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The Ransomer

A Third Spring?

Are there new and innovative ways of spreading the Gospel?

By

Mgr John Armitage

March 16, 2022

When this magazine was first launched in 1891 it was published under the name ‘Faith of our Fathers.’ The magazine ran under this masthead until 1902 when it changed its name to ‘Second Spring,’ referring to St John Henry Newman’s sermon to the newly re-established episcopal hierarchy of England and Wales. By 1931 the third stage of this magazine’s history was reached, and its’ name was changed to ‘The Ransomer.’ The last issue was published in 2009.

This magazine is now entering its fourth phase, still under the same name. Known by three names, it has consistently provided the same type of content. Initially, a monthly and at times a quarterly publication, the magazine provided a definition of its purpose, as ‘devoted to the cause – past, present, and future – of the Catholic faith in England and Wales.’

The magazine sought to re-establish a Catholic identity in a re-emerging Church after the restoration of the episcopal hierarchy. As the aim of the guild is threefold – the conversion of England and Wales, welcoming back the lapsed, and prayer for forgotten dead – it has roots in charitable ends. The history of praying for the forgotten dead goes back to the tradition of the chantry chapels that were destroyed during the Reformation.

The principal work of the guild was to support poor or emerging parishes, which would often be in remote or poorer areas. Through these means, the guild aimed to show that Catholicism is not a foreign religion, which it was often accused of being, ather, that it is is deeply rooted in English history. One can’t understand English history unless one understands the Catholic Faith. The heart of England is the Faith of its fathers. Laws and customs of the realm are based on this Catholic reality and the life of the Church in the country.

Finding ourselves amidst an era of confusion and identity crises of various kinds, we endeavour both to understand the state of the world and to showcase the work of the guild in support of the New Evangelisation. Along with this, we seek to return confidence in our Catholic identity and the faith’s connection to England, Wales, and its people.

The world in which The Ransomer was originally started is a different world to the one we face today. Just as The Ransomer faced the challenges of the past we must do the same today, while recognising that although these are challenging times, the Church always flourishes when challenged. The guild promotes the witness of martyrs who confront the difficult times in which they live. As an old saying goes, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’ In other words, we flourish through sacrifice. This is not always conventional bloodstained martyrdom, as there may exist a martyrdom of merely being present and feeling the difficulty of the age, while witnessing to the Gospel.

One of the main challenges of our age is that of bringing the good news to people who have lost the understanding of God in their life. We no longer speak to a religious country and for many people a religious grammar no longer exists. This follows a classical pattern: St Augustine of Canterbury was sent to speak to a pagan nation in the ‘first spring’: we are back there today, with many people lacking any knowledge of God.

The ‘second spring’ came with Newman’s famous sermon, providing a new impetus and renewed energy in the life of the Church in England and Wales. This is the meaning of the ‘new evangelisation,’ whereby we seek to understand how to speak the words of the Gospel to the people of today. While bad news abounds, this online magazine seeks to look to the good things that we can take encouragement, hope and inspiration from.

As St John Henry Newman said, ‘according to our need, so shall be our strength.’ Given that the need is great at the moment, our strength will be greater.

Since the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850, the Church on these isles has always punched above its weight. We hear of the remarkable work done in parishes and through private initiatives. The charitable work of the Church is in many ways a source of righteous pride, as it springs from a source of love. The work is often done quietly, and sometimes passes by unnoticed. We aim to bring this work to the fore, and to help the faithful to see the work done around the country, thereby allowing us to be grateful for the work being carried out.

The question we ask the reader is this: are there signs of a ‘third spring? We believe each generation is called to step up to the mark and accept the challenge of the Gospel. Recognising this, we must ask ourselves if we can see a third spring amidst the Church. Are there new and innovative ways of spreading the Gospel? Are there examples of the witness of ordinary people doing extraordinary things? Without a sense of religion in their lives, we see that many people can’t find meaning in their lives - how do we reach these people?

The Gospel provides us with true freedom, and it is through a joint effort –  which we welcome the reader to embark on – that we can identify signs of a third spring. 

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