Today is also the Optional Memoria of three women martyrs of the Reformation: Saints Margaret Clitherow, from York; Anne Line, from Dunmow in Essex; and Margaret Ward, from Congleton in Cheshire. They were among many others who sheltered priests, or helped them to escape from prison. Pope St Paul VI canonised these three among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970.

During his canonisation homily for the Forty Martyrs, Pope Paul said: ‘Faced with the choice of remaining steadfast in their faith and of dying for it, or of saving their lives by denying that faith, without a moment’s hesitation and with a truly supernatural strength they stood for God and joyfully confronted martyrdom. At the same time such was the greatness of their spirit that many of them died with prayers on their lips for the country they loved so much, for the King or Queen, and not least for those directly responsible for their capture, their sufferings, and the degradation and ignominy of their cruel deaths’.

May they pray for us in our own witness, and may God bless you this day.