Faith of Our Fathers: In Search of the English Martyrs, presented by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Nicholas Schofield, St Anthony Communications, 114 minutes (2 DVDs), £14.95
This DVD says it will lead you “on a journey to discover more” about the English Martyrs, but it is not what I thought it would be. In a rather unique way Fr Holden and Fr Schofield literally take you on a journey from busy streets of London to the rural communities of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Doing so adds a richness to our understanding and perception of the Martyrs, not through knowing them more intimately as individuals but through their united love of God and his bride the Church.
The visual journey is able to achieve that more perhaps than the written word in this regard because of its ability to cover such a lot of ground in a short space of time. As Fr Holden and Fr Schofield move around London today there is a sense that aside from people’s attire and architecture, the heart of the bustle and majesty of life seems timelessly comparable. As they talked of St Thomas More or Edmund Campion and the dangers they faced, one could almost feel the sense of peril and difficulty of discretion, as if such laws were around today.
I was also struck by the difficult positions their family and friends were put in. It is very easy when reading about the Martyrs to become focused on them as individuals; and though this is not improper the family is the domestic church, and particularly for those martyrs who did have families there must have been a great sacrifice on the part of both the fathers and mothers who stood up for the truths of the Church and those they left behind. Even at the end St Thomas More writes to his daughter “my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.”
To move from rich and powerful London to the more rural areas gives an interesting comparison to the trials of the Martyrs. Here we see more of the fellowship of the community and how both the poor and rich strived to protect their priests for the sake of the Sacraments and above all the Mass. Some like Nicholas Owen risked their lives to build priest holes, and others like William Byrd composed Mass settings which were used by those during the secret Masses.
The backgrounds and situations of all the martyrs were very different: some were priests who travelled around, some like the monks whose abbeys were relied upon for medicine or respite; others were lay people with families, like Thomas More or Margaret Clitherow, and yet they stood firm. There will have been many in their communities who watched their bravery and took courage from it; and even today though we do not live through such harsh persecutions we do live in a time of persecution and our families are under threat. It would be so easy to hide our Faith in our homes, or worse let it fall to the wayside, but this DVD reminds us that we are not alone. We have our link with the martyrs and can take courage from those great heroes who did not fail to pass on the Faith to us.
But we can also take strength from other Catholics across the country now. For me personally, I am aware that where I live in England we do not have a strong Catholic community providing me and my family with spiritual nourishment. We strive ourselves to do that; but I am reminded that, just like the Martyrs who must have felt alone at times, they are not because across the country there are other Catholics, some lucky enough to be in solid communities, and we are all praying for each other, and that unites us together and gives us strength as it did to all those Martyrs who went to their deaths not angry but full of forgiveness and often a statement of wit.
Prayer: A Surge of the Heart, presented by Bishop Mark Davies, Fr Marcus Holden Fr Andew Pinsent, Sr Mary Trinity, Joanna Bogle, Fr Stephen Brown and Sr Hyacinthe Defos Du Rau, St Anthony Communications, 39 minutes, £9.95.
St Irenaeus tells us fish swim, birds fly and people pray. On the one hand it is so simple, and yet in practice it is something that we all struggle with. The “desire for God is written in the human heart” (CCC 27), and yet prayer seems to be a topic which many people find hard to explain, so I was interested to see how this DVD approached the subject.
In my opinion this DVD takes a good approach to talking about prayer. The beauty of having a variety of speakers enables the viewer to feel comforted that there is not a particular way to pray that is best, or that you must always follow set prayers. All the speakers were united in talking about prayer as what it is, the raising of the heart and mind to God. Prayer is a difficult thing that does at times require perseverance and a lot of effort on our part, but the speakers remind us of the great rewards that can be received from doing so and that we are not alone in our struggles.
The blurb on the back of the DVD gives me the impression that it is designed for those who have already started a life of prayer and who are maybe struggling, going through a dry patch or maybe need some encouragement. I am not sure how someone would find the DVD if they were looking for guidance on how to initially start their journey of prayer. There is no denying that the various styles of prayer, adoration, meditation, contemplation, thanksgiving and supplication are all spoken about, but because the speakers talk about prayer in a familiar way they do not really cover specific types of prayer. That said, this would be a great resource for catechists to use when teaching on prayer as then can give guidance in that regard.
This DVD hopes to “challenge us to make more time for God”, and it does indeed do that. It reminds us that prayer is something we need to work at and it is worth all the effort we put in. It also encourages us to take our prayer further. Maybe you say morning and evening prayers, but why not squeeze in a quick prayer on your way to work? Just as you would go to the gym to strengthen your body, the more you build up and nurture your prayer life the more it gives you spiritual strength. Those speaking on the DVD clearly live lives of prayer which enable them to speak on the topic with a great sense of love and understanding which certainly gives encouragement and rejuvenation to those watching it.