Edmund Campion was an English Jesuit who was born in January 25, 1540, and was executed on December 1, 1581. He studied in St. John’s College in Oxford and became a close friend to Queen Elizabeth. Although born and raised a Catholic, Edmund Campion took the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging Queen Elizabeth as the head of the Church in England. Campion became an Anglican deacon, but he started to have doubts with his new allegiance and went to Ireland where he had an epiphany and returned to his Catholic spirit.
Unfortunately, he was forced to flee due to the persecution of Catholics by Queen Elizabeth. As an active Catholic advocate, he was constantly pursued and was captured (betrayed) in Lyford. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he was given the choice to either abandon his faith or die. He was tortured, hanged, and drawn and quartered on grounds of treason, although, he was actually executed for his priesthood.
In his speech at his trial, titled “I am a Catholic”, Campion expresses how his being a Catholic is not treason. The speech has very strong emotions conveyed by the deliverer in choosing to die as a Catholic, rather than abandoning his faith.
Edmund Campion became a martyr and a saint. His feast day is December 1.
I am a Catholic
How do I stand, between the Pope and the Queen? I hear the question a thousand times in my dreams, until it seems that my whole destiny is bound up in an answer to that question. I have appealed to reason, and on three different occasions, I have disputed publicly with scholars and clergymen. But little comes of it, save a few distorted notes for history books. You cannot reason with those who do not love reason.
In the tower of London, I hear rumors about Edmund Campion. Some say that he has deserted the Pope; some say that he has deserted the Church. The crown is very busy, while I am on the rack, being tormented. Sometimes I find it hard to pray. At times I seem to have no feeling, no memory, only an intention. The day for trial has come now, and I must try to rouse myself, it seems so useless. Trial? It is a trial in name only. Nonsense! Is a man a traitor to England because he hears idle chatter, and does not report it? If that were so, how many men in England would be innocent of treason? Every man on this jury, every man in this court, yea! Even the judges on the bench would be guilty. Only a deaf man would be free of guilt.
My Lords and Jury: Let me say without equivocation, that I have never encouraged, nor tolerated conspiracy against the Crown. I have said, and I do say, that the Queen errs in matters of faith. But is it treason in this land of ours to say that the Queen is mistaken? If so, then our lives belong to the headsman, for we do say that the Queen errs. But we say something else too. We say that we love England, as much as man can love a country without despising its God.
I stand here before you, a broken wreckage of a man. This trembling piece of clay that cowers at your feet, human brutes have battered to a bloody, senseless pulp. No part of it has not quivered under mailed fist or bludgeoning jack. These eyes that bore through you like a hunted beast’s have been drained of sleep for days on end. This body that scarce can stand upon its feet they have starved to skin and bones, till now it is a shadowy skeleton, groping blindly to its grave. Whatever fiendish torture the hounds of Hell could conjure, they have tried on me, till this flesh could endure no more, and there was only the razor’s edge between this life and the next.
They broke my body, Your Honor; they tried to break my soul. Into my weakened limbs they injected drugs that slithered through my brains and coiled around the stronghold of my will like a brood of poisonous snakes. Ten times ten thousand harrowing moments, the citadel was all but fallen; the gates of the castle all but flung open. Today, I stand here before you, as my torturers hope, a man with a broken soul.
Your Honor, my soul has not been crushed to shattered fragments. By the grace of God it has come out bloody, but unbowed. I have not denied my faith; I have not betrayed my King. The blood of a God-man which gushed out in a torrent of love down the Cross of Ignominy two thousand years ago has spanned the centuries and flowed into my veins, and filled me with a strength not my own. I crawled out of your torture chambers with a spark of life flickering in my soul. It is enough. I do not ask for more. So long as I can stand before the world – even for one glorious second, a living witness to Christ, I care not if my life-blood trickles away like sand in an hourglass.
I know I have not long to live. Only a few seconds of life are left to me. Already I can feel the death rattle creeping up my throat. But before I surrender my soul to God, I declare, before this travesty of a court of justice; before the ghosts of all the nameless martyrs you have killed; before these terrorized brow-beaten people who will one day fall crashing over your heads like a resounding clap of thunder; before men and angels; and the God you have exiled from your borders, out into the far limitless reaches of His creation, I declare, I AM A CATHOLIC! In this faith I have lived. In this faith I now die.