Blessed Roger Dicconson, Blessed Ralph Milner, and Blessed Lawrence Humphrey (died 1591). Each of these holy men faced persecution and death without fear, confident in the Lord, ready to die for our faith. Their lives and deaths remind us of the importance of our beliefs, and their sacrifice inspires us to live more confidently in the Lord.
The Catholic Church was persecuted in England for quite some time, particularly under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. I have previously written about Blessed Edward Jones and Anthony Middleton, Saint Margaret Clitherow, Saint Nicholas Owen, and Saints Thomas More and John Fisher. Earlier this week, we also celebrated the feast day of eight English Martyrs. The three holy men we remember today join the ranks of over 40 martyrs who gave their lives for the faith in England.
Ralph Milner met Father Dicconson after he was imprisoned for being Catholic. Ralph had grown up in Flacstead, Hampshire, and tended a family farm there. He was married, and he and his wife had raised eight children in the Protestant faith. Ralph’s neighbors, who were Catholic, inspired him to convert through their goodness and charity, and along with his entire family, he received instruction and welcome into the Church. The very day that he received his first Holy Eucharist, he was arrested and imprisoned. By all accounts a cheerful and well behaved man, the guards of the prison took to Ralph instantly. Rather than leave him locked up, they offered him frequent passes out of prison to buy supplies, food, and perform simple tasks. One of his tasks—unbeknownst to the guards—was to tend to the spiritual needs of the other Catholic prisoners by bringing them undercover priests, such as Father Dicconson.
"All you have to do," the judge declared, "is pay a to a Protestant church, just for a few minutes, to say you have been there. I'll let you go free to be with your family." Without hesitation, Ralph quietly and firmly refused, proclaiming he would rather die for his faith, and refusing "to embrace a counsel so disagreeable to the maxims of the Gospel." Despite every effort by the judge and the guards who had come to like him, Ralph was unshaken in his resolution. After giving his children his last blessing, he declared that "he could wish them no greater happiness than to die for the like cause.” Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened: Ralph Milner, Lawrence Humphrey, and Father Dicconson were hung, drawn, and quartered on July 7, 1591.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."