are engraved on a memorial behind the site of the high altar.

The Preacher used incense around the Tyburn to symbolise prayer rising to God.

The service concluded with further prayers, including the Russian Orthodox Contakion of the Dead.

After the service members of Carmel in the City had the opportunity to renew acquaintances with friends old and new.

Members of the 'Carmel in the City'
Carmelite Spirituality Group together at Charterhouse.

The convenor of 'Carmel in the City', Sylvia Lucas, at Charterhouse with
(left) Rev. Jennifer Potter of Wesley's Chapel, and sisters of the Tyburn Convent.

The following morning, Saturday 5th May, the 'Carmel in the City' Carmelite Spirituality Group (CSG) gathered for its monthly meeting atSt. Joseph's Catholic Church, Bunhill Row, in the City of London.

The formation group meeting ahead of the main 'Carmel in the City' gathering.

The theme of the meeting was the Carthusian Martyrs, and began with a celebration of the Eucharist presided over by Fr. Richard Copsey, O.Carm., a friar from the Carmelite community at East Finchley.

The Carmel in the City CSG gathered for Mass in St. Joseph's Church.

Fr. Richard preached about how we can follow the martyrs by giving our lives for God in small acts of daily kindness, giving people a smile which shows that our faith is good news for other people.

During Mass a member of the group, Maureen Sampson, was received into the Carmelite Third Order Secular, the branch of the Carmelite Family in which lay people and diocesan clergy can make a formal commitment to living the Order's way of life.

(Left) Maureen declaring her request to be admitted to the Third Order
(Right) Maureen receiving the Third Order reception scapular from Sylvia Lucas

Prayers of intercession were led by Nick Reith who travels with his family
all the way from Southampton to take part in 'Carmel in the City' meetings. 

Since we are in the Easter Season, Mass was celebrated
in the light of the Paschal Candle.

At the end of Mass members of the congregation turned towards the church's beautiful icon of Our Lady of the City for the singing of the 'Regina Coeli'.

Maureen Sampson (centre) with Sylvia Lucas and Fr. Richard Copsey,
in front of the icon of Our Lady of the City, patron of the CSG.

After a shared lunch the participants heard a presentation on the Carthusian Martyrs and their spirituality given by Johan Bergström-Allen, a member of the Third Order who convenes Carmelite Spirituality Groups in York, Leeds and Manchester. Johan has researched Carthusian life as part of his study of medieval English literature, and spoke about the similarities and differences between Carthusian spirituality and the Carmelite way of life. He presented an overview of Carthusian history and spirituality, before reflecting on the martyrdoms of the Carthusian monks. Finally he reflected with the group on how best to honour and commemorate martyrs in our more ecumenical age. To watch a video of Johan's presentation, click on the arrow in the YouTube box below.