Category Archives: July

Jul 31 – St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ, (1491-1556) – Priest & Founder of the Society of Jesus

“Long before he instructed his followers to, “go forth and set the world on fire,” Ignatius was under his own fire of spiritual and physical combat. His leg was broken, as was his spirit. Legs take us to our destination, but Ignatius no longer knew where that destination was. His whole life he had perfected the profession of a soldier: exercise, training, wielding armor and weapons, imagining the enemy and visualizing victory.

Because he would never be a soldier again, he was convinced that his twenty-three years of life were useless, and that the rest of his life would be spend in the humiliation of defeat and the embarrassment of not being able to resurrect his former skills. On that same bed where he wished for death more than once, he would consider a different sort of death: a death to self.

His physical exercises were about to become his famed Spiritual Exercises; he would put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11), wield his word as a sword (Eph. 6:17), and use his imagination to envision himself in victory for heaven.

In order to become this person God created him to be, he knew he must reform himself first, and in a saying often ascribed to him he instructs the same of us: “He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor.”

His Counter-Reformation labors started with himself, and although he accomplished much and his life can teach us copious lessons of Christian charity and virtue, he dominates in two principle areas: education and spirituality.

“The [Second Vatican Council] has considered with care how extremely important education is in the life of man and how its influence ever grows in the social progress of this age.” —Gravissimum Educationis

Sacred art depicting Ignatius usually depicts him studying, reading, writing. It might surprise some to learn, then, that for the first half of his life Ignatius was not an educated man. Though his intellect was strong and aptitude was high, our saint had less than grammar-level education at the age of twenty-three, just a few years before he formed the Society of Jesus and founded colleges. He placed little emphasis on structured learning, perhaps because he was a soldier, yet still came to be one of the most respected educators of his time.

What caused such a change?

The answer is not so simple. To understand what he did, we need to understand his story.

After his leg was shattered in a cannon-ball blast, Ignatius’s dreams of soldiery were gone. But as he said of himself in his autobiography, “his special delight was in the military life,” so if he could not do these things he at least wanted to fill his mind with the thoughts of others doing them. So Ignatius requested books about valiant knights and heroes of war, but there were none.

Instead he was handed The Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian and a book about the lives of the saints. At first he was reluctant to read either but soon found himself engrossed in stories of the heroic virtue, if not quite of the kind he had sought.

After he was healed he continued to study and grow in devotion. He became a gifted street-teacher and built a small following. This drew the attention of the clergy. Around this time the Inquisition was rooting out any potential heresy or corrupted preaching, and without a degree or formal training Ignatius was looked at suspiciously. He was examined briefly by the Inquisition but they found no error in his interview and let him go—but did instruct him not to dress as if he were clergy. He was later summoned again, and again they found no error.

A last time he was examined by the Inquisition, whose verdict resulted in an interesting action by Ignatius. Each time prior, he had explained that he was not preaching or teaching novelties, but was simply conversing with small groups about holy and divine things, occasionally introducing his “exercises” still in development.

This time, he was questioned about his advice to others on faith and morals. In his own autobiographical words:

“So clear and exact was his explanation that his examiners could not find the least flaw in his doctrine. He was equally correct in the answer to the friar who proposed a difficulty in canon law. In every case he said that he did not know the decision of the professors.”

The tribunal’s final verdict was that Ignatius would be free to teach on matters of Christian doctrine, but not on sin or canon law. Not until the tribunal said, he completed four years of study.


-by Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1600s

Love & Ignatian joy,
Matthew

Jul 5 – Wexford Martyrs: Bls Matthew Lambert, Robert Myler, Edward Cheevers, Patrick Cavanagh (Irish: Pádraigh Caomhánach), John O’Lahy, & 1 unknown


-Ireland, 1450

In the Pale (in red), (An Pháil in Irish) or the English Pale (An Pháil Shasanach or An Ghalltacht) the predominant religion was Catholic, and the Catholics saw a growing threat from the Protestant-dominated government, a perception supported by their marked decline in participation within the kingdom’s government. English-born Protestants increasingly occupied positions of authority. The people of the Pale resented taxes on their property for the government’s military policy against the Gaelic lords and rebellious Anglo-Irish. Troops were also billeted upon their lands. James Eustace’s father, Viscount Roland, had been imprisoned by the Elizabethan administration for his opposition, including for his refusal to pay taxes to the Protestant Church.

During the summer of 1580, James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, apparently prompted almost entirely by religious motives, raised forces in County Wicklow, in support of the Earl of Desmond’s separate uprising in Munster. The Viscount’s allies included clansmen led by Fiach McHugh O’Byrne. At first the revolt was successful, but Baltinglass did not coordinate his efforts with those of Desmond and could not sustain the conflict. He and his followers were outlawed. Forty-five were hanged in Dublin. James Eustace escaped to Munster, where Desmond was still in revolt. After Desmond was killed, Eustace left for Spain.

James Eustace, whose family had links with Clongowes Wood Castle, now a Jesuit boarding school near Dublin, joined the Earl of Desmond in the hope of putting Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne. The attempt failed and Baltinglass had to escape to Spain, where he died. One of his brothers was executed in Dublin, two others fled the country and the Kilcullen family lost its lands and titles.

Pursued by English troops after the collapse of the Second Desmond Rebellion, James Eustace, 3rd Viscount of Baltinglass, and his chaplain, Father Robert Rochford, eventually found refuge with Matthew Lambert, a Wexford baker. Lambert fed them and arranged with five sailor acquaintances for safe passage by ship for them. Lambert was betrayed, along with sailors Patrick Cavanagh, Edward Cheevers, Robert Myler, John O’Lahy, and one other.

Lambert was betrayed, and he, Myler, Cheevers, Cavanagh, O’Lahy, and one other were captured, imprisoned, and tortured.  They refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and declare Elizabeth I of England to be the head of the Church. Thrown into prison, they were questioned about politics and religion. Lambert’s reply was: “I am not a learned man. I am unable to debate with you, but I can tell you this, I am a Catholic and I believe whatever our Holy Mother the Catholic Church believes.” They were hanged, drawn and quartered in Wexford on July 5, 1581.

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, You stir up men and women in every age to witness to Your truth. Our Faith is built on You as a rock. The Wexford Martyrs sealed their faith with their life’s blood. Give us courage and strength to follow their example and to witness to Your truth in everything we think, do or say. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

2nd miracle: Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati, OP, (1901-1925), Lay Dominican

blessed-pier-giorgio-frassati

-by Will Duquette, Aleteia

“In 2011, Kevin Becker fell from the second floor of a house he shared with a couple of college roommates, fracturing his skull in five places and damaging every lobe of his brain. After an emergency operation he lay stable but unresponsive for nine days. The doctors thought he wouldn’t live; and if he did he would suffer from gross cognitive deficits.

Less than three weeks after his injury he was wheeled to the door of the hospital, where he stood up, slung his bag over his shoulder, and walked to the car … tossing a football with his brother.

This is not the usual way.

A week after his injury, the doctors were talking of putting him into a medically induced coma, a last-ditch effort. Days later he opened his eyes, and was soon speaking, standing, and walking normally.

After Kevin left the hospital he went to physical rehab, and found that he was five steps ahead of the others there, including those who had been in recovery for six months to a year. On October 11th he took a battery of cognitive tests, and completed them in just two hours rather than the usual six. A month later, his doctor asked him how he thought he’d done. He answered, as he says he would have answered about any test he took, “I think I did OK.” The doctor told him he’d done “not just OK,” but as though he’d never been injured. He was cleared to return to college where he finished his degree; he now works making loans to small businesses.

Again, this is not the usual way.

I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Becker speak about his experiences on October 29th of this year, at a celebration of the 800-Year Jubilee of the Dominican Order. During his coma, he remembers waking up in the house he shared with his friends, and hearing someone downstairs. That was odd; he says he’s always the first one up. He investigated, and in the living room he found a young man he didn’t know.

“Who are you?”

“I’m George, your new roommate.”

“That can’t be. I already have two roommates.”

“They aren’t around anymore.”

“Oh.”

He then spent a long timeless day with George. An ardent soccer player who hates staying indoors, Kevin kept trying to leave the house but George wouldn’t let him go. They fought about it, as if they were brothers, but George was adamant. He encouraged him to be patient. Kevin remembers passing the time by doing schoolwork—which he says would surprise anyone who knew him before his accident—and sitting on the couch with George playing a soccer video game called “FIFA.”

Eventually he awoke in the hospital.

Later, Kevin mentioned his new roommate to his mother, calling him a “good spirit.” After he described him his mother showed him a picture of a man he immediately recognized as George. It was a picture of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that had been sent to his mother by a cousin, who suggested she ask for Frassati’s intercession. (Frassati, a Lay Dominican, died of polio in 1925 at the age of 24, after a life in which his family knew him mostly for his love of mountain climbing, and the poor of Turin knew him as their beloved friend and benefactor.) Becker’s mother did so, and placed the picture at his side. He woke the next day.

Pier Giorgio Frassati, was a model of charity, who annoyed his father by constantly “losing” pieces of his fine wardrobe, including shoes and coats. Kevin had never heard Pier Giorgio Frassati’s name before his accident.

They say that an encounter with a saint can change your life; it changed Kevin’s. Not only was he completely healed, he says that he’s better than he was before his injury. In school he’d always been the clown sitting in the back row making smart-aleck remarks and not paying attention to his schoolwork. From the moment he woke, his studies became important to him, and his grades improved remarkably.

The records of Kevin’s case have been sent to the Vatican; and his recovery may well be the miracle that leads to Frassati’s canonization. Kevin says he doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t know why God healed him as he did, but he’s determined that God’s work won’t be wasted. And he remains confident of George’s presence nearby, and sometimes hears his whispered voice in his ear.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 4 – Martyrs of Dorchester, (d. 1594), Bls John Cornelius, SJ, Thomas Bosgrave, John Carey, Patrick Salmon – “Oh, Precious Collar!!”

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-Dorset Martyrs Memorial, Gallows Hill, Dorchester, England

There is a very special communion between the laity and the ordained. Not merely too many calories delivered to rectories at holidays, or generous gifts for Father from time to time; one priest who received a new car famously quipped, “All THIS!!!! AND eternal life, too!!!”

It is recorded, often, in history, when oppressed, persecutors believed by destroying the priesthood, they would succeed in in destroying the faith. Untrue, time and time, again. When Asian missionaries returned, it is recorded, to Far Eastern missions where once they evangelized after several hundred years of absence, the clandestine faith still survived, albeit adapted to life without clergy, but it persisted. It is stronger than that. It always has been. So, “though the mountains fall into the sea”, yet shall we trust in His promises. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against us.

Persecution in England in the late 17th century was part of a crackdown by the Elizabethan government after the Decree of 1585, which made it an offense punishable by death to seek ordination to the priesthood oversees and return to England. This story, like others just like it, is of Catholic laity and that special communion with the ordained.

John, Thomas, John and Patrick were executed together at Dorchester on July 4, 1594: John Cornelius, who trained for the priesthood at Douai and Rome, was arrested in April; his companions were arrested for assisting him. John became a Jesuit while imprisoned in London. All of them were from Ireland:

Father John Cornelius, their leader, was born in 1557 to Irish parents who had moved to Great Britain. A Dorsetshire Catholic knight, Sir John Arundel, sent him to Oxford University to study. But John was too Catholic in his convictions to be pleased with the “new religion” that dominated the University. Feeling called rather to the Catholic priesthood, he crossed the Channel and enrolled at the English college in Rheims for holy orders. From Rheims he went on to the English College in Rome to complete his theology, and it was at Rome that he was ordained a priest.

Return to England as a Catholic priest was at that time forbidden under pain of death. But Father John, a man of prayer and zeal, saw in that law a challenge rather than a deterrent, as did the rest of the contemporary English priests who set service to persecuted Catholics as their top priority. His assignment was to the Catholics of Dorset. These priests’ ministry was a “cloak-and-dagger” operation, since they were always in danger of discovery and arrest. Their capture could mean also the arrest and punishment of anybody who assisted them.

Naturally, the missionaries’ terms of service were usually short, for the police were alert and aggressive. Cornelius (he also went by the alias of Mohun, although his real surname seems to have been O’Mahony) was finally seized by the sheriff of Dorset on April 24, 1594, at the Chideock Castle of Lady Arundel.

Having seized the priest by surprise, the Sheriff was about to hurry him off hatless. Now, in that hat-conscious age, to be hatless was to appear uncivilized. Thomas Bosgrave, a gallant young Cornish nephew of Sir John Arundel and a witness to the arrest, stepped forward and offered Father John his own hat. “The honor I owe to your function,” he declared, “may not suffer me to see you go bareheaded!” It was a simple gesture of charity to a priest, but he was to pay for his piety. The Sheriff promptly arrested Bosgrave, too, for “aiding” a Catholic clergyman. He likewise arrested two serving-men of this Catholic household, Dubliners John Carey and Patrick Salmon. Content, no doubt, with the day’s work, the county official then led his catch off to jail.

Cornelius, the most important of them, was taken to London to be examined by Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council. The Council had him stretched on the rack to force him to name all those who had given him shelter or assistance. Torture would not open his lips, however, so he was sent back to Dorchester for trial, along with the three lay captives. On July 2, the court declared the priest guilty of high treason under the law that forbade Catholic priests to enter England and remain there. Bosgrave, Carey and Salmon were pronounced guilty of felony for aiding and abetting Father John. The sentence was the same for all: hanging, drawing, and quartering.

After the court had published its judgment, it offered all four men a reprieve if they would give up their Catholic faith. All four refused.

The execution took place at Dorchester two days later. The three laymen were hanged first. John Carey is reported to have said as the noose hung before his face, kissing the rope, “Oh! Precious collar!” Each made a Catholic profession of faith before the trap was sprung. Father John then kissed the feet of his hanging companions. He then kissed the gallows with the words of Saint Andrew, “O Cross, long desired.” He was not allowed to make any formal statement; but he did manage to state that he had been lately admitted into the Jesuits, and would have been en route to the Jesuit novitiate in Flanders had he not been arrested.

Dorset Martyrs Memorial, Gallows Hill, Dorchester

The Dorset Martyrs Memorial at Gallows Hill on South Walks, Dorchester was created by Dame Elisabeth Frink and was erected in 1986. It was funded by institutions and individuals of all denominations and the Arts Council of Great Britain through South West Arts.

The memorial represents two martyrs facing Death and commemorates all Dorset men and women who suffered for their faith and, in particular, seven known Catholics who were executed where the Memorial now stands, including —

John Cornelius SJ, Priest, executed 4 July 1594

John Cornelius was born in Bodmin of Irish descent and was sent to Exeter College, Oxford by Sir John Arundell. He was ordained in 1584 at the English College in Rome.

John Cornelius was a Chaplain to the Arundell family at Chideock Castle where he was arrested after a search of the castle and sent to Dorchester to be tried for high treason along with

Thomas Bosgrave, John Carey and Patrick Salmon. Executed on 4 July 1594, along with Fr Cornelius, SJ.

Thomas Bosgrave was the son of Leonard Bosgrave and the grandson of Sir John Arundell, making him the great-great-grandson of Thomas Gray, 1st Marquis of Dorset and half-brother to Elizabeth of York, Queen Consort of King Henry VII.

Thomas Bosgrave, together with John Carey and Patrick Salmon, servants at Chideock Castle, was arrested and taken with John Cornelius to Dorchester where they were charged with harbouring a priest contrary to the statute of 1585.

Gallows Hill

dorchester
-please click on the image for a more detailed view

John Speed’s map of Dorchester was published in 1610. It shows the position of the gallows on Gallows Hill on the bottom of the map towards the right,close to the modern junction of Icen Way and South Walks. The gallows was made of two uprights and a crossbeam connecting them with enough space for a two-wheeled cart to pass through and enough space for multiple hangings. At that time the County Gaol wa son High East Street near Icen Way, which used to be called Gaol Lane.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the penalty for high treason was to be hung, drawn and quartered. The victim was tortured, imprisoned, then taken to the gallows. He or she would be cut down after a short hanging, sometimes still alive, and cruelly butchered, with the limbs being torn from the body. The dismembered corpse was often placed on gateways. This is how John Cornelius, SJ and many more died.

The gallows was removed to Maumbury Rings around 1703, which means that many of the 74 prisoners condemned to death during the ‘Bloody Assize’ following the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 will also have been executed there.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – Bl Adrian Fortescue, OP, (1476-1539) – Soldier, Patriot, Husband, Father, Martyr, Lay Dominican – like me!!

AdrianF
-please note the collar brooch Bl Adrian wears in this image. It’s design is of the Dominican shield, in black & white. It is a classic design, widely recognized by those familiar. I have similar lapel pins, worn on appropriate occasions!! Can I hope, too, for the blessing of martyrdom? Bl Adrian pray to our Father it may be so!!! Ultimately, His will be done!!! Viva Cristo Rey!!!!!

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-by Br Samuel Clarke, OP, English Province

“After a remarkable life, Bl. Adrian Fortescue died a martyr at the strike of an executioner’s blade at Tower Hill in 1539. A husband and father, a Justice of the Peace, a Knight of the Realm, a Knight of Malta, and a Dominican Tertiary (Lay Dominican); he was at once a loyal servant of the Crown so far as he could be, but still more, he was a man of unshakeable faith.

The House of Fortescue into which Adrian was born is said to date from the Battle of Hastings where Richard le Fort saved William the Conqueror’s Life by the shelter of his “strong shield”, and thereafter was called “Fort – Escu”. His family had a history of service to the Crown although this was later complicated by the dynastic battles of The Wars of the Roses. Vicissitudes notwithstanding, his great uncle, Sir John Fortescue (d.1479) became Chief Justice of the King’s Bench (1442-61). Sir John’s writings on the law and politics of England were arguably the most significant contribution of the fifteenth century, and are still studied by lawyers and political theorists today. Adrian’s father, also named Sir John, fought for the victorious Lancastrians at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 when Adrian was but a young boy. And later in his life, Adrian’s first cousin, Anne Boleyn, became King Henry VIII’s second wife (before her eventual beheading in 1536). We can say with some justification then that the Fortescues occupied a privileged position at the Rroyal court.

The first mention of Adrian Fortescue is in 1499, by which time, aged about 23, he was already married to Anne Stonor. He lived at his wife’s family seat at Stonor Park in Oxfordshire. This estate would later become the subject of an acrimonious legal dispute between him and his relative. In 1503, on Prince Henry becoming Prince of Wales (after Prince Arthur’s death) Adrian was made a Knight of the Order of Bath. Sir Adrian took the motto Loyalle Pensée; his loyalty was indeed to be tested.  By his first wife, Fortescue had two daughters: Margaret and Frances. By his second wife, Anne Rede, he had three sons and two daughters: John, Thomas, Anthony, Elizabeth, and Mary.

Like his forebears, Adrian served King Henry VIII in his ambitious military campaigns. He helped to rout the French the Battle of Spurs in 1513, and fought again in 1523. King Henry rewarded his support and in 1520 invited him to the splendorous Field of the Cloth of Gold where Henry famously wrestled with the King of France. Closer to home, Sir Adrian was made a Justice of the Peace of the county of Oxfordshire. In this period of history, royal favour could also take more peculiar forms. Sir Adrian had the dubious honour of being made a Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber, forerunner to the august body now known as the Privy Council.

In addition to being an assiduous servant of the Crown, Sir Adrian was evidently also a man of strong religious conviction and charity. His accounts reveal a number of benefactions to clergy and religious foundations. In 1532, he became a Knight of Devotion in the Order of Malta. The following year in July of 1533, he was admitted as a Dominican Tertiary at Blackfriars, Oxford, which he would visit from Stonor. But he also had a strong association with the Dominican Priory in London. His lodgings in the capital were in the precincts of the Blackfriars, close to the present eponymous tube station.

Sir_Adrian_Fortescue
-Collegio di San Paolo in Rabato in Malta

Not long after becoming a Lay Dominican began what Adrian called his “trobilles”. At the start of Summer 1533, he assisted in the Coronation of his cousin, Anne Boleyn – then six months pregnant – as Queen of England. He must have realised that the marriage was not valid but perhaps thought, at that stage at least, that in the words of Sir Thomas More, it was not his business “to murmur at it or dispute upon it”. This narrow compromise was to prove short-lived.

The King’s infidelity and presumption were rebuked when the Pope refused to grant an annulment declaring Henry’s marriage to Catherine as valid on 23rd March 1534. The following month on 13th April, Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More refused to take the Oath of Succession. Sir Adrian was similarly arrested that same year but he was released without explanation, probably in the Spring of 1535. Fisher and More were afforded no such clemency, and the two Saints were executed in Summer 1535.

The Act of Supremacy was also passed in 1535, making Henry supreme Head of the Church “immediately under God”. As a matter of law, Henry expressly denied the Pope’s authority. A writ affirming this and dated the following year can be found in Sir Adrian’s extant Missal. Tellingly, perhaps, it has with a line struck through it: apparent evidence of his disapproval. The die, it seems, was cast.

In February 1539, Sir Adrian was again arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In the sitting of Parliament that Spring, a number of laws were passed in what has been described as the most servile Parliamentary session in history. Among the draconian laws enacted was a novel provision whereby a sentence of death might be passed without any trial of the accused. Under this procedure, no evidence was needed, neither could a defence be heard. Ironically, the architect of the law, Thomas Cromwell (then Lord Chancellor) was himself condemned by the same measure a year later leading to his own execution. This device was put to use on 11th May 1535 when a Bill of Attainder was passed condemning fifty people of High Treason who opposed Henry’s ecclesiastical policies. The names included Sir Adrian, Reginald Cardinal Pole, and the Countess of Salisbury.

Sir Adrian’s Book of Hours contains a Rule of Life written in his own hand, and giving an insight into the interior life of a man who exemplified holiness and virtue in his conduct. He led a life of asceticism and honour, trying to follow God’s will in all things and daily seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. His pursuit of God’s truth brought him to a martyr’s death on 8th July 1539 (but possibly 9th or 10th) when he was beheaded at Tower Hill. His servants were also killed for treason on the same day but were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. As one later account neatly puts it, “Sir Adrian Fortescue died for his faith in Him whose acts Parliament was not competent to repeal”.

Pope Leo XII declared Adrian Fortescue blessed on 13th May 1895 and as a layman, he ranks among the great Dominicans as an outstanding example to all Christians.”

Prayer:

O God, since all things are within your power, grant through the prayers of blessed Adrian, your martyr, that we who keep his feast today may become stronger in the love of your name and hold to your holy Church even at the cost of our lives. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.(-from: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997) The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, aka Knights Hospitaller, has advocated devotion to Blessed Adrian as a martyr since the 17th century.

Star_-_Venerable_Order_of_St_John
-Breast star of Knight of Grace of the Order of St John

Love,
Matthew, OP

Jul 12 – St John Wall, OFM, (1620-1679) – Priest & Martyr

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In 1678, Titus Oates worked many English people into a frenzy over an alleged papal plot to murder the king and restore Catholicism in that country. In that year Catholics were legally excluded from Parliament, a law which was not repealed until 1829. John Wall was arrested and imprisoned in 1678 and was executed the following year.

John Wall, in religion Father Joachim of St Anna, was the fourth son of Anthony Wall of Chingle (Singleton) Hall, Lancashire. He was born in 1620, and when very young, was sent to the English College at Douai in Belgium. From there he proceeded to Rome, where he was raised to the priesthood in 1648. Several years later he returned to Douai and was clothed in the habit of St Francis in the convent of St Bonaventure. He made his solemn profession on January 1, 1652. So great was the estimation in which he was held by his brethren, that within a few months he was elected vicar of the convent, and soon after, master of novices.

In 1656 he joined the English mission, and for twelve years he labored in Worcestershire under the names of Francis Johnson or Webb, winning souls even more by his example than by his words. At Harvington to this day the memory of Blessed Father Johnson is cherished, and stories of his heroic zeal are recounted by the descendants of those who were privileged to know and love the glorious martyr.

Some of the charges raised against Father Wall when he was captured, were that he had said Mass, heard confessions, and received converts into the Church. He was accidentally found, in December, 1678, at the house of a friend, Mr Finch of Rushock, and carried off by the sheriff’s officer. He was committed to Worcester jail, and lay captive for five months, enduring patiently all the loneliness, suffering, and horrors of prison life, which at that time were scarcely less dreadful than death itself.

On April 25, 1679, Blessed John Wall was brought to court. His condemnation was a foregone conclusion. He was sent back to prison until the king’s further pleasure concerning him should be known; and for another four months he languished in captivity. It was during this period that he was offered his life if he would deny his faith. “But I told them,” said the martyr, “that I would not buy my life at so dear a rate as to wrong my conscience.”

john_wall

One of Father Wall’s brethren in religion, Father William Levison, had the privilege of seeing the martyr for the space of four or five hours on the day before his execution. Father William tells us:

I heard his confession and communicated him, to his great joy and satisfaction. While in prison he carried himself like a true servant of his crucified Master, thirsting after nothing more than the shedding of his blood for the love of his God, which he performed with a courage and cheerfulness becoming a valiant soldier of Christ, to the great edification of all the Catholics, and the admiration of all Protestants.

Father Wall’s martyrdom took place on Red Hill, overlooking the city of Worcester, on August 22, 1679. He was a much respected local figure and the crowd’s reaction showed that their sympathies were entirely with him. Many of the onlookers, who were mostly Protestants, wept, and the Sheriff reportedly cried out “End Popery? This is the way to make us all Papists!” His remains were buried in the cemetery adjoining the Church of St. Oswald of Worcester. His head was kept in the convent at Douai until the French Revolution broke out and the community fled to England. What became of it, then, is not known.

st_john_wall

He was an outstanding academic, perhaps the most intellectually distinguished English Catholic priest of his generation. The Catholics of Worcester found consolation in remarking, as a proof of his sanctity, that the grass around the grave of Blessed John Wall always appeared green, while the rest of the churchyard was bare. A large crucifix was raised in the little Catholic churchyard at Harvington to the memory of this saintly son of St Francis, Father Joachim of St Anna.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 14 – Bl Humbert of Romans, OP (~1200-1277), 5th Master General of the Order of Preachers

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christopher-wetzel

-by Br Christopher Wetzel, OP, English Province

“In the Fundamental Constitutions of the Friars of the Order of Preachers, we read that “the Order of Friars Preachers founded by St. Dominic ‘is known from the beginning to have been instituted especially for preaching and the salvation of souls.’” (LCO II) Today, we have precious few documents from St. Dominic himself that would help us better understand in what this preaching consists and how the Sons of St. Dominic are to undertake this task. However, we do have the work of Blessed Humbert of Romans, the fifth Master of the Order, with which to understand how the earliest friars viewed the preaching mission.

Humbert’s tenure at the head of the Order was quite fruitful, resulting in a re-organization and standardization of the Order’s liturgy, a new edition of the Constitutions, improvements in discipline in the Order’s houses and the collation of testimony and documents for the cause canonization of St. Dominic and St. Peter of Verona, much of which formed the basis for the Vitae Fratrum. In addition to writing a commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine, Humbert also wrote a Treatise on Preaching that provides a structured and scriptural view of the preaching office. Humbert substantiates his view of preaching with copious scriptural citations. For example, he challenges those who are fearful of preaching using the book of Proverbs:

Among the frivolous reasons why some men refuse to preach, we mention first the excessive diffidence of those who believe themselves incapable of preaching although they are fully competent to hold this office. To such as these the Book of Proverbs says: “Deliver them that are led to death: and those that are drawn to death forbear not to deliver. If thou say: I have not strength enough, He that seeth into the heart, he understandeth, and nothing deceiveth the keeper of thy soul: and he shall render to a man according to his works” (Prov. 24:11-12).

One gets the sense in reading his Treatise on Preaching that Humbert was a contemplative man whose deep immersion in scripture was dynamically linked to his love for those to whom he preached, each reinforcing the other. Such a virtuous cycle is possible today as well. Perhaps this 800th year of the foundation of the Order of Preachers can be an opportunity for us all to take a little extra time to reflect on the attractive call for all Christians to be preachers, bearing the glad tidings of God’s Love to the world and to cast aside our fears. Like Simon Peter, after experiencing the overabundance of God’s goodness in the miraculous catch, we might want to say to Jesus “depart from me because I am a sinful man.” But Jesus does not let St. Peter’s weakness (nor ours) get in the way, and tells all of his followers: “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” (Lk 5:8,11)”

“Though the Lord give a great grace to everyone whom He calls to religious life, and an even greater grace to those whom He calls who are not clerics, He seems to give the greatest grace of all to those whom He calls to be laybrothers in the Order of Friars Preachers.” -from the beginning of a homily by St Humbert

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – St Andrew Wouters, (1542-1572), Priest, Fornicator, Martyr of Gorkum

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-Artist, Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist’s Narrative:
“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

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – St John of Cologne, OP, (d.1572), Priest, Martyr of Gorkum, “Great Athlete of Christ”

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In his Decree of Canonization, St. John of Cologne was praised as a “great athlete of Christ.” As his title suggests, this Dominican priest is best known for the victory of his martyrdom, but it was his lifelong training in fidelity, lived through the Dominican charism, which prepared him for this final conquest.

St. John attended the University of Cologne in the middle of the sixteenth century. Although we don’t know much about his early life, we can learn something about it from John’s cultural setting. At this time, western Germany, Belgium, and Holland were dominated by Calvinist teaching, which viewed human nature as completely corrupt and denied the healing action of grace. As a result, even many Catholics had lost a sense of the reality of the sacramental life. Not unlike today, many in John’s age found moral absolutes hard to identify, and faith had become relegated to the private sphere.

Amid these uncertain cultural currents, John discovered the solid foundation of truth when he began his studies at the University of Cologne, then recognized as one of the best educational institutions in Europe. Not only did John acknowledge intellectual truth, but he also came to know the Person of Truth, Jesus Christ, and followed His call to the Dominican Order. He entered the Order at Cologne and received his formation there.

After completing his education, John was assigned to a parish in the Netherlands village of Horner, where he served for twenty years. Although we do not have records of the sermons of John of Cologne, his final actions give the most eloquent testimony about what he considered the purpose of his priestly vocation. In the spring of 1571, a group of militant Calvinists along with a band of pirates began raiding Dutch villages, particularly focusing on the arrest and capture of the Catholic clergy. In June of that year, the neighboring town of Gorkum was attacked, and the clergy were captured. Fifteen priests, the majority of them Franciscans, had been imprisoned.

Upon hearing of their arrest, John immediately disguised himself and sought to bring these priests the consolation of the sacraments. For several days he was successful, but was eventually captured along with three other priests. These nineteen were imprisoned in Gorkum from June 26 until July 6, undergoing much abuse as they were asked to deny the tenets of the Catholic faith.

On July 6, the nineteen martyrs were transferred to the prison at Dortrecht. Along the way, villagers were charged admission for viewing the torture of the priests. Once in Dortecht, each of them was asked to deny belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in the primacy of the Pope. Each one remained steadfast in his profession of faith. Despite an order from the Dutch ruler William of Orange that the priests not be harmed, they were cruelly mutilated and hanged on the night of July 9, 1572. The Dominican John of Cologne, great athlete of Christ, had won his final victory of martyrdom. Along with his companions, he was beatified on November 14, 1675 and canonized on June 29, 1865.

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-by Br Richard Steenvoorde, OP, English Province

“The story of saint John of Cologne O.P. (+1572) proves that you can become a saint by doing the right thing at the right time.

John of Cologne was a 17th century Dominican in what is now the Netherlands, near the city of Gorinchem. He was a parish priest. In 1572 John is caught up in the Dutch Wars of Independence from Spain, which, confusingly, at the same time were also civil wars over religion. A band of Calvinist rebels had captured one city near Rotterdam, and introduced the strictest form of Calvinism possible. From there they undertook their raids in aid of the rebellion led by the protestant prince William of Orange (not to be confused by the later English King).

The rebels captured the town of Gorkum (present day: Gorinchem) and imprisoned all of the Franciscans, and some secular priests. They would be released if they would swear allegiance to the new Calvinist faith. Now John heard of this, and -in disguise- went out to visit the prisoners in order to give them Holy Communion. However, he was betrayed, and was added to the prisoners.

Soon after that, the group was shipped off to the centre of a Calvinist stronghold: Den Briel (Brielle). Upon arriving, they were forced to process around the gallows near the harbor.

“Sing”; the people shouted mockingly: “Sing something about Mary”. And one young friar finds the courage to sing. And the others join in. And suddenly the people are moved by the dignity of these men. Tears well up, and a deep silence comes over the crowd when the men stop. Quickly the pirates move the men to another pair of gallows in the town’s centre and force them to sing again, and they sing the Te Deum.

A mock trial follows, a late intervention by the Prince of Orange to save the men goes horribly wrong. The men are hanged in an old stable, part of a ruined monastic complex.

How must our brother John have felt in all this? We don’t know. No words of his were preserved. But I think his life is a sermon for us. He went out to bring Christ to others in need. He joined them in their suffering. Staying dignified, impressing their executioners, praying to God, finding courage through their deepest fears.

By this testimony, I think, the Martyrs of Gorkum, including friar John, have given us a testimony of what it means to be blessed in times of great adversity. Between how people treat us, and how we respond, there is a choice. John chose to respond as he had probably preached many times before. To witness that evil has not the last word. That through Christ’s redemptive work, we are truly blessed.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 7 – Bl Peter To Rot, (1912-1945) – Husband, Father, Catechist, Martyr, Patron of Christian Marriage

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He was born in 1912 at Rakunai, a village on the Melanesian island of New Britain, today part of Papua New Guinea. His parents belonged to the region’s first generation of Catholics. He was a pious boy and the parish priest thought that he should study for the priesthood, but his father, the village chief, felt that the tradition of Catholicism in the region was too short and none of the people were yet ready for the priesthood, so Peter became a catechist.  Most of the evangelization in the area was carried out by catechists, like Peter. He married Paula LaVarpit, from a nearby village on November 11, 1936 and they had three children.

When the local priest was forced to leave for a concentration camp, he said to Peter, “I am leaving my work in your hands.  Do not let them forget about God.” Peter did just that. He and the other catechists helped to keep the Catholic faith alive. Peter learned some Japanese and was able to get along well with the Japanese Naval Authorities. But then the Military Police took over. They thought the Christians were praying for a Japanese defeat. Christian worship was forbidden, and a decree was issued that the people should go back to the ancient practice of a man having more than one wife. Peter publicly protested this, and harshly corrected anyone who considered it.

He organized prayer services, gave religious instruction, baptized children, preserved the consecrated Hosts and administered them to the sick and dying, and gave help to the poor. The Japanese had destroyed the church when they arrived, so Peter built a new one out of the branches of trees.

Peter was arrested when the Japanese Military Police found out he was organizing prayer groups and witnessing marriages. His family came to the prison every day to bring him food. Methodist and Catholic chiefs of different tribes tried to have Peter released, but could not. Peter told them, “Don’t worry. I’m a catechist. If I die, I die for the faith.”

After a quiet start, repression grew violent. The Japanese banned all Christian worship, public and private, and decided to reintroduce polygamy among the people. Peter was arrested in April or May 1945 and savagely “questioned” by officials. He was sentenced to two months in prison. A month before the Japanese surrendered to Allied forces in the Pacific, a Japanese doctor came and injected Peter with poison, stuffed his ears and nose with cotton wool, and held him down and suffocated him until he died.

An immense crowd attended Peter’s burial, at which no religious rite was permitted. He has been increasingly revered as a martyr ever since that day.

“I am here because of those who broke their marriage vows and because of those who do not want the growth of God’s kingdom.” ~ Bl Peter To Rot

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Love,
Matthew