Friday, 2 November 2012

Guy Fawkes and Catholic Faith

This coming Monday is Guy Fawkes day; the day on which the United Kingdom and those countries who were formerly members of the British empire celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot.

The Gunpowder Plot was an attempt by zealous English Roman Catholics to blow up the Parliament, King James I, his Queen, Anne, as well as their son, Prince Henry, on the 5th of November 1605. 

Robert Catesby
Robert Catesby was the leader of the group of zealous Roman Catholics who were involved in the plot.  He was particularly embittered by the lack of religious tolerance in England.  This intolerance had led to Catesby’s father, Sir William Catesby, being persecuted for refusing to conform to the Church of England.  Catesby and his group of collaborators hoped that through their actions they would somehow contribute towards the re-establishment of Catholic rule in England. 

The celebration gets its name from one of the conspirators who this group recruited because of his military background, his experience with explosives, and because he would not be as easily recognisable in England as the rest of the group of conspirators were.  His name was, quite obviously, Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes
When the group of conspirators were betrayed by one of their own, Guy Fawkes was arrested on the night of 4 – 5 November 1605, after he had already placed about 36 barrels of gun powder in a cellar under the Palace. 

Although we do not and should not in any way condone violence of any nature and clearly should not be supportive of the action that this group chose, it may be worth our while to use this, and future Guy Fawkes Day’s, as a reminder of how Roman Catholics have been persecuted in the past.  

We should remember that, for a time in Britain, Roman Catholics could not purchase land, hold civil or military offices or seats in Parliament, inherit property, or practice their religion freely without incurring civil penalties.  A Roman Catholic in Ireland could not vote in Parliamentary elections and could be readily dispossessed of his land by his nearest Protestant relative.

The Execution of Justice
To defend the persecution of Catholics
Why should we remember this?  Well because Catholics are again under attack in so many ways and in so many places today.  Catholics are steadily being marginalised throughout the world. 

Just consider the most obvious recent example in the USA.  President Obama has implemented the HHS Mandate.  He refuses to make an exception for Roman Catholics.  Instead he has made it abundantly clear that anyone who refuses to participate in the healthcare scheme will be penalised, even though participation in the scheme effectively requires Catholics to ignore their conscience and makes them pay for contraceptives and abortions.

Maybe this Guy Fawkes day we could spend the day praying and asking our Lord for the courage to stand firmly behind the teaching of our Church, even though it is so difficult or awkward to do this in many instances in our modern society.  

Lets ask for the courage to be bold, despite the fact that mostly we seem to be such lone voices in a modern world that accepts so many things as the norm, which we as Catholics instinctively know, without doubt, cannot and should not be accepted as the norm.  

Let's also pray for the ability to truly live out our faith publicly, in the ordinary everyday circumstances of our lives, be that at work, at home, in social gatherings, or wherever we may find ourselves; not only on Sunday's while we are at Mass.  Let's pray that we may be the 'sparkler' that lights up the community in which we live with the love of Jesus. 

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