Edmund Campion, the patron saint of our school, was a man who decided that his membership of the Catholic Church was more important than his own life. He was executed at a time in history when Catholic priests were thought of as being enemy agents of a foreign goverment by the English Queen, Elizabeth I and her goverment ministers. Let's now go back to the start of his life story to see what events led up to his martyr's death.
Although as a baby he had been baptised a Catholic, when at Oxford he was encouraged to be a minister in the Protestant Church of England but almost immediately he began to think he had done wrong.
In 1569 he left England for Dublin in Ireland where he spent two years. For part of the time, he tried to make up his mind whether he should be Catholic or Protestant. Having finally decided that his future lay in being a Catholic, he returned to England in disguise because in the eyes of the goverment his loyalty was now suspect and, before long, crossed the Channel to France where he officially rejoined the Catholic Church and studied to be a priest. On becoming a deacon in 1573, he travelled to Rome to join the Jesuit Order who sent him to Prague where he was finally ordained a priest in 1578.
Next year, the Jesuits decided to send a mission to Protestant England in order to help those people there trying to preserve the Catholic faith. Edmund was chosen along with a priest called Robert Parsons to start this mission. He arrived back in England in 1580 travelling the country in disguise and saying Mass in the homes of Catholics. He attracted the hostility of the goverment by publishing a booklet which challenged Protestants to debate religion with him. The authorities were determined to silence him.
Shortly afterwards, in July 1581, Edmund said Mass at Lyford in Berkshire. Someone told the authorities about this and he was captured. For weeks, pressure was put on him to give up his Catholic faith. High ranking goverment figures tried friendly persuasion, Protestant ministers insulted his beliefs and, worst of all, he was tortured on the rack. None of this worked.
Finally, he was tried in court on a charge of High Treason. It was said that he was leading a plot to overthrow the Queen. Despite there being no true evidence against him he, along with a number of other Catholics, was found guilty and sentenced to death.
On 1st December 1581 he was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in London. Before he died, Edmund prayed for Queen Elizabeth that she might have a long reign. He wanted to prove to everyone that it was possible to be both loyal to the Queen and the Catholic Church - something we take for granted in today's world.