Thought for the Day – 10 September – The Memorial of St Ambrose Edward Barlow OSB (1585-1641) Martyr
Ambrose ministered to the Catholic population in an area between Manchester and Liverpool.
We are fortunate in that the primary sources give us substantial detail about the manner in which Ambrose carried out his work. Richard Challoner (who wrote Memoirs of Missionary Priests) wrote:- “such was the fervour of his zeal, that he thought the day lost in which he had not done some notable thing for the salvation of souls…. Night and day he employed in seeking after the lost sheep and correcting sinners…. He found so much pleasure in this inward conversation with God… as much as worldlings would be when going to a feast. He was always afraid of honours and preferments and had a horror of vainglory, which he used to call the worm or moth of virtues and which he never failed to correct in, others. He industriously avoided feasts and assemblies and all meetings for merrymaking, as liable to dangers of excess, idle talk and detraction…..He chose to live in a private country house, where the poor, to whom he had chiefly devoted his labours, might have, at all times, free access to him. He would never have a servant, till forced to it by sickness, never used a horse but made his pastoral visits on foot….He allowed himself no manner of play or pastime and avoided all superfluous talk and conversation, more especially, with those of the fair sex. His diet was chiefly whitmeats and garden stuff…. He drank only small beer and that very sparingly and always abstained from wine. He was never idle but was always either praying, studying, preaching, administering the sacraments or painting pictures of Christ or His blessed mother….He feared no dangers, when God’s honour and the salvation of souls called him forth…passed, even at noonday through the midst of his enemies, without apprehension….Yet he was very severe in rebuking sin, so that obstinate and impertinent sinners were afraid of coming near him.”
On the eve of principal festivals, Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, Catholics would gather from a wide area. The night was spent in prayer and hearing confessions. On the following day, all were fed, the richer members and Ambrose serving the rest and then they had their meal from the leavings. “Their cheare was boil’d beefe and pottage, minched pies, goose and groates and to every man a gray coate at parting.”
About six months before his arrest in 1641, Ambrose suffered a stroke which affected the use of one side of his body. A Jesuit priest was sent to help him and may have provided some assistance to him while he was in prison.
Ambrose laboured in south Lancashire between 1617 and 1641. It appears that he was arrested and imprisoned on at least four occasions. He ministered to St Edmund Arrowsmith SJ (1585 – 1628) Martyr, in 1628 while the latter was awaiting trial and subsequent execution in Lancaster Prison. He was said to be as well known in the area in which he served. Probably local support enabled him to continue in his role for so long. He had a premonition of what his fate would be since it is reported that St Edmund Arrowsmith appeared to him in a dream and said that he too would become a martyr.
One Minute Reflection – 10 September – Tuesday of the Twenty third week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 6:12-19 and the Memorial of St Ambrose Barlow (1585-1641) Martyr
“Jesus departed to the mountain to pray and he spent the night in prayer to God” … Luke 6:12
REFLECTION – “Contemplatives and ascetics of every age and every religion have always sought God in the silence and solitude of deserts, forests and mountains. Jesus Himself lived for forty days in complete solitude, spending long hours in intimate converse with the Father in the silence of the night.
We, too, are called to withdraw into a deeper silence from time to time, alone with God. Being alone with Him – not with our books, our thoughts, our memories but in complete nakedness, remaining in His presence – silent, empty, motionless, waiting.
We cannot find God in noise and restlessness. Look at nature, the trees, flowers, grasses all grow in silence; the stars, the moon, the sun all move in silence. The important thing is, not what we are able say but what God says to us and what He speaks to others through us. In silence, He listens to us, in silence He speaks to our souls, in silence we are granted the privilege of hearing His voice –
Silence of the eyes,
Silence of the ears,
Silence of our mouths,
Silence of our minds.
In the silence of the heart
God will speak.
… Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) – No Greater Love
PRAYER – Our Father who art in heaven, almighty and eternal God, teach us to pause often during our active lives and recollect ourselves. Let us put away the problems of life and commune with You in prayer and meditation. St Ambrose Barlow, amidst your life of constant threat and charity to all, you renewed your courage and strength in silence. Pray for us that we may be inspired to turn to our God for strength, in this vale of tears. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with the Holy Spirit,God forever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 10 September – Tuesday of the Twenty third week in Ordinary Time, Year C
Come, O Holy Spirit By St Josemaria Escrivá (1902-1975)
Come, O Holy Spirit,
enlighten my understanding
to know Your commands,
strengthen my heart
against the wiles of the enemy,
inflame my will…
I have heard Your voice,
and I don’t want to
harden my heart to resisting,
by saying ‘later… tomorrow.’
Nunc coepi! Now!
Lest there be no tomorrow for me!
O, Spirit of truth and wisdom,
Spirit of understanding and counsel,
Spirit of joy and peace!
I want what You want,
I want it because You want it,
I want it as You want it,
I want it when You want it.
Saint of the Day – 10 September – Saint Ambrose Edward Barlow OSB (1585-1641) – Benedictine Priest, Monk and Martyr. Born in 1585 in Barlow Hall, England and died by being hanged, drawn, quartered and his body parts boiled in oil, on Friday 10 September 1641 at Lancaster, Lancashire, England. St Ambrose was 56 years old. Also known as Ambrose Brereton, Ambrose Radcliffe, Edward Ambrose Barlow. Additional Memorials – 25 October as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales and 29 October as one of the Martyrs of Douai.
Ambrose was born at Barlow Hall, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, near Manchester in 1585. He was the fourth son of the nobleman Sir Alexander Barlow and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Urian Brereton of Handforth Hall. The Barlow family had been reluctant converts to the Church of England following the suppression of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Ambrose’s grandfather died in 1584 whilst imprisoned for his beliefs and Sir Alexander Barlow had two thirds of his estate confiscated as a result of his refusing to conform with the rules of the new established religion. On 30 November 1585, Ambrose was baptised at Didsbury Chapel and his baptism entry reads “Edwarde legal sonne of Alex’ Barlowe gent’ 30.” Ambrose went on to adhere to the Anglican faith until 1607, when he converted to Roman Catholicism.
In 1597, Ambrose was taken into the stewardship of Sir Uryan Legh, a relative who would care for him whilst he served out his apprenticeship as a page. However, upon completing this service, Barlow realised that his true vocation was for the priesthood, so like the sons of many of the Lancashire Catholic gentry, Edward decided to travel to Douai where, since 1569, an English College created by William Allen had operated. This missionary college or seminary, working with neighbouring monasteries, was intended to provide university-style education to young men prior to them being sent to England to maintain and promote the Catholic faith. So he travelled to Douai in France to study before attending the Royal College of Saint Alban in Valladolid, Spain. In 1615, he returned to Douai where he became a member of the Order of Saint Benedict, joining the community of St Gregory the Great (now Downside Abbey) and was ordained as a priest in 1617.
The decision by Ambrose to take religious orders is summarised by Richard Challoner author of Memoirs of Missionary Priests: “As he grew up and considered the emptiness and vanity of the transitory toys of this life and the greatness of things eternal, he took a resolution to withdraw himself from the world and to go abroad, in order to procure those helps of virtue and learning, which might qualify him for the priesthood and enable him to be of some assistance to his native country.”
Well aware of the activities of English spies on the Continent looking for persons likely to return to England as priests, Edward operated under his mother’s maiden name, Brereton. Merely entering the country as a Catholic priest was treasonable and hazardous. Ports were dangerous and officials had descriptions from spies of those attempting to return to these shores. In Elizabeth I’s “Proclamation against Jesuits”, 1591 it was said:-
“And furthermore, because it is known and proved by common experience…that they do come into the same (realm) by secret creeks and landing places, disguised both in names and persons, some in apparel as soldiers, mariners or merchants, pretending that they have heretofore been taken prisoners and put into galleys and delivered. Some come as gentlemen with contrary names in comely apparel as though they had travelled to foreign countries for knowledge and generally all, for the most part, are clothed like gentlemen in apparel and many as gallants, yea in all colours and with feathers and such like, disguising themselves and many of them in their behaviour as ruffians, far off to be thought or suspected to be friars, priests, Jesuits or popish scholars.”
After his ordination into the priesthood, Ambrose returned to Barlow Hall, before taking up residence at the home of Sir Thomas Tyldesley, Morleys Hall, Astley. Sir Thomas’ grandmother had arranged for a pension to be made available to the priest which would enable him to carry out his priestly duties amongst the poor Catholics within his parish. From there he secretly catered for the needs of Catholic ‘parishioners’, offering daily Mass and reciting his Office and Rosary for the next twenty-four years. To avoid detection by the Protestant authorities, he devised a four-week routine in which he travelled throughout the parish for four weeks and then remained within the Hall for five weeks. He would often visit his cousins, the Downes, at their residence of Wardley Hall and conduct Mass for the gathered congregation.
Ambrose was arrested four times during his travels and released without charge. King Charles I signed a proclamation on 7 March 1641, which decreed that all priests should leave the country within one calendar month or face being arrested and treated as traitors, resulting in imprisonment or death. Ambrose’s parishioners implored him to flee or at least go into hiding but he refused. Their fears were compounded by a recent stroke which had resulted in the 56-year-old priest being partially paralysed. “Let them fear that have anything to lose which they are unwilling to part with”, he told them.
On 25 April 1641, Easter Day, Ambrose and his congregation of around 100 people were surrounded at Morleys Hall, Astley by the Vicar of Leigh and his armed congregation of some 400. Father Ambrose surrendered and his parishioners were released after their names had been recorded. The priest was restrained, then taken on a horse with a man behind him to prevent his fallin, and escorted by a band of sixty people to the Justice of the Peace at Winwick, before being transported to Lancaster Castle.
Father Ambrose appeared before the presiding judge, Sir Robert Heath, on 7 September when he professed his adherence to the Catholic faith and defended his actions. On 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of Mary, Sir Robert Heath found Ambrose guilty and sentenced him to be executed. Two days later, he was taken from Lancaster Castle, drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, hanged, dismembered, quartered and boiled in oil. His head was afterwards exposed on a pike. His cousin, Francis Downes, Lord of Wardley Hall, a devout Catholic rescued his skull and preserved it at Wardley where it remains to this day.
When the news of his death and martyrdom reached his Benedictine brothers at Douai Abbey, a Mass of Thanksgiving and the Te Deum were ordered to be sung.
On 15 December 1929, Pope Pius XI proclaimed Father Ambrose as Blessed at his Beatification ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica. In recognition of the large number of British Catholic martyrs who were executed during the Reformation, most during the reign of Elizabeth I, Pope Paul VI decreed that on 25 October 1970 he was Canonising a number of people who were to be known as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales of whom Ambrose was one.
Barlow’s biography from two manuscripts belonging to St Gregory’s Monastery, one of which was written by his brother Dom Rudesind Barlow, President of the English Benedictine Congregation. A third manuscript, titled “The Apostolical Life of Ambrose Barlow”, was written by one of his pupils for Dom Rudesind and is in the John Rylands Library, Manchester; it has been printed by the Chetham Society.
Several relics of Ambrose are also preserved, his jaw bone is held at the Church of St Ambrose of Milan, Barlow Moor, Manchester, one of his hands is preserved at Stanbrook Abbey now at Wass, North Yorkshire and another hand is at Mount Angel Abbey in St Benedict, Oregon. His skull is preserved on the stairwell at Wardley Hall in Worsley, at one time, the home of the Downes family and now the home of the Catholic Bishop of Salford.
Beata Vergine Maria della Vita/Our Lady of Life:
Celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as patroness of the Our Lady of Life Hospital in Bologna, Italy, and as depicted in a painting in a sanctuary dedicated to her c 1375 in the hospital.
Patronage – hospitals in the diocese of Bologna, Italy.
St Agapius of Novara
St Alexius Sanbashi Saburo St Ambrose Edward Barlow OSB (1585-1641) Martyr
St Peter Martinez
St Salvius of Albi
St Sosthenes of Chalcedon
St Theodard of Maastricht
St Victor of Chalcedon
Martyrs of Bithynia – 3 sister saints: Three young Christian sisters martyred in the persecutions of emperor Maximian and governor Fronto: Menodora, Metrodora, Nymphodora. They were martyred in 306 in Bithynia, Asia Minor (in modern Turkey).
Martyrs of Japan – 205 beati: A unified feast to memorialise 205 missionaries and native Japanese known to have been murdered for their faith between 1617 and 1637.
Martyrs of Sigum – 8 saints: A group of Nicomedian martyrs, condemned for their faith to be worked to death in the marble quarries of Sigum. There were priests, bishops and laity in the group but only a few names have come down to us: Dativus, Felix, Jader, Litteus, Lucius, Nemesian, Polyanus, Victor. They were worked to death c 257 in Sigum.
Martyred in the Spanish Civil War:
• Blessed Félix España Ortiz
• Blessed Leoncio Arce Urrutia
• Blessed Tomàs Cubells Miguel