Friday, March 23, 2012

Blessed Edmund Sykes, Martyr at York

Today, another martyr in York during the reign of Elizabeth I: Blessed Edmund Sykes's story demonstrates both weakness and renewed strength, as he briefly lapsed while ill and in prison:

Born at Leeds; martyred at York Tyburn 23 March, 1586-7; was a student at the College at Reims where he was ordained 21 Feb., 1581, and sent to the English Mission on 5 June following. He laboured in his native Yorkshire with such zeal and sacrifice, that his strength failed. Arthur Webster, an apostate, took advantage of his illness to betray him, and he was committed to the York Kidcot by the Council of the North. In his weakness he consented to be present at the heretical service but he refused to repeat the act and remained a prisoner. After confinement for about six months, he was again brought before the Council and sentenced to banishment. On 23 Aug., 1585, he was transferred to the Castle of Kingston-upon-Hull, and within a week shipped beyond the seas. He made his way to Rome, where he was entertained at the English College for nine days from 15 April, 1586, his purpose being to atone for his lapse by the pilgrimage, and he also entertained some thoughts of entering religion. There he understood that it was God's will that he should return to the English mission, and reaching Reims on 10 June, he left again for England on 16. After about six months he was betrayed by his brother, to whose house in Wath he had resorted, and was sent a close prisoner to York Castle by the Council. He was arraigned at the Lent Assizes, condemned as a traitor on the score of his priesthood, and on 23 March, 1586-7 was drawn on the hurdle from the castle yard to York Tyburn, where he suffered the death penalty. [My emphasis: why did his brother betray him? Opposition to Catholicism? Fear for his own life and his family's well-being?]

A parish is dedicated to him at Leeds, although the website does not indicate any shrine to the martyr. The Diocese of Leeds announced ten amalgamated parishes in June of 2010, I suppose reflecting either a priest shortage or population shifts. Please note that one of the parishes has been dedicated to Blessed John Henry Newman (might be the first?).

Blessed Edmund Sykes is among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales.

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