I want to briefly tell you all a little bit of the story of nineteen great saints and how we celebrated on July 9th in our dioceses, Rotterdam.
Gorcum – Brielle 1572
The protestant reformation was in full-swing. The cruelty reigned against those who believed and professed publicly Jesus´ true, real and substantial presence in the Eucharist. Nineteen martyrs gave their lives defending and confessing the three white things, principally the Eucharist and the Primacy of the Supreme Pontiff.
They were four diocesan priests, one Augustinian, one Dominican friar, two Norbertine canon regulars and eleven Franciscans friars. Of the nineteen martyrs, seventeen were priests. Some were younger, some older, and from all different parts of Holland. On different days, they were brought as prisoners to Brielle, and there they were made to partake in a profane procession where they were mistreated as they were made to walk naked “in procession”. On the night of July 8th to the 9th, they were hanged in the back part of the land, where the tools to work in the field were kept.
The profanations didn´t stop after their death, as their cadavers were cut into many pieces in order to mock them. They buried the martyrs in the same place, but after some time, in order not to lose the remains of these great men, they were exhumed and brought to Belgium for protection. After many years, they were recovered, and various relics are conserved in an urn in the Basilica of the Martyrs of Gorcum, in Brielle.
The Feast of July 9th
These great examples of faithfulness and fortitude have their proper feast on July 9th and because it has become a national pilgrimage, the feast is celebrated every year on the second Saturday of July. On this Saturday, pilgrims from many parts of Holland arrived in bicycle or other means of transportation in order to participate in the solemn Mass, which was presided by Bishop van den Hende and concelebrated by various priests. On this occasion, the bishop opened another “Holy Door” of the Year of Mercy, to give everyone the possibility to take advantage of the benefits of the Holy Year.
After lunch, there was a special activity for the youth with the Bishop, while the adults prayed the Rosary and the Way of the Cross. We prayed vespers together and ended the day with a Eucharistic Procession around the cloister which is behind the Basilica and guards the exact place where these nineteen saints were martyred. Nineteen youth preceded the Blessed Sacrament, each one carrying a standard with the embroidered name and image of one of the martyrs.
In this time of so much apostasy, especially in this country, the witness of so many pilgrims gathered together to celebrate these Dutch saints was of great value and infinite joy. Let us ask God, through the intercession of these martyrs, that the love for the Three White Things may grow, and that there may be, as in those times, souls who are prepared to give testimony – before the world and until death – of the Love of God.
Sr. Mirakel van Amsterdam, SSVM