Saint Anne Line Feast Day: February 27 Friend of Priests

by Catherine Fournier

St Anne Line
Young Families

Saint Anne Line lived in 16th century England. She and her brother were born into a strongly Protestant family in Essex. It was against the law in England at that time to be Catholic. You could go to jail, be thrown out of the country, or be executed for being Catholic. It was considered a form of treason, of attacking the government.

When Saint Anne and her brother converted to Catholicism, their father disowned them. Saint Anne married Roger Line, another convert to Catholicism, but they weren't together for very long. Roger was arrested as a Catholic, and found guilty. He choose to leave the country, to be exiled, even though he had to leave Anne behind.

Roger went to Flanders, a part of France. He became ill soon after and died. Now Anne was all alone. She wasn't really alone, she still had Jesus. She decided to do whatever God wanted her to do. So she set to work helping her fellow Catholics.

She ran homes for wandering priests, and homeless Catholics, who had had their homes and businesses taken away from them. She cooked and cleaned and arranged places for people to stay, and found places for priests to say Mass.

All the time, she had to be careful that no-one found out about the houses she was running. Time after time, she would have to move to avoid being caught by the authorities, who would arrest her and anyone else suspected of being Catholic.

Eventually though, she was caught. When a group of people gathered to hear Mass on Candlemas Day, the neighbours noticed and called the authorities. Soldiers came and broke down the doors. The priest escaped, but Saint Anne and others were arrested. Becuase she had an altar in her house, Saint Anne was found guilty of being a Catholic.

Bravely, she didn't deny it. She said she only wished she could have helped more priests before she was caught. Saint Anne was executed on February 27, still brave and still faithful to Our Lord.

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Practiced Families

It wasn't only in Roman times that Catholics were persecuted. There have been many times in history when Catholics have been persecuted for their faith. In some parts of the world, it is happening today.

In England between the years of 1570 to 1791, it was against the law to be Catholic. Everyone was required by law to attend protestant services of the Church of England, and if you didn't go, you were charged with 'recusancy.' This word means disobedience to the lawful state authority. Being Catholic, or not attending the Church of England services was an act of treason against the government.

Saint Anne Line was the daughter of a strongly protestant man. When she and her brother both converted to Catholicism, they were thrown out of their house and disowned. Saint Anne married another convert named Roger Line.

Roger was arrested soon after their marriage and charged with recusancy. When found guilty, he choose to be exiled to Flanders. Saint Anne remained in England. Within months of arriving in Flanders, Roger became ill and died.

Now Anne was alone. She began to work to help her fellow Catholics, who were being persecuted by the Anglican church and government. Their lands and businesses were confiscated, their homes were taken from them, they were frequently beaten, or imprisoned, they had no where to go. First Saint Anne went to the town of Braddox to help run a house there, but when the founder of the house, a Mrs. Wiseman was arrested and later executed for her activities, Saint Anne had to leave.

She went to London to a house founded by a Jesuit priest, a Father Gerard. Father Gerard was also arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. When he escaped, he cast suspicion on Saint Anne, and she had to leave this house as well. House after house was founded and discovered, until finally on Candlemas Day, she and a number of associates were arrested.

A number of Catholics assembled at a house to hear Mass. The neighbours noticed the numbers of people and notified the authorities, who broke into the house and narrowly missed arresting the priest, who hid just as they broke down the door. The soldiers searched the house and found the accoutrements of Mass. They arrested the inhabitants of the house.

Saint Anne was imprisoned in the dreaded Newgate prison, but remained firm in her faith. When asked at her trial, how she plead, she answered, "My lords, nothing grieves me more but that I could not receive a thousand more (priests)..."

Saint Anne was executed on February 27, along with her confessor and another Benedictine priest, the first to be executed since all Benedictine lands and holdings were seized by the government. She knelt in prayer while being led to her execution, and was received into Heaven.

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Experienced Families

Persecution of Christians and Catholics is not confined in history to the Roman period. There have been persecutions and discriminations all throughout history. In many parts of the world today, Christians and Catholics are being murdered for their faith. In some instances, it is because they speak out aginst the existing regime or ruler, in other cases, they are massacred simply because they are Christians.

From 1570 to 1791 all Roman Catholic were compelled by the state/crown of England to attend the protestant services of the Church of England. If they did not they were charged with 'recusancy' which usually led to imprisonment, exile or death -the word comes from an act of disobeying the lawful/state authority

Saint Anne was the daughter of a very strongly protestant Essex man named William Heigham. He disowned his son and daughter when they joined the Catholic Church. At age nineteen she married another convert, named Roger Line.

The young couple was soon separated when Roger was arrested for recusancy. Roger chose exile and travelled abroad to Flanders. Anne remained in England. Roger died soon after, in 1594.

With her husband's death, Anne had no-one left dependant upon her, and could follow God's calling. Though ill herself, she began to care for her fellow Catholics being abused by the Anglican Church and Parliment. She went first to the city of Braddox to the house of a Mrs. Wiseman, but Mrs. Wiseman was captured and put to death for aiding priests. Saint Anne then travelled to London. There she managed a house as a haven and safe house for priests. The founder of the house, a Fr. Gerard was imprisoned in the Tower of London. When he escaped and returned to his house, he cast suspicion upon Saint Anne.

She was forced to flee and hide. When she founded a new house it was discovered as well. A third house was established to shelter priests and other Catholics. A large number of Catholics assembled on Candlemas Day (Feb 2nd) for Mass. The gathering was noticed by the neighbours, who notified the authorities about the house.

A priest, a Fr Francis Page SJ, had just vested for Mass when the soldiers attempted to break in. He hid as they broke through the doors. Though he escaped, the vessels and arrangements for Mass were found. Those remaining were obviously guilty andwere arrested, Saint Anne among them.

She was brought before the lord chief justice at Old Bailey to be tried. When asked what her plea would be, she retorted, "My lords, nothing grieves me more but that I could not receive a thousand more (priests)..." Saint Anne Line was eventually convicted of recusancy. The sole evidence was having an altar in the house. Shewas imprisoned in Newgate prison but remained unmoved and unbroken by her imprisonment, Even when brought to the gallows she knelt in prayer.

With Saint Anne Line that day were Father Roger Filcock SJ, her confessor, and Bd. Father Mark Barkworth. Saint Anne Line is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, crowned in glory by suffering and dying for Christ and His Faith.

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A prayer from the Syrian-Clementine Mass:

God, Who art the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessings and the bestower of affection, Who sendest peace to those that recieve it; open to us this day the sea of Thy love, and water us with plenteous streams from the riches of Thy grace. Make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace. Enkindle in us the fire of Thy love; strengthen our weakness by Thy power; bind us closely to Thee and to each other in one firm and indissoluble bond of unity. Amen.
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