October 9th marks the Feast of the Gregorian martyrs, St John Roberts and St Ambrose Barlow. Patrons of two of our School’s Houses, both men were canonized in 1970 and are celebrated at Downside School today.

In the Quad, Roberts and Barlow can be spotted, sheltered under niches on the Roberts tower as watchful eyes over the main entrance to the School. Within the Monastery, their faces can also be spotted in multiple portraits.

Both Roberts and Barlow, gave great sacrifices for monastic life and the Catholic community and each year a Mass of thanksgiving is held in the Abbey Church, a time to reflect and remember. This stems from a longstanding tradition from Douai, when they heard of a monk’s martyrdom. The celebration is also able to use the ‘persecution chalice’ every year, which was originally used by Downside monks when imprisoned in France. 

Fr James (B72) highlights that “These two men lived at a time when to do as a Catholic priests would lead them to death. They were not prepared to compromise their faith. We pray that we may have their faith and love for Jesus Christ. This year, 2020, we remember them in a special way as on 25th October 1970 both men, along with 38 others, were canonised saints by Pope Paul VI in St Peter’s. At that time, I was a boy in the School and attended the ceremony with a group of monks and boys from Downside”

This year, individual House Masses will take place for both Roberts and Barlow in the Abbey Church, with a focus on Feast Day for Hymn Practice.