This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6 -- Feast of Blessed Thomas Alfield

aka Thomas Aufield, Thomas Alphilde, Thomas Hawfield, Thomas Offeldus, Thomas Badger

The only alias that made any sense
Hint:  If you're on the lam and using an alias, why not change the first as well as the last name?  And while you're at it, make a change that doesn't really sound like your real name. Badger works, but what was he thinking when he took the others?

Blessed Thomas Alfield was yet another of the Douai-trained priests who returned to England to keep Catholicism alive during the reign of Elizabeth I.  If this is unfamiliar, read the next paragraph, headed by the word Background.  If this is familiar, jump to the subsequent paragraph, entitled The Spirit Was Willing.

Definitely not a saint
Background:  Her Majesty Elizabeth Regina Prima, second daughter and third successor to Fat Hank (OchoHenro, Henry8), restored the Church of England that her old dad had founded and her big sister Maria Regina had outlawed.  Fat Hank killed a lot of folks who refused to recognize him as the head of the Church.  I don't know if Little Eddie (Hank's son and first successor) killed anybody, but he kept a head of steam on the Protestant Reformation in England.  Of course he died before his sixteenth birthday, and his attempts to keep his sisters off the throne were miserable failures.  First came Queen Mary, who restored Catholicism as the official religion with the same murderous vigor that her dad had imposed Anglicanism.  When she did, Elizabeth donned the crown and killed bushels of Mary's folks.  Having lost great swaths of European territory to the Protestant Reformation, Catholics decided that they needed to do something more than repress if they wanted to hang on to what they had left.  Jesuits went forth to make arguments for the faith rather than to torture and execute. Good works came back in fashion.  And Dr. William Allen, a British ex-pat, set up a college to train Catholic priests at the new University of Douai (in Spanish-occupied France), an institution established to counter the Reformation.  Lots of English Catholic ex-pats went there to become priests so they could return to Britain, administer sacraments, hide in walls, die in the Tower of London, and be acknowledged here on hagiomajor.  Thomas Alfield was among them.

The Spirit Was Willing... Even before he went to Douai, Blessed Thomas had already been forced into hiding and then out of the country for spreading dangerously Catholic notions.  He studied at Douai for a while, but then finished his studies and was ordained at Reims.  Not long after he got to Douai, HRH Elizabeth exploited French nationalist resentment of Spanish-occupiers by allying with them against the Spanish-sponsored Douai College.  English assassins were trying to get at the College's founder, Dr. William Allen, while townsfolk were turning up the heat on the students and faculty.  But Reims welcomed the school, Thomas was duly ordained, and he returned to England to preach until he got busted.

Cardinal Doctor William Allen, also not a saint
The Tower of London was a tough place to hold out, and to their credit, the English much preferred submission to execution.  Blessed Thomas hung on (probably hung on the wall, soiled and starving) for a while but eventually he renounced his Catholicism.  Released, bathed, and fed, he regretted his apostasy.  He returned to Reims, where Dr. Allen welcomed his repentance and encouraged him to return to England with bundles of pamphlets printed by the Douai Press.  Y'all may know the Douai Press for its version of the Bible, but it also printed many tracts arguing against the Church of England and for English Catholics.  The particular tract that Blessed Thomas was busted with was "A True, Sincere, and Modest Defense of English Catholics."  Actually, that's a shortened title, but it'll do.  It was a response to the anonymously published attack on English Catholics written by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer and principal minister to HRH Elizabeth.

The second time they busted Blessed Thomas, they sent him to Newgate.  They weren't trying as hard for the apostasy since it didn't take root the first time.  Oddly, he was pardoned, but the pardon came just after his long drop on a short rope.

Here's a quick thought to close on.  Dr. William Allen moved to Douai and founded a college to train martyrs.  That's a little callous, but it is what he was doing.  When Douai got hot, he retreated to Reims.  He also founded a sister school in Rome for the same purpose and wrote lots of pamphlets extolling the cause of Faith.  Eventually, he made cardinal while folks like Thomas got hot iron and stout rope.  I guess that's why Thomas is Blessed and William is just cardinal.

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