January 7, 2011
A number of the American Founding Fathers came
from colonies developed in response to religious oppression. Thomas
Jefferson wisely thought that the separation of Church and State would be
advantageous to the young nation. For several hundred years, this idea has
been a basic tenet of American society.
Recent court decisions in the United States have
challenged Jefferson’s sage understanding. When the civil society begins to
force believers to accept certain moral and religious dictates, a
persecution begins. Usually the State attacks the Church to compel the
faithful to follow certain secular ideas. Normally these persecutions attack
the Church’s religious beliefs and punish anyone refusing compliance with
the State’s convoluted principles.
While savage attacks on the Church happened during
Roman times, a particularly vicious attack on the Catholic Church occurred
during the reign of the English queen, Elizabeth I. In this masterful book,
Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson recounts the dreadful persecutions of the
Elizabethan period, and the heroic resistance of the English martyrs.
Robin Audrey, a young English nobleman, rides
through a meadow thinking of a beautiful young woman named Margorie Manners.
The day is scenic and his heart burns with affection for the charming Miss
Manners. When they meet it is evident that Margorie is equally in love with
the young nobleman. Soon they begin talking about marriage. Robin then
reveals to the young woman that his father has decided to become a
Protestant to escape paying the dreadful fines the Crown has imposed on
Catholics. Sir Audrey has no interest in Anglicanism but fears that Queen
Elizabeth will bankrupt him with fines and take over his estates.
This places his son in a terrible dilemma. If he
obeys his heart he cannot become a Protestant, but if he remains a Catholic
he will have to disobey his father. Robin’s devotion to Catholicism is
evident to Margorie as she watches him struggle with this painful decision.
Robin’s love of the Faith is so strong that Margorie begins to wonder if he
has a vocation to the priesthood. The young woman finally asks Robin if he
is being called to the priesthood. Looking deep into his heart, Robin
realizes that he is being called to Holy Orders. In a heartbreaking scene,
both he and Margorie accept his decision to enter the seminary. Since all
English priests and seminarians are subject to execution, Robin must flee
England as well. With a heart that has just been broken and is being healed,
Robin escapes to France to begin his priestly studies.
Years later he returns to England as a Catholic
priest. Soon Queen Elizabeth’s priest-catchers and torturers are chasing him
down. As he desperately evades them, he turns to faithful Catholics to
shelter him. In an act of heroic love, Marjorie hides the hunted cleric as
her house is searched by Elizabeth’s malevolent henchman.
What happens to Robin? Is he caught and tortured?
Is Marjorie’s love for the Faith and for Robin the cause of her arrest?
Would you shelter a hunted priest? What gives anyone the strength to
persevere in the face of such evil? To find out, read this excellent book, "Come
Rack! Come Rope! by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson."
Msgr. Benson is an outstanding writer and clearly understands the
religious revolutions of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This is a moving love
story of two dedicated young people surrendering their lives to Our Lord.
The novel has been reprinted many times and is easily available through the
Internet or at Catholic bookstores. I hope you get the opportunity to read
this superb story of human love, the transforming qualities of sacrificial
grace, and the cost of discipleship.