A few years ago I was present at Mass at Padley Chapel. It was a very special occasion. IT WAS 400 HUNDRED YEARS SINCE THE MARTYRS WERE CAPTURED AND GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THE FAITH.
400 years since the Fitzherbert family had 2 priests staying at their home, Padley Hall. 400 years since their lives were shattered, the head of the household imprisoned for his faith, and the 2 priests captured and taken to Derby jail to be cruelly put to death.
The rest of the family, the women, children, servants, aunts and uncles must have thought the end of the world had arrived. They must have had to leave their home and flee, no one knows where. The ‘old religion’ Catholicism could no longer to be openly practised, the Mass was banned as were the Sacraments. A thousand years of belief and the practise of Faith – overturned……seemingly…GONE.
AND YET….I sat in that chapel at Padley with my family….wives, husbands, children, friends, a priest in the family. An ordinary gathering waiting to celebrate Mass, just as the Fitzherbert family and their household must have sat in the chapel above waiting to celebrate Mass. A cat wandered in. It was peaceful and quiet, expectant. The old chapel with its hammer beam roof and the angels looked down on us and it did on them!. The priest puts on his red and gold vestments. We stand and Mass begins.
It must have been just like this 400 years ago. Priest and people worshipping God in this ancient and holy place.
After the Martyrs were arrested the Altar stone was buried so that it couldn’t be desecrated by the priest hunters. It lay buried upside down for many years. An archeological dig in the 1933’s unearthed it! My grandfather was one of first group of people to go over from Hathersage to look at it and celebrate its find. It was put back in its original position, and today Mass is said there on the original altar stone that the Martyrs used. My grandparents kept the Faith and it was passed on to me by my mother. I, in turn took my children to Padley and many other families do the same thing.
It must have seemed 400 years ago that the end of the Catholic Faith had come and yet, thanks be to God and to those brave people who kept the Faith it has been, by the grace of God, passed on to us.
Let us thank God for those brave faithful people and pray to God to keep us faithful too. Blessed Padley Martyrs…pray for us. Amen.
EAM, July 2013