Today we honour the memory and the witness of the only English Dominican Martyr Blessed Robert Nutter. He prepared for the priesthood at the English College in Rheims and was ordained in 1581 and immediately returned to England with Blessed George Haydock in order to minister to persecuted Catholics in this country. Blessed Robert was arrested, imprisoned and tortured in the Tower of London for two years and then exiled for the crime of being a Catholic priest. Within a few months he returned to England and was arrested again and spent a further fifteen years in prison. The Dominican Provincial of Portugal received Blessed Robert into the Dominican Order during this time. Blessed Robert managed to escape from prison but was re-captured, tortured and hanged with Blessed Edward Thwing on this day in 1600. Blessed Robert is counted among the 85 Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales, and on this his feast, we implore his intercession and protection for the Church in this country, that we may all remain true to the Faith for which Blessed Robert gave his life.
We may not be called upon to sacrifice our lives like Christ and his martyrs but we are all called upon to sacrifice something of ourselves to the Church. May the feast we celebrate today inspire us to put our Faith into practice in a practical way to benefit the Church, the world and our own salvation.
Blessed Robert Nutter, pray for us.
When I’ve finished my loaf of Tesco’s finest, I’ll sometimes bake a loaf in my bread-making machine, which has a small window in the lid so that I can view the process. Bread dough goes through some remarkable stages as it mixes with yeast. At first, the lump of raw, gooey flour and water looks quite lifeless. But given the right conditions, this lump lifts itself up, expanding until it is ready to be baked. And then, in the baking process, it rises even more, until it has reached a perfect combination of crust and soft, airy bread inside.
Our Lord used this familiar process to describe how God reveals himself. Just as bread begins as a lifeless lump, it can be said that we are lifeless before our baptism. It’s as we receive the Holy Spirit that we begin to rise, sometimes imperceptibly, and we begin to undergo a process of transformation. The Holy Spirit, like yeast in dough, expands our hearts so that we can receive the good news of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit enlivens our prayer and Scripture reading, so that we learn how to live as children of God. The Holy Spirit inspires acts of faith and obedience, so that we can accelerate the process.
But how can we tell that the Holy Spirit is at work within us? Well, by checking our hearts. The clearest sign of his presence comes when we begin to appreciate our status as adopted children of God; when we are no longer simply following a list of commandments and laws but responding in love to the God who loves us. We can tell when we begin to look at our community as the place where we can grow closer to God, and not the place where we seek to achieve our own selfish ambitions.
This is why we should regularly check that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. Even trials and sufferings can lead to growth as we submit to the Holy Spirit. There may be areas in our lives where we still feel like a gooey mass of raw dough; but through prayer and trust the ‘yeast’ of the Holy Spirit will continue to do its work to transform us.