After yesterday's Regnans in Excelsis post, I don't really mean to dwell on the cruel, persecutorial reign of Elizabeth I. There have, after all, been cruel and persecutorial Catholic monarchs too. But by coincidence, tomorrow marks the anniversary of the martyrdom (and original feast day) of a very brave and interesting woman -- Anne Line. Hanged in 1601 for harboring a Catholic priest in her house -- a capital offense at that time -- she was beatified in 1929 and canonized in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Their feast day is now observed on October 25.
You can read about St. Anne Line here.
And here is a moving detail from the account of her execution, which makes mention also of Bl. Mark Barkworth, a Catholic priest who was martyred on the same day.
At the scaffold she repeated what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders:
"I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far am I from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand."
"Oh blessed Mrs. Line, who has now happily received thy reward, thou art gone before us, but we shall quickly follow thee to bliss, if it please the Almighty."It has been suggested that Shakespeare's poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle," whose obscure allegorical imagery has long been a topic of dispute among scholars, is in fact an elegy to St. Anne Line and her husband Roger, who died in exile. (This interpretation depends on the underlying assumption, itself disputed, that Shakespeare entertained secret Catholic sympathies.) For one argument in favor of this interpretation, read the downloadable pamphlet available here (link at bottom of page). If this interpretation is not true, it should be.
Almighty God, who hast given to thy servants grace and power to stand firm for conscience' sake even unto death: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
St. Anne, friend of priests, pray for us.