When we look back on our lives, whether we have lived long ones or short ones, it is fair to say that it usually is easy to identify moments that stand out because they were true turning points. We had been headed in on direction and then we made a choice and started heading in another direction. And we simply cannot imagine what our lives would have been like if we had not made that choice and stayed with it.
What about laypeople? Well, of course, we make important turning point decisions, as well. They might be about education, jobs, and relationships. Like a priest, we might also be called to a vocation, and we might answer God's call to be married. Through this wonderful sacrament, we have the opportunity to become saints, to help our spouses become saints, and to raise children who become saints. God, in His wisdom, has created the domestic church as a means for sanctification for everyone in the family. Unlike priests, we minister to people we see on a daily basis and can get to know them far better than the priest could ever hope to because he is responsible for a much larger flock. Our sanctification is tied up with the sanctification of everyone else in the family.
If you were baptized as a child, your first major turning point was when the priest brought you into the family of God and removed the stain of original sin. Even if you were baptized later in life, it can be said that no matter when it happened, from baptism on, the rest of your life is simply your daily choices to cooperate with God's grace and live out your baptism by remaining in union with Him. Anything that tries to keep you from being true to that most important turning point must be put behind you. Much of that is trifles, but what if it is something more than trifles? Well, there is one blessed who had to make that important choice.
A Husband, Father, and Farmer
Bl. Ralph Milner (d. 1591) was a farmer who was born in Slackstead, Hampshire, England before the middle of the sixteenth century. He grew up, was married, had eight children and supported his family as a farmer.
When Ralph lived, Catholicism was a persecuted faith in England. Except for during the brief reign of his daughter Queen Mary I, King Henry VIII had turned England into a Protestant nation and the Anglican Church was the state religion. Accordingly, Ralph was baptized and raised as an Anglican.
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Welcome to the Church and Welcome to Jail
The day that Ralph received his first Holy Communion, he was arrested and thrown into prison for the crime of changing his religion. The Winchester jail became the home for this new convert. However, Ralph was an affable sort and lived the life of honesty that he admired in others. The jailer respected Ralph and allowed him to take his own parole and even gave him the keys to prison. Ralph would go out and work and then return to the jail.
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Arrested Again and Asked to Recant
Staying True to His Turning Point
Although we do not know what Ralph thought at the time, we can imagine it was not easy to see his family paraded before him to beseech him to do the reasonable thing and recant the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, according to what he said, we know what his final resolution was. He replied to the judge, "Would your lordship then advise me, for the perishable trifles of this world, or for a wife and children, to lose my God? No, my lord, I cannot approve or embrace a counsel so disagreeable to the maxims of the Gospel."
The judge then ordered that both Fr. Dickensen and Ralph be executed. They were both hanged on July 7, 1591.
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