How a 16-Year-Old Girl Explained the Sacraments to a Catholic Interrogator in 1554
In early 1554 Queen Mary I sent John de Feckenham to seek to persuade her 16-year-old Protestant cousin, the Lady Jane Grey, of the truth of the Catholic faith, thereby avoiding execution. Feckenham was unsuccessful, and she was beheaded February 12, 1554.
After dialoging about justification by faith, they turned to the subject of the sacraments:
Feckenham. — How many sacraments are there?
Lady Jane. — Two; the one the sacrament of Baptism, and the other the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Feckenham. — No, there are seven.
Lady Jane. — By what scripture find you that?
Feckenham. — Well, we will talk of that hereafter. But what is signified by your two sacraments?
Lady Jane. — By the sacrament of Baptism I am washed with water, and regenerated by the Spirit, and that washing is a token to me that I am the child of God. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper offered unto me, is a sure seal and testimony that I am, by the blood of Christ which he shed for me on the cross, made partaker of the everlasting kingdom.
Feckenham. — Why, what do you receive in that sacrament? Do you not receive the very body and blood of Christ?
Lady Jane. — No, surely, I do not so believe. I think that at the supper I neither receive flesh nor blood, but bread and wine, which bread, when it is broken, and which wine, when it is drunken, putteth me in remembrance how that for my sins the body of Christ was broken, and his blood shed on the cross, and with that bread and wine I receive the benefits that came by the breaking of his body, and shedding his blood for our sins on the cross.
Feckenham. — Why, doth not Christ speak these words, Take, eat, this is my body? Require you any plainer words? Doth he not say, it is his body?
Lady Jane. — I grant he saith so; and so he saith, ‘I am the vine, I am the door’: but he is never the more the door nor the vine. Doth not St. Paul say. He calleth things that are not, as though they were? God forbid that I should say that I eat the very natural body and blood of Christ; for then either I should pluck away my redemption, or else there were two bodies, or two Christs. One body was tormented on the cross, and if they did eat another body, then had he two bodies; or if his body were eaten, then was it not broken on the cross; or if it were broken on the cross, it was not eaten of his disciples.
Feckenham. — Why, is it not as possible that Christ by his power could make his body both to be eaten and broken, and to be born of a woman without man, as to walk upon the sea having a body,and other such like miracles as he wrought by his power only ?
Lady Jane. — Yes verily. If God would have done at bis supper any miracle, he might have done so; but I say that then he minded to work no miracle, but only to break his body, and to shed his blood on the cross for our sins. But I pray you to answer me to this one question. Where was Christ when he said, “Take, eat, this is my body”? Was he not at the table when he said so? He was at that time alive, and suffered not till the next day. What took he but bread? What brake he but bread? Look, what be took he brake, and look, what he brake he gave, and look, what he gave they did eat; and yet, all this time he himself was alive, and at supper before his disciples, or else they were deceived.
For an introduction to the moving story of this young woman’s life and testimony, see Simonetta Carr’s new Lady Jane Grey. You can see a brief overview below, along with some of the artwork from the book.
A nice scholarly website with primary source material can be found here.
For an accessible book, see Faith Cook’s The Nine Day Queen of England: Lady Jane Grey.
And you can find a nice overview of her life and witness in this lecture by Michael A.G. Haykin.