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December 1

St. Edmund Campion Dec 1

Saint Edmund Campion

Jesuit, Martyr

(1540 – 1581)

“I desire you all to bear witness with me that I am thereto altogether innocent. I am a Catholic man and a priest; in that Faith I have lived, and in that Faith do I intend to die. If you esteem my Religion treason, then I am guilty.

Saint Edmund Campion

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life 

Edmund was born in London, England, on January 24, 1540, to the son of Catholic bookseller. He was raised a Catholic and was educated at Christ’s Hospital at the expense of the Grocers’ Guild. At 15, he received a scholarship to Saint John’s College (Oxford), newly founded by Sir Thomas White. He was appointed a junior fellow when only 17, and gained the reputation of a great orator.

Speech to Queen Elizabeth I 

Edmund was chosen to speak at the reburial of Lady Amy Dudley (Robsart), at the funeral of Sir Thomas White, and he was chosen by the university to give the welcoming speech to Queen Elizabeth I,  when she visited Oxford in 1566.

His brilliance attracted the attention of such leading personages as the Earl of Leicester, Robert Cecil, and even Queen Elizabeth I. He took the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging Elizabeth head of the Church in England and became an Anglican deacon in 1564.


Doubts about Protestantism increasingly beset him, and at the end of his term as junior proctor of the university in 1569, he went to Dublin, Ireland, where he helped to found a university (later Trinity College). While there, he wrote a short history of Ireland and dedicated it to Leicester. Further study during his time in Ireland convinced him he had been in error, and he returned to Catholicism.

Returned to England Disguised

Forced to flee the persecution unleashed on Catholics by the excommunication of Elizabeth by Pope Pius V, he returned to England in disguise in 1571 and was present at the trial of Blessed John Storey in Westminster Hall. He quickly departed for Douai, the English college in France, but was stopped because he had no passport. He bribed the officials with his luggage and some money.

At Douai, Saint Edmund studied theology and was ordained a subdeacon before he went to Rome in 1573 to join the Jesuits. As there was no English province at the time, he was sent to Brno, Bohemia, the following year for his novitiate. He taught at the college in Prague and in 1578 was ordained there.

First Jesuit for English Mission

Pope Gregory XIII sent Jesuits to England. In 1579, Campion and Father Robert Persons were the first Jesuits chosen for the English mission. Edmund set out for Rome in 1580, visited Saint Charles Borromeo in Milan, and landed at Dover disguised as a jewel merchant.

The Brag

The Jesuits were not well received by English Catholics who feared they would cause trouble. In London, Edmund ministered to Catholic prisoners. He wrote a challenge to the Privy Council, which was prematurely published – his famous Brag (which he had written to present his case, if he was captured).

The Brag described his mission as one “of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reform sinners, to confute errors; in brief, to cry alarm spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many of my dear countrymen are abused.” The publication also made him the infamous object of one of the most intensive manhunts in English history.

As soon as their arrival was uncovered, Edmund left London for Berkshire, then Oxfordshire, and Northhamptonshire, where he made converts. After meeting Persons in London, where persecutions had heightened, he went to Lancashire, where he preached almost daily and very successfully.  Edmund was always one step ahead of spies, but barely escaped capture on several occasions.

It seems to have given Edmund some amusement when, disguised as Mr. Edmundes, he tumbled into a Shakespearean tavern scene: with a tankard on the table before him and his rapier across his knees he sat bewitching the whole company with his sparkling humor and his charm – which his fellow Catholics never tired of praising and his enemies could never curse sufficiently. The “seditious Jesuit” charmed all with whom he came into contact.

During this time he wrote a Latin treatise, Decem rationes, which listed ten reasons why he had challenged the most learned Protestants to discuss theology with him. The treatise was secretly printed on a press at the house of Dame Cecilia Stonor in Berkshire. On June 27, 1581, 400 copies of the publication were found distributed on the benches at Saint Mary’s University Church at Oxford. It raised a great sensation and attempts to capture him intensified.

Betrayed and Tortured

Edmund decided to retire to Norfolk. On the way he stayed at the house of Mrs. Yate at Lyford, and people gathered there to hear him preach. A traitor was among them. Campion was betrayed by a man named Eliot, who had just received communion from Campion’s hands, all the while appearing pious and devout, and within 12 hours the house was searched three times – Campion and two other priests were found hiding above a gateway.

He was taken to the Tower of London, bound, and labeled “Campion, the seditious Jesuit.” After he spent three days in the “little ease,” the Earls of Bedford and Leiscester tried to bribe him into recanting, without success. Other attempts failed as well, and he was racked.

While still weak from torture, he was confronted by Protestant dignitaries four times. He answered them eloquently. He was racked again, this time so painfully that when he was asked the following day how he felt, he responded, “Not ill, because not at all.”

On November 14, Edmund Campion was indicted in Westminster Hall with Ralph Sherwin, Thomas Cottam, Luke Kirby, and others (including Fathers Hanse, Lacy, Kirkman), on the trumped up charge of having plotted to raise a rebellion in England and formed a conspiracy against the life of Queen Elizabeth I. Most of these priests have never seen one another until they met in court. But false witnesses, who were a special feature of the time, came forward as usual. When asked to plead the charge, Campion was too weak to move his arms; one of his companions kissed his hand and held it up for him.

Quilty of Being A Priest

Edmund defended himself and the others brilliantly, protesting their loyalty to the queen, blasting the evidence, raising doubts about the witnesses, and establishing clearly that their only crime was their faith. Although the packed jury found them guilty, it took them an hour to come to that decision. The priests and others were condemned to death for having “seduced the Queen’s subjects to disobedience.” The Act of 1585 made it high treason to have been ordained priest by a Catholic bishop, and simple treason to have housed or abetted a priest.

When he was condemned, Edmund said, “In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors, all the ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England. . . . Posterity’s judgment is not liable to corruption as that of those who are now going to sentence us to death.”

One of Forty Martyrs

On December 1, Campion was taken to Tyburn to undergo the penalty for high treason in England: hanging – but with the added torture that the victim was cut down while still alive, castrated, disembowelled, his heart torn out and burnt together with his entrails. The body was quartered and the pieces were dipped in boiling pitch to preserve them; after that the head and quarters were set up on poles in suitable positions near the place of execution, as a warning to sympathizers. Some of Edmund’s blood splashed on the young Henry Walpole who would also become a Jesuit and be canonized with Edmund as one of the Forty Martyrs.

Beatified:            December 9, 1886 by Pope Leo XIII

Canonized:         October 25, 1970 by Pope Paul VI

Feast Day:          December 1

Patron Saint:     United Kingdom



Saint Edmund Campion shows us that he sacrificed his innocent life propagating the faith. Most likely, we will not be put in a situation where we will become martyrs like Saint Edmund. However, every day we have endless opportunities to propagate our faith in what we say and what do to everyone we encounter at work, at play and at home.

What will you say and do today to propogate your faith?


“I have made a free oblation of myself
to your Divine Majesty,
both of life and of death,
and I hope that
you will give me
grace and force to perform.
This is all I desire. Amen.”
-St. Edmund Campion

Source: ALL SAINTS: ⛪ Saint Edmund Campion – Priest and Martyr (

Saint Links 

Aleteia – 40 English martyrs you may not know

Anastpaul – Saint of the Day – 1 December

Angelus News – Saint of the day: St St. Edmund Campion

Catholic Exchange – St. Edmund Campion and Our Vocation to Holy Artifice

Catholic Fire – St. Edmund Campion: “the Pope’s Champion”

Catholic Ireland – Dec 1 – St Edmund Campion (1540-81) Jesuit priest, Martyr

Catholic News Agency – Saints of the Day – Saint Edmund Campion

Independent Catholic News – St. Edmund Campion

New Advent – St Edmund Campion from Catholic Encyclopedia

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Edmund Campion (1540-1581)

uCatholic – Saint Edmund Campion

Wikipedia – St Edmund Campion

Video Link

St. Edmund Campion – YouTube (Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA)