St. Edmund was born at London in England. He was the son of a Catholic bookseller who was converted and became an Anglican. When he grew up he planned to join his father in business but received a scholarship to Saint John’s College in Oxford.
He was a very popular young English student and a very good speaker. In fact, St. Edmund was chosen to deliver aWELCOMING SPEECH to Queen Elizabeth when she visited his college. Some students were very attracted by his happy nature and his many talents and made him their leader.
Even the queen and her chief ministers were fond of this handsome young man. The Queen wanted to make him a Deacon in the Church of England.
But St. Edmund was troubled about his religion, as he believed that the Catholic Church might be the only true Church. He did not hide his feelings, and the government, which was persecuting Catholics, became very distrustful of him.
St. Edmund knew that he would lose the queen’s favor and all his chances of a great future if he chose to become a Catholic. The young man prayed about it and decided to become a Catholic anyway.
After he had escaped from England, St. Edmund studied to become a priest. He entered the Society of Jesus. When the Holy Father decided to send some Jesuits to England, Father Campion was one of the first to go.
The night before he left, one of the other Jesuit priests wrote over his doorway: “Father Edmund Campion, martyr.” Although he knew what danger faced him, the holy priest set out cheerfully. In fact, he had many a laugh because of his disguise as a jewel merchant.
In England he preached with great success to Catholics who had to meet with him in secret. Spies of the queen’s men were everywhere trying to catch him. He wrote: “I won’t escape their hands much longer. Sometimes I read letters that say ‘Campion has been caught’!”
It was a traitor who finally had St. Edmund captured. The government officials who had been so fond of him visited St. Edmund in jail. Even Queen Elizabeth came.
But none of their threats or promises could make him give up the Catholic faith. Although they made him suffer, he still defended himself and his fellow priests so well that no one could answer him. But the enemies of the Church condemned him to death anyway.
Before he was put to death, St. Edmund forgave the man who had betrayed him. He even helped save the man’s life. He was tortured in the Tower of London, then hanged, drawn and quartered.
Parts of his body were displayed as a warning to other Catholics at each of the four city gates. St. Edmund Campion died in 1581.
Reflection: We should not be afraid in giving witness to our faith. Martyrdom is one of the surest way to Heaven for by it you have sealed your faith with your blood, a signature that can never be erased.
Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Edmund to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his (her) triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.