-Artist, Lewis Williams, OFS
“How often we revel in seeing the speck in our brothers’ eye, avoiding the plank in our own. How easy it is from our moral high ground to judge our neighbor, particularly when those failings occur in the context of a vow to religious life.
Fr. Andrew Wouters was a man reminiscent of Graham Greene’s ‘whisky priest’ in his book, The Power and the Glory. His scandalous life as a diocesan priest was a public failure on the grounds of his womanizing and fathering several children. He was easy to dismiss and ridicule.
Reformation and Counter-Reformation conflicts were ripe during the summer of 1572 in Andrews’ home territory of Gorkum, Holland. June 26th, a band of Calvinist ‘pirates’ arrived by sea to cleanse the area of papist, rounding up many priest and brothers. Many were tortured and asked to renounce the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Rising to some call deep in his soul, Fr. Andrew volunteered to support his brothers in their captivity and joined them. All were taken by boat to Briel, mocked and asked to choose freedom by denying the pope as Christ’s representative head of the Church.
19 Martyrs of Gorkum placed their faith in their God and were hanged from the roof beams in the shed of a former monastery, the bodies unceremoniously dumped in a group grave. Wouters’ last words were, “Fornicator I always was; heretic I never was.” Forty years later, their bodies were removed to Brussels and reinterred there in a Franciscan church. Pope Pius IX declared them saints in 1867.
God offers a full days wage even to laborers whose work in his field is very brief.”
“Fornicator I always was; heretic, I never was.” -St Andrew Wouters