Ambrose, Also known as Ambrose Brereton, Ambrose Radcliffe, Edward Ambrose Barlow, was born at Barlow Hall, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, near Manchester in 1585. He was the fourth son of the nobleman Sir Alexander Barlow and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Urian Brereton of Handforth Hall. The Barlow family had been reluctant converts to the Church of England following the suppression of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Ambrose’s grandfather died in 1584 while imprisoned for his beliefs and Sir Alexander Barlow had two thirds of his estate confiscated as a result of his refusing to conform with the rules of the new established religion. On 30 November 1585, Ambrose was baptised at Didsbury Chapel and his baptism entry reads “Edwarde legal sonne of Alex’ Barlowe gent’ 30.” Ambrose went on to adhere to the Anglican faith until 1607, when he converted to Roman Catholicism.
-baptism entry for St Ambrose Edward Barlow, OSB, please click on the image for greater detail
In 1597, Ambrose was taken into the stewardship of Sir Uryan Legh, a relative who would care for him while he served out his apprenticeship as a page. However, upon completing this service, Barlow realized that his true vocation was for the priesthood, so like the sons of many of the Lancashire Catholic gentry, Edward decided to travel to Douai where, since 1569, an English College created by William Allen had operated.
This missionary college or seminary, working with neighbouring monasteries, was intended to provide university-style education to young men prior to them being sent to England to maintain and promote the Catholic faith. So he travelled to Douai in France to study before attending the Royal College of Saint Alban in Valladolid, Spain. In 1615, he returned to Douai where he became a member of the Order of Saint Benedict, joining the community of St Gregory the Great (now Downside Abbey) and was ordained as a priest in 1617.
The decision by Ambrose to take religious orders is summarized by Richard Challoner author of Memoirs of Missionary Priests: “As he grew up and considered the emptiness and vanity of the transitory toys of this life and the greatness of things eternal, he took a resolution to withdraw himself from the world and to go abroad, in order to procure those helps of virtue and learning, which might qualify him for the priesthood and enable him to be of some assistance to his native country.”
Well aware of the activities of English spies on the Continent looking for persons likely to return to England as priests, Edward operated under his mother’s maiden name, Brereton. Merely entering the country as a Catholic priest was treasonable and hazardous. Ports were dangerous and officials had descriptions from spies of those attempting to return to these shores. In Elizabeth I’s “Proclamation against Jesuits”, 1591 it was said:-
“And furthermore, because it is known and proved by common experience…that they do come into the same (realm) by secret creeks and landing places, disguised both in names and persons, some in apparel as soldiers, mariners or merchants, pretending that they have heretofore been taken prisoners and put into galleys and delivered. Some come as gentlemen with contrary names in comely apparel as though they had travelled to foreign countries for knowledge and generally all, for the most part, are clothed like gentlemen in apparel and many as gallants, yea in all colours and with feathers and such like, disguising themselves and many of them in their behaviour as ruffians, far off to be thought or suspected to be friars, priests, Jesuits or popish scholars.”
After his ordination into the priesthood, Ambrose returned to Barlow Hall, before taking up residence at the home of Sir Thomas Tyldesley, Morleys Hall, Astley. Sir Thomas’ grandmother had arranged for a pension to be made available to the priest which would enable him to carry out his priestly duties amongst the poor Catholics within his parish. From there he secretly catered for the needs of Catholic ‘parishioners’, offering daily Mass and reciting his Office and Rosary for the next twenty-four years. To avoid detection by the Protestant authorities, he devised a four-week routine in which he travelled throughout the parish for four weeks and then remained within the Hall for five weeks. He would often visit his cousins, the Downes, at their residence of Wardley Hall and conduct Mass for the gathered congregation.
Ambrose was arrested four times during his travels and released without charge. King Charles I signed a proclamation on 7 March 1641, which decreed that all priests should leave the country within one calendar month or face being arrested and treated as traitors, resulting in imprisonment or death. Ambrose’s parishioners implored him to flee or at least go into hiding but he refused, reasoning that he could not die a better death than to be martyred for being a Catholic priest.. Their fears were compounded by a recent stroke which had resulted in the 56-year-old priest being partially paralysed. “Let them fear that have anything to lose which they are unwilling to part with”, he told them.
On 25 April 1641, Easter Day, Ambrose and his congregation of around 100 people were surrounded at Morleys Hall, Astley by the Vicar of Leigh and his armed congregation of some 400. Father Ambrose surrendered and his parishioners were released after their names had been recorded. The priest was restrained, then taken on a horse with a man behind him to prevent his falling, and escorted by a band of sixty people to the Justice of the Peace at Winwick, before being transported to Lancaster Castle. It was at this time he had a premonition of what his fate would be since it is reported that Edmund Arrowsmith appeared to him in a dream and said that he too would become a martyr.
-Lancaster Castle, please click on the image for greater detail
Father Ambrose appeared before the presiding judge, Sir Robert Heath, on 7 September when he professed his adherence to the Catholic faith and defended his actions. On 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of Mary, Sir Robert Heath found Ambrose guilty and sentenced him to be executed. Two days later, he was taken from Lancaster Castle, drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, hanged, dismembered, quartered and boiled in oil. His head was afterwards exposed on a pike. His cousin, Francis Downes, Lord of Wardley Hall, a devout Catholic rescued his skull and preserved it at Wardley where it remains to this day. When the news of his death and martyrdom reached his Benedictine brothers at Douai Abbey, a Mass of Thanksgiving and the Te Deum were ordered to be sung.
Several relics of Ambrose are also preserved, his jaw bone is held at the Church of St Ambrose of Milan, Barlow Moor, Manchester, one of his hands is preserved at Stanbrook Abbey now at Wass, North Yorkshire and another hand is at Mount Angel Abbey in St Benedict, Oregon.
The skull of St Ambrose Barlow is on display at the top of the main staircase in Wardley Hall, Worsley, Greater Manchester – the official residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford. It was discovered in a casket in 1745 in Wardley Hall when a wall of the original chapel was being demolished. The hall has been known as the House of the Skull ever since.
O God, Who were pleased to give light to Your Church by adorning blessed Ambrose with the victory of martyrdom, graciously grant that, as he imitated the Lord’s Passion, so we may, by following in his footsteps, be worthy to attain eternal joys.
-by Martin Bouche, print, published 1683, Bl John Gavan, SJ, please click on the image for greater detail
John Gavan, aliàs Gawen, was born in London in 1640, to a family which originally came from Norrington in Wiltshire, England. He was educated at the Jesuit College at St. Omer’s and then at Liège and Watten. He began his priestly office in 1670 in Staffordshire, a county which was one of the strongholds of the Roman Catholic faith in England. He had an affectionate nickname “the Angel”.
Boscobel House – Gavan’s presence here in August 1678 would later have fatal consequences. please click on the image for greater detail.
On the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1678, he took his final vows to the Society of Jesus at Boscobel House, the home of the Penderel family, who were famous for sheltering Charles II after he fled from his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Among the witnesses were two other martyrs of the Popish Plot, William Ireland and Richard Gerard of Hilderstone. The ceremony was followed by dinner, and the guests then viewed the Royal Oak, the tree in which the King had hidden after fleeing from Worcester.
This celebration would have fatal consequences for Gavan (and also for two others who were present, William Ireland and Richard Gerard) during the Popish Plot, when Stephen Dugdale, one of the principal informers associated with the Plot, learned of it and accused the party of having gathered at Boscobel in order to plan a conspiracy to kill the King. Until January 1679, Gavan escaped arrest because Titus Oates, who had invented the Plot about a month after Gavan took his vows, did not know him. On receiving Dugdale’s testimony the Government issued a reward for Gavan’s arrest on 15 January.
Gavan fled to London and took refuge at the Imperial Embassy. Arrangements were made to smuggle him out of England; but a spy called Schibber denounced him and he was arrested on 29 January. The ambassador did not claim diplomatic immunity for Gavan, although the Embassies of the Catholic powers, taking their lead from the Spanish ambassador, did claim immunity for other priests, including George Travers. The reason for the ambassador surrendering Gavan was apparently that he was arrested in the Embassy stables, and was thus technically outside the precincts of the Embassy itself when he was taken.
Gavan was tried on 13 June 1679 with Thomas Whitbread, John Fenwick, William Barrow and Anthony Turner. A bench of seven judges tried them, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir William Scroggs, a firm believer in the Plot, and deeply hostile to Catholic priests in general. Gavan, who acted as the spokesman for all the five accused, mounted a spirited defence, which led a modern historian to call him one of the ablest priests of his generation. Attempts by Roman Catholic witnesses to prove that Titus Oates had been at St Omer’s on crucial dates when he claimed to be in London failed, as the judges gave a ruling that Catholic witnesses could receive a papal dispensation to lie on oath, and were, therefore, less credible than Protestants. Gavan had far greater success exposing the inconsistencies in Oates’ own testimony: in particular, Oates could not explain why he had not denounced Gavan in September 1678 when he first made his accusations against Whitbread and Fenwick. Gavan concluded his defence with a long and eloquent plea of innocence, despite constant interruption from Scroggs.
Scroggs, in his summing-up to the jury, admitted that he has already forgotten much of the evidence (judges then did not take notes, apparently because they had no desks to write on) but made it clear to the jury that he expected a guilty verdict, which the jury duly brought in after fifteen minutes. The five were sentenced to death the next day.
They were hanged at Tyburn on 20 June 1679. The behaviour of the crowd suggests strongly that public opinion was turning in favour of the victims. According to witnesses, the onlookers stood in perfect silence for at least an hour while each of the condemned men made a last speech maintaining his innocence; finally, Gavan led all five condemned men in an act of contrition. His own last words were reported to have been “I am content to undergo an ignominious death for the love of you, dear Jesus”. As an act of clemency, King Charles II (who was convinced of their innocence, but believed that he could not risk inflaming public opinion by issuing a royal pardon) gave orders that they should be allowed to hang until they were dead, and thus be spared the usual horrors of drawing and quartering. They were buried in the churchyard of St. Giles in the Fields.
“Dearly beloved Country-men, I am come now to the last Scene of Mortality, to the hour of my Death, an hour which is the Horizon between Time and Eternity, an hour which must either make me a Star to shine for ever in the Empyreum above, or a Firebrand to burn everlastingly amongst the damned Souls in Hell below; an hour in which if I deal sincerely, and with a hearty sorrow acknowledge my crimes, I may hope for mercy; but if I falsly deny them, I must expect nothing but Eternal Damnation; and therefore what I shall say in this great hour, I hope you will believe. And now in this hour I do solemnly swear, protest, and vow, by all that is Sacred in Heaven and on Earth, and as I hope to see the Face of God in Glory, that I am as innocent as the Child unborn of those treasonable Crimes, which Mr. Oates and Mr. Dugdale have Sworn against me in my Tryal, and for which, sentence of Death was pronounced against me the day after my Tryal; and that you may be assured that what I say is true, I do in the like manner protest, vow, and swear, as I hope to see the Face of God in Glory, that I do not in what I say unto you, make use of any Equivocation, mental Reservation, and material Prolocution, or any such ways to palliate Truth. Neither do I make use of any dispensations from the Pope, or any body else; or of any Oath of secresie, or any absolution in Confession or out of Confession to deny the truth, but I speak in the plain sence which the words bear; and if I do not speak in the plain sence which the words bear, or if I do speak in any other terms to palliate, hide, or deny the truth, I wish with all my Soul that God may exclude me from his Heavenly Glory, and condemn me to the lowest place of Hell Fire: and so much to that point.
And now, dear Country-men, in the second place, I do confess and own to the whole World that I am a Roman Catholick, and a Priest, and one of that sort of Priests which you call Jesuits; and now because they are so falsly charged for holding King-killing Doctrine, I think it my duty to protest to you with my last dying words, that neither I in particular, nor the Jesuits in general, hold any such opinion, but utterly abhor and detest it; and I assure you, that among the multitude of Authors, which among the Jesuits have printed Philosophy, Divinity, Cases or Sermons, there is not one to the best of my knowledge that allows of King-killing Doctrine, or holds this position, That it is lawful for a private person to kill a King, although an Heretick, although a Pagan, although a Tyrant, there is, I say, not one Jesuit that holds this, except Ma∣riana, the Spanish Jesuit, and he defends it not absolutely, but only problematically, for which his Book was called in again, and the opinions expugned and sentenced. And is it not a sad thing, that for the rashness of one single Man, whilst the rest cry out against him, and hold the contrary, that a whole Religious Order should be sentenc’d? But I have not time to discuss this point at large, and therefore I refer you all to a Royal Author, I mean the wife and victorious King Henry the Fourth of France, the Royal Grandfather of our present gracious King, in a publick Oration which he pronounced himself in defence of the Jesuits, said, that he was very well satisfied with the Jesuits Doctrine concerning Kings, as believing conformable to what the best Doctors of the Church have taught. But why do I relate the testimony of one particular Prince, when the whole Catholick World is the Jesuit’s Advocate? for to them chiefly Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Flanders, trust the Education of their Youth, and to them in a great proportion, they trust their own Souls to be governed in the Sacraments. And can you imagin so many great Kings and Princes, and so many wise States should do or permit this to be done in their Kingdoms, if the Jesuits were men of such damnable principles as they are now taken for in England?
In the third place, dear Country-men, I do attest, that as I never in my life did machine, or contrive either the deposition or death of the King, so now I do heartily desire of God to grant him a quiet and happy Reign upon Earth, and an Everlasting Crown in Heaven. For the Judges also, and the Jury, and all those that were any ways concern’d, either in my Tryal, Accusation, or Condemnation, I do humbly ask of God, both Temporal and Eternal happiness. And as for Mr. Oates and Mr. Dugdale, whom I call God to witness, by false Oaths have brought me to this untimely end, I heartily forgive them, because God commands me so to do; and I beg of God for his infinite Mercy to grant them true Sorrow and Repentance in this World, that they be capable of Eternal happiness in the next. And so having discharged my Duty towards my self, and my own Innocence towards my Order, and its Doctrine to my Neighbour and the World, I have nothing else to do now, my great God, but to cast my self into the Arms of your Mercy, as firmly as I judge that I my self am, as certainly as I believe you are One Divine Essence and Three Divine Persons, and in the Second Person of your Trinity you became Man to redeem me; I also believe you are an Eternal Rewarder of Good, and Chastiser of Bad. In fine, I believe all you have reveal’d for your own infinite Veracity; I hope in you above all things, for your infinite Fidelity; and I love you above all things, for your infinite Beauty and Goodness; and I am heartily sorry that ever I offended so great a God with my whole heart: I am contented to undergo an ignominious Death for the love of you, my dear Jesu, seeing You have been pleased to undergo an ignominious Death for the love of me.”
-by Martin Bouche, print, published 1683, Bl John Fenwick, SJ
John Fenwick, whose real surname was Caldwell, was born in county Durham, of Protestant parents who disowned him when he became a Roman Catholic convert. He took his course in humanities at the College of St. Omer, was sent to Liège to study theology, and entered the Society of Jesus at Watten on 28 September 1660. Having completed his studies, he was ordained a priest, and spent several years, from 1662, as procurator or agent at the College of St. Omer. He was made a professed father in 1676, and was sent to England the same year.
He resided in London as procurator of St. Omer’s College, and was also one of the missionary fathers there. In 1678, on the information of Titus Oates, he was summoned to appear before the Privy Council, and committed to Newgate Prison. He was put in chains and suffered great pain as a result: one of his legs became so infected that amputation was proposed. His correspondence was seized, but to the Crown’s disappointment it turned out to be completely innocuous: as he forcefully pointed out at his second trial, among at least a thousand letters taken from him there was not one which could be construed as treasonable. He was tried for high treason with William Ireland, in that they had conspired to kill King Charles II, a charge fabricated by Oates and later embellished by other informers. Oates claimed that he had overheard some incriminating remarks they made at a meeting of senior Jesuits in late April 1678 in the White Horse Tavern on the Strand: they could truthfully deny this, although they had at the time been at a meeting of senior Jesuits in the Palace of Whitehall. As the evidence of treason was insufficient, since the Crown lacked the requisite two witnesses, he was remanded back to prison.
However, in the political climate of the time, it was unthinkable that so prominent a Jesuit should be allowed to escape with his life: accordingly, he was arraigned a second time at the Old Bailey on 13 June 1679, before all the High Court judges. He was tried together with four other Jesuit fathers (John Gavan, William Harcourt, Thomas Whitebread and Anthony Turner}. Oates and two other notorious informers, William Bedloe and Stephen Dugdale, were the main witnesses against them, and in accordance with the direction of Lord Chief Justice William Scroggs, the jury found the prisoners guilty, despite their spirited defence. At the end of the prosecution case Fenwick made a vigorous protest:
“I have had a thousand letters taken from me: not any of these letters had anything of treason in them. All the evidence comes but to this: there is but saying and swearing.”
The five Jesuits suffered death at Tyburn on 20 June 1679. As an act of clemency, the King, who was well aware that they were innocent, but realised that it would be politically unthinkable to grant a royal pardon or reprieve, ordered that they be allowed to hang until they were dead, and be spared the indignity of drawing and quartering. In a sign that public sympathy was turning against the plot, the large crowd heard their final speeches from the scaffold in respectful silence, as each maintained his innocence. Fenwick’s remains were buried in the churchyard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.
An account of the trial and condemnation of the five Jesuits for High Treason, in conspiring the Death of the King, the Subversion of the Government and Protestant Religion was published by authority at London, 1679.
“Good People, I suppose you expect I should say something as to the Crime I am Condemned for, and either acknowledge my Guilt, or assert my Innocency; I do therefore declare before God and the whole World, and call God to witness that what I say is true, that I am innocent of what is laid to my Charge of Plotting the King’s Death, and endeavoring to subvert the Government, and bring in a foreign Power, as the Child unborn; and that I know nothing of it, but what I have learn’d from Mr. Oates and his Companions, and what comes originally from them. And to what is said and commonly believed of Roman Catholicks, that they are not to be believed or trusted, because they can have Dispensations for Lying, Perjury, killing Kings, and other the most enormous Crimes; I do utterly renounce all such Pardons, Dispensations, and withall declare, That it is a most wicked and malicious Calumny cast on them, who do all with all their hearts and souls hate and detest all such wicked and damnable Practises, and in the words of a dying Man, and as I hope for Mercy at the hands of God, before whom I must shortly appear and give an account of all my actions, I do again declare, That what I have said is most true, and I hope Christian Charity will not let you think, that by the last act of my Life, I would cast away my Soul, by sealing up my last Breath with a damnable Lye.”
-by Martin Bouche, print, 1683, Bl Thomas White, SJ
Thomas White, alias Harcourt, alias Whitbread/Whitebread was a native of Essex, but little is known of his family or early life. He was educated at St. Omer’s, and entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus on 7 September 1635. Coming upon the English mission in 1647, he worked in England for more than thirty years, mostly in the eastern counties. On 8 December 1652, he was professed of the four vows. Twice he was superior of the Suffolk District, once of the Lincolnshire District, and finally, in 1678 he was declared Provincial. In this capacity he refused to admit Titus Oates as a member of the Society, on the grounds of his ignorance, blasphemy and sexual attraction to young boys, and expelled him forthwith from the seminary of St Omer; shortly afterwards Titus, motivated by personal spite against Whitbread, and against the Jesuits generally, fabricated the so-called “Popish Plot”.
It was said later that Whitbread had a miraculous presentiment of the plot, and undoubtedly he preached a celebrated sermon at Liège in July 1678, on the text “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?”, in which he warned his listeners that the present time of tranquillity would not last, and that they must be willing to suffer false accusations, imprisonment, torture and martyrdom. Having completed a tour of his Flanders province, he went to England but at once fell ill with plague.
Whitbread was arrested in London on Michaelmas Day (i.e., 29 September) 1678, but was so ill that he could not be moved to Newgate until three months later. The house in which he and his secretary Fr. Edward Mico (who died in Newgate shortly afterwards) had been lodging was part of the Spanish Embassy in Wild Street, but for whatever reason, there was no claim of diplomatic immunity, as there was in the case of some other priests. He was first indicted at the Old Bailey, on 17 December 1678, but the evidence against him and his companions broke down. Oates testified that he had overheard Whitbread and other senior Jesuits plotting to kill the King in late April 1678 in the White Horse Tavern in the Strand. This was probably garbled second-hand information about an actual Jesuit meeting which was then going on at Whitehall Palace: but no one corroborated Oates’ story, and Whitbread could in good conscience deny the assassination plot, and that he had ever been in the White Horse Tavern.
Given the state of public opinion, it was unthinkable to the Government that Whitbread, whom Oates and the other informers had identified as one of the originators of the Plot, should be allowed to escape punishment. Accordingly he was remanded and kept in prison until 13 June 1679, when he was again indicted for treason, and with four others was found guilty on the perjured evidence of Oates, William Bedloe and Stephen Dugdale. The importance of the trial is shown by the fact that it was heard by a bench of seven judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir William Scroggs, who was a firm believer in the Plot and deeply hostile to Catholic priests. In the circumstances Whitbread could not have hoped to escape, and, although he strongly maintained his innocence, Kenyon suggests that he had resigned himself to death. Certainly the sermon he had preached at Liège the previous year suggests that he expected to suffer the death of a martyr, sooner or later.
He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. The King, who knew that he and his fellow victims were innocent, ordered that they be allowed to die before being mutilated. The well-known story that they were offered a pardon on the scaffold if they would confess seems to have no substance. The crowd showed that on this occasion its sympathies were with the victims, and it listened in respectful silence as Whitbread and the others made lengthy speeches protesting their innocence. The others executed with him were John Gavan, John Fenwick, William Harcourt and Anthony Turner. After the execution, his remains, and those of his companions, were buried in St. Giles’s in the Fields.
Whitbread wrote Devout Elevation of the Soul to God and two short poems, To Death and To His Soul, which are printed in The Remonstrance of Piety and Innocence.
“I Suppose it is expected I should speak something to the matter I am condemned for, and brought hither to suffer, it is no less than the contriving and plotting His Majesty’s Death, and the alteration of the Government of the Church and State; you all either know, or ought to know, I am to make my appearance before the Face of Almighty God, and with all imaginable certainty and evidence to receive a final Judgment, for all the thoughts, words, and actions of my whole life: So that I am not now upon terms to speak other than truth, and therefore in his most Holy Presence, and as I hope for Mercy from his Divine Majesty, I do declare to you here present, and to the whole World, that I go out of the World as innocent, and as free from any guilt of these things laid to my charge in this matter, as I came into the World from my Mother’s Womb; and that I do renounce from my heart all manner of Pardons, Absolutions, Dispensations for Swearing, as occasions or Interest may seem to re∣quire, which some have been pleased to lay to our charge as matter of our Practice and Doctrine, but is a thing so unjustifiable and unlawful, that I believe, and ever did, that no power on Earth can authorize me, or any body so to do; and for those who have so falsly accused me (as time, either in this World, or in the next, will make appear) I do heartily forgive them, and beg of God to grant them his holy Grace, that they may repent their unjust proceedings against me, otherwise they will in conclusion find they have done themselves more wrong than I have suffered from them, though that has been a great deal. I pray God bless His Majesty both Temporal and Eternal, which has been my daily Prayers for him, and is all the harm that I ever intended or imagined against him. And I do with this my last breath in the sight of God declare, that I never did learn, teach, or believe, that it is lawful upon any occasion or pretence whatsoever, to design or contrive the Death of His Majesty, or any hurt to his Person; but on the contrary, all are bound to obey, defend, and preserve his Sacred Person, to the utmost of their power. And I do moreover declare, that this is the true and plain sence of my Soul in the sight of him who knows the Secrets of my Heart, and as I hope to see his blessed Face without any Equivocation, or mental Reservation. This is all I have to say concerning the matter of my Condemnation, that which remains for me now to do, is to recommend my Soul into the hands of my blessed Redeemer, by whose only Merits and Passion I hope for Salvation.”
-by Cornelius van Merlen, print, Bl William Barrow, SJ
William Barrow (alias Waring, alias Harcourt, alias Harrison) was born in Lancashire. He made his studies at the Jesuit College, St. Omer’s, and entered the Society of Jesus at Watten in 1632. He was sent to the English mission in 1644 and worked in the London district for thirty-five years, becoming, at the beginning of 1678, its superior.
At the outbreak of the Popish Plot, Barrow was one of the most sought-after of the alleged plotters, although his use of the alias Harcourt caused the Government great confusion, as several other Jesuits also used it. He went into hiding in London, and for several months eluded capture. Finally, in May 1679, he was arrested and committed to Newgate on the charge of complicity in the plot brought against him by Titus Oates. The trial, in which he had as fellow-prisoners his colleagues, Thomas Whit(e)bread, John Fenwick, John Gavan, and Anthony Turner, commenced on 13 June 1679.
Lord Chief Justice Scroggs presided, assisted by no less than six junior judges. Oates, William Bedloe, and Stephen Dugdale were the principal witnesses for the Crown. The prisoners were charged with having conspired to kill King Charles II and subvert the Protestant religion. They defended themselves by the testimony of their own witnesses and their cross-examinations of their accusers. Oates’ claim that he had heard some of them plotting treason in the White Horse Tavern in London in late April 1678 was something they could in could conscience deny, although they did not feel obliged to mention that they had been at a meeting of the Jesuit chapter in Whitehall Palace at the time. John Gavan, the youngest and ablest of the five, bore the main burden of conducting his colleagues’ defence as well as his own.
Scroggs in directing the jury laid down two crucial legal principles-
as the witnesses for the prosecution had recently received the royal pardon, none of their undeniable previous misdemeanours could be legally admitted as impairing the value of their testimony; and
that no Catholic witness was to be believed, as it was to be assumed that he had received a dispensation to lie.
Barrow and the others were found guilty, and condemned to undergo the punishment for high treason. They were executed together at Tyburn, 20 June 1679. The King, who was well aware that they were innocent, ordered as an act of grace that they be spared drawing and quartering, and given proper burial. The behaviour of the crowd, which listened in respectful silence as each man maintained his innocence, suggests that popular opinion was turning against the Plot. They were buried in St Giles in the Fields.
By a papal decree of 4 December 1886, this martyr’s cause was introduced, but under the name of “William Harcourt”. This is the official name of beatification.
“The words of dying persons have been always esteem’d as of greatest Authority, be∣cause uttered then, when shortly after they were to be cited before the high Tribunal of Almighty God, this gives me hopes that mine may be look’d upon as such, therefore I do here declare in the presence of Almighty God, and the whole Court of Heaven, and this numerous Assembly, that as I ever hope (by the Merits and Passion of my sweet Saviour Jesus Christ) for Eternal Bliss, I am as innocent as the Child unborn of any thing laid to my charge, and for which I am here to dye, and I do utterly abhor and detest that abominable false Doctrine laid to our charge, that we can have Licenses to commit perjury, or any Sin to advantage our cause, being expresly against the Doctrine of St. Paul, saying, Non sunt faci∣enda mala, ut eveniant bona; Evil is not to be done that good may come thereof. And therefore we hold it in all cases unlawful to kill or murder any person whatsoever, much more our law∣ful King now Reigning, whose personal and temporal Dominions we are ready to defend against any Opponent whatsoever, none excepted. I forgive all that have contriv’d my Death, and humbly beg pardon of Almighty God. I also pardon all the World. I pray God bless His Majesty, and grant him a prosperous Reign. The like I wish to his Royal Con∣sort the best of Queens. I humbly beg the Prayers of all those of the Roman Church, if any such be present.”
-by Cornelius van Merlen, print, Bl Anthony Turner, SJ
Anthony Turner was born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, the son of a clergyman, Toby Turner, who was Rector of Little Dalby and Elizabeth, nee Cheseldine. He went to Uppingham School in Rutland, then studied at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where, according to tradition, he converted to Roman Catholicism.
He went to the English College, Rome in October 1650 and then to the Jesuit College, St Omer. He was ordained there on 12 April 1659.
In 1661, he was sent to run the Jesuits’ Worcestershire mission, and he remained there for the rest of his ministry; in due course, he was appointed Jesuit Superior for the District (1670-78).
At the outbreak of the Popish Plot, the Government showed exceptional interest in apprehending Turner. Why he was considered to be of such importance is unclear, but he must have been thought well worth catching, as pursuivants searched for him in three counties.
Turner resolved to suffer for the Church but was urged to flee England by his superiors. He journeyed to London in January 1679 to take refuge in the embassy of one of the Catholic powers and to find a Jesuit who could get him out of the country; his search was unsuccessful and he gave the last of his money to a beggar and turned himself in to the authorities in February 1679.
His motives for doing this are unclear: Jesuits, though were schooled to endure martyrdom where necessary, were not expected to actively seek it, nor does his spirited defence at his trial suggest that he had any such wish. It is most likely, as J. P. Kenyon suggests, that his physical and mental suffering had caused him to suffer a short-lived nervous breakdown.
Although Turner was not on Titus Oates’ list, he was moved to Newgate Prison and tried on 13 June 1679 together with Thomas Whitbread, John Fenwick, John Gavan and William Barrow. No fewer than seven judges sat on the court that tried them, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir William Scroggs, who was a convinced believer in the Plot and cherished a deep hatred of Catholic priests. Turner, having recovered his mental balance, defended himself with vigour, although the four older priests allowed the young and able John Gavan to act as the principal spokesman for all five. Attempts to discredit the testimony of Titus Oates, the inventor of the Plot, by proving that he had been in St Omer for six months when he claimed to have been in London failed, as the Court ruled that the witnesses, being Catholics, could receive a dispensation to lie and were therefore not credible. Far more effective were the direct attacks on Oates himself; in particular, the accused were able to show that though Oates knew Whitbread and Fenwick personally, Gavan was a stranger to him. Oates’s evidence against Gavan was so feeble that even Scroggs remarked “I perceive your memory is not good”.
Despite weaknesses in the prosecution case, Scroggs summed up firmly for a conviction (while cheerfully admitting that he had already forgotten most of the evidence), and the jury delivered a guilty verdict within fifteen minutes. All five were hanged at Tyburn on 20 June 1679. The well-known story that they were offered a royal pardon on the scaffold if they would confess seems to have no foundation. Charles II was asked to show clemency, but refused, for fear of inflaming public opinion; the most he would do is order that the five be allowed to hang until they were dead, that they be spared drawing and quartering and given a proper burial.
The crowd showed that its sympathy was with the victims, and stood in respectful silence while each of the condemned men delivered a last speech maintaining his innocence. They were buried in St Giles-in-the-Fields.
“Being now, good People, very near my End, and summon’d by a violent Death to appear before God’s Tribunal, there to render an account of all my thoughts, words, and actions, before a just Judge, I am bound in Conscience to declare upon Oath my Innocence from the horrid Crime of Treason, with which I am falsely accused: And I esteem it a Duty I owe to Christian Charity, to publish to the World before my death all that I know in this point, concerning those Catholicks I have conversed with since the first noise of the Plot, desiring from the very bottom of my heart, that the whole Truth may appear, that Innocence may be clear’d, to the great Glory of God, and the Peace and Welfare of the King and Country. As for my self, I call God to witness, that I was never in my whole life at any Consult or Meeting of the Jesuits, where any Oath of Secrecy was taken, or the Sacrament, as a Bond of Secrecy, either by me or any one of them, to conceal any Plot against His Sacred Majesty; nor was I ever present at any Meeting or Consult of theirs, where any Proposal was made, or Resolve taken or signed, either by me or any of them, for taking away the Life of our Dread Soveraign; an Impiety of such a nature, that had I been present at any such Meeting, I should have been bound by the Laws of God, and by the Principles of my Religion, (and by God’s Grace would have acted accordingly) to have discovered such a devillish Treason to the Civil Magistrate, to the end they might have been brought to condign punishment. I was so far, good People, from being in September last at a Consult of the Jesuits at Tixall, in Mr. Ewer’s Chamber, that I vow to God, as I hope for Salvation, I never was so much as once that year at Tixall, my Lord Aston’s House. ‘Tis true, I was at the Congregation of the Jesuits held on the 24th of April was twelve-month, but in that Meeting, as I hope to be saved, we meddled not with State-Affairs, but only treated about the Governours of the Province, which is usually done by us, without offence to temporal Princes, every third Year all the World over. I am, good People, as free from the Treason I am accused of, as the Child that is unborn, and being innocent I never accused my self in Confession of any thing that I am charged with. Which certainly, if I had been conscious to my self of any Guilt in this kind, I should not so frankly and freely, as I did, of my own accord, presented my self before the King’s Most Honourable Privy Council. As for those Catholicks, which I have conversed with since the noise of the Plot, I protest before God, in the words of a dying Man, that I never heard any one of them, neither Priest nor Layman, express to me the least knowledge of any Plot, that was then on foot amongst the Catholicks, against the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, for the advancing the Catholick Religion. I dye a Roman Catholick, and humbly beg the Prayers of such for my happy passage into a better Life: I have been of that Religion above Thirty Years, and now give God Almighty infinite thanks for calling me by his holy Grace to the knowledge of this Truth, notwithstanding the prejudice of my former Education. God of his infinite Goodness bless the King, and all the Royal Family, and grant His Majesty a prosperous Reign here, and a Crown of Glory hereafter. God in his mercy forgive all those which have falsely accused me, or have had any hand in my Death; I forgive them from the bottom of my heart, as I hope my self for forgiveness at the Hands of God.
O GOD who hast created me to a supernatural end, to serve thee in this life by grace and injoy thee in the next by glory, be pleased to grant by the merits of thy bitter death and passion, that after this wretched life shall be ended, I may not fail of a full injoyment of thee my last end and soveraign good. I humbly beg pardon for all the sins which I have com∣mitted against thy Divine Majesty, since the first Instance I came to the use of reason to this very time; I am heartily sorry from the very bottom of my heart for having offending thee so good, so powerfull, so wise, and so just a God, and purpose by the help of thy grace, ne∣ver more to offend thee my good God, whom I love above all things.
O sweet Jesus, who hath suffer’d a most painfull and ignominious Death upon the Cross for our Salvation, apply, I beseech thee, unto me the merits of thy sacred Passion, and sanctifie unto me these sufferings of mine, which I humbly accept of for thy sake in union of the sufferings of thy sacred Majesty, and in punishment and satisfaction of my sins.
O my dear Saviour and Redeemer, I return thee immortal thanks for all thou hast pleased to do for me in the whole course of my life, and now in the hour of my death, with a firm belief of all things thou hast revealed, and a stedfast hope of obteining everlasting bliss. I chearfully cast my self into the Arms of thy Mercy, whose Arms were stretched on the Cross for my Re∣demption. Sweet Jesus receive my Spirit.”
-“The Crucifixion” is a panel in the central part of the predella of a large altarpiece painted by Andrea Mantegna between 1457 and 1459 for the high altar of San Zeno, Verona (Italy). It was commissioned by Gregorio Correr, the abbot of that monastery. Tempera on panel, 67 cm × 93 cm (26 in × 37 in), The Louvre, Paris. Please click on the image for greater detail.
“What do the martyrs teach us? Today we celebrate the English Martyrs, those heroic men and women who gave their life for the faith in this country in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is stating the obvious to note how different their circumstances were to our own. Why then do we celebrate them today, and what do they teach us?
St John of the Cross once wrote: “in the evening of life, we will be judged by love alone.” The fact that we are celebrating this feast means that these martyrs now enjoy their eternal reward. Judged by love alone, they passed the test with flying colours. So if they teach us about love, how are we to love?
Christ summarises the teaching of the Old Testament on love as the following: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
This tells us who we are to love, but it doesn’t tell us the how.
Christ’s teaching on love is not reducible to a summary of the Old Law. His teaching takes on a far more radical shape: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you”. As I have loved you. This is to give up life itself, for this is what Christ Himself did. That point is made very clear when Jesus goes to say “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Christ laid down His life for each one of us, and that is how He calls each one of us to love too.
A love that imitates Christ until death is exactly what we read about St Stephen in the first reading. The story even echoes the events of the cross. Stephen, like Christ, was taken outside of the city to be killed. He too, like Christ, forgave his oppressors, and he too cried out to God with the same words: “receive my spirit”.
A death that echoes that of Christ on the cross can also be seen with many of the English Martyrs that we celebrate today. John Kemple, a secular priest, said to his executioner, who happened to be a friend of his, “My good Anthony, do what you have to do. I forgive you with all my heart…”. Margaret Clitherowe accepted her burden with the same words as Christ prayed in the garden. She said, before she was crushed to death, “I will accept willingly everything that God wills”.
This is why we celebrate the martyrs: they fix our gaze on the cross. It is there we learn how to love.
Christ’s instruction to imitate Him is of course not just reserved for the moment of our death. His instruction to “love one another even as I have loved you” ought to direct our every action. We cannot wait until the possibility of a heroic martyr’s death to begin loving as we ought to love. For the vast majority of us that moment will likely never come. But the opportunity to love as Christ has loved us is already here.
The whole of Jesus’ earthly mission looked forward to the cross. The love He displayed there was the perfection and completion of His ministry of teaching and healing. The cross is the final lesson: by His wounds, we are healed. (cf -Is 53:5-6)
So too in the lives of the martyrs their death was not an isolated incident, of Christ-like, cruciform love. St Stephen was a man ‘full of faith and the Holy Spirit’, who proclaimed words of truth in the midst of a hostile Council. Margaret Clitherowe hid priests and continued to do so even after it was made illegal. She decided not to plead in her trial, thereby hastening her execution, so as to save her children from testifying and likely torture. Her imitation of the cross began long before she breathed her last. How appropriate that she died on 25th March 1586, Good Friday that year.
This is what the martyrs teach us: our imitation of the cross begins now. Every single moment, every single decision, is an opportunity to love as Jesus loved us.
To love like Jesus on the cross is to prefer nothing but the good of our neighbour. (cf – St Thomas Aquinas, OP) It is to forgive those who have most deeply wronged us. It is to speaks words of comfort from a place of hurt. (Ed.’s emphasis) It is to gather together those who are lost. It is to seek to do the Father’s will above all things.
For a very few the imitation of Christ’s love on the cross is literal, for most the circumstances are less dramatic, but for all the demand is the same: love one another as I have loved you. A cruciform-shaped love ought to structure our whole life, from its broadest shape to its most insignificant detail – now, and at the hour of our death.”
Love, Lord, let me love those who have wronged me, caused me to suffer, deprived me in this life,
“There’s not much romance in theology. That’s why the two can clash: the syllogisms of the former despise the sentiments of the latter, or the drive to be theologically perfect in the one runs up against the desire to be theatrically passionate in the other.
But God has established a Church for the logicians and the lovers alike. As there are many types of personality, so are there many types of spirituality, and in her wisdom, the Church provides many religious orders, many forms of prayer and worship.
St. Louis de Montfort was, as a Frenchman, one of the high romantics of the Roman Catholic faith. Though he wrote a good deal and preached a good deal more, scholars have rarely found his efforts good. Especially critical are those who see in this eloquent and courtly champion of Our Lady a type of Mary-olatry, to the point where Louis puts more stock in the Mother of God than in God Himself.
But here is where the poetry of this knight lies. Those who miss the man’s poetry will miss the man.
Born in 1673, Louis Marie Grignion led the charge of his eight siblings, of modest parentage and means, in the town of Montfort in the northwest of France. He took his education with the Jesuits in Rennes and, inspired by the gallant history of the knight-priest Ignatius of Loyola, he went to Paris to pursue his own call to holy orders.
With his ordination in 1700, Louis carried out priestly duties in Nantes while training for mission work in France or the French colonies in the New World. He also worked as a hospital chaplain during this time, and it was while tending to the sick and poor that he formed a holy order of reformation in this ministry—and a core of female followers, who would become the congregation of the Daughters of the Divine Wisdom.
Like so many reformers, Abbé Louis was blasted and blistered with criticism and mistrust. He was eventually forced to step away from his position in the hospital. People wondered at his emphasis on angels and the indispensable role of the Blessed Virgin in the course of salvation, and they questioned the dramatic way in which he presented the Faith to simple folk.
Under these disparagements, Louis turned to the streets to help the poor, but even there, his detractors influenced the Bishop of Poitiers to forbid Louis to evangelize. So Louis went to Rome to appeal to Pope Clement XI. The pope was favorably moved and sent him back to France with the title of apostolic missionary. Louis returned to his native land of Brittany in the northwest to lay the groundwork of his mission.
Though Louis de Montfort was beloved and successful in nearly every parish, his reputation as a startling and sensational preacher never left him. He was especially shunned by those in thrall to Jansenism, who strongly suspected, or even heretically rejected, the beauty of the soul that falls in love with Mary and Jesus to save itself from damnation.
To be fair, with all his passion, Abbé Louis could be shocking. Sometimes he would make an effigy of the devil and dress it up in the gaudy clothing of a society woman. Setting up this grotesquerie in the public square, he would call for people to bring out their secular or sinful books and make a great heap of them before his infernal mannequin. Then he would light them on fire and hurl the stuffed imp on the blazing pyre, to the delight of some and the disturbance of others. (…a bonfire of the vanities)
At other times, Louis would fervently enact the struggle of a dying sinner as an angel and a devil wrangled for his soul. He was known for drama and flair in these “performances”—not the pulpit fare that most were accustomed to, with desperate thoughts, devilish entrapments, and holy sentiments put into angelic dialogue.
It is here, in the realm of the poetic preacher, that Louis falls prey even now to denouncement, as too flamboyant or far afield in his devotion to Mary. His enduringly popular treatise (despite naysayers), True Devotion to Mary, may at times be flowery or fantastic in its treatment of the power of the Mediatrix of all Graces, but its intention is to sound a chord of love. As a lover of the Mother of God, Louis speaks in the language of love: poetry. He even sang hymns and recited metered prayers that he wrote himself for his congregation.
Catholics may stumble and be suspicious when they hear Louis say with imaginative drama that the “Hail Mary” was Mary’s favorite prayer to recite, but they are missing the angle of his approach. Louis was not being obscene in his exaltation of Mary and the angels or in his unconventional displays as a preacher. He was being poetic. And poetry should always be unconventional. If it takes no risk, if it stays on safe territory, it will not shake the soul into new vistas of wonder beyond the reaches of logic and rhetoric. It is in those realms, beyond logic and rhetoric, St. Thomas Aquinas taught, where poetry reigns.
Poetry is not dogmatic, in any case. It is expressive of an essence beyond the texts of dogma to delineate. There is, therefore, a romance that is proper to the spiritual life, for the mode of romance emphasizes and exults in perfection, and this divine quality should be the hopeful beginning and the joyful end of any spiritual journey. As John Senior, another poetic and impassioned soul, wrote in The Restoration of Christian Culture,
“…the Camino Real of Christ is a chivalric way, romantic, full of fire and passion, riding on the pure, high-spirited horses of the self with their glad, high-stepping knees and flaring nostrils, and us with jingling spurs and the cry “Mon joie!”—the battle cry of Roland and Olivier. Our Church is the Church of the Passion.”
With rosary in hand, Louis sallied through France like a knight errant for his lady, with all the romance of religion aflame in his heart, bringing the heat of his passion to rough sailors from market boats, young hooligans dancing in the street, and the entrenched Calvinists of La Rochelle. All turned to Louis de Montfort and, in so doing, turned to Our Lady and Our Lord.
Louis was only forty-three when he passed away from a sudden illness, dying as unexpectedly as any dramatic tale might have it. But his dramatic tale is true, and one that reflects the poetic, romantic side of the Catholic faith and the wonders of Mary, whom, to borrow a phrase from Chesterton that Louis would have adored, “God kissed in Galilee.”
Love, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” -Lk 1:28,
“Many of us begin emails with generic phrases like “I hope you are doing well.” Saint Catherine of Siena began her letters with greetings like “I long to see you engulfed and drowned in the sweet blood of God’s Son, which is permeated with the fire of His blazing charity.”
Saint Catherine wrote thirty-seven of these fiery exhortations to Dominican friars. In them, she invites and implores her brethren to discover, to be immersed in, and to preach the transforming power of Christ’s Passion.
The discovery of Christ’s Passion begins in what St. Catherine calls the cell of self-knowledge. Illumined by the Holy Spirit in prayer—and, St. Catherine adds to the friars, amid their fidelity to their physical cells—we realize the depth of our own poverty. Everything we are—whether by nature or by grace—is a gift of God. Left to our own resources, we are not.
Saint Catherine writes that dwelling in the cell of self-knowledge leads us to discover the magnitude of God’s goodness to us. We discover for ourselves that Jesus went to the cross out of burning charity for us: that He ran to the cross for us like a lover or a courageous knight. Likewise, we realize that charity itself was what held Jesus to the cross—that the nails themselves could not have fixed Jesus to the wood if His love for us did not hold Him there.
Pondering His love on the cross leads us to draw close and to accept being transformed by Christ’s Passion. Saint Catherine describes this change as an immersion in blood and fire: she writes of being “drowned and transformed in his overflowing blood,” of being “swallowed up—drowned—in the fire of God’s blazing charity.” This is a drowning—a dying—of the old self and its selfish ways of loving. It is also a bathing and a clothing in the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Catherine compares this transformation to a kind of drunkenness. The blood of Christ crucified “is a wine on which our soul gets drunk,” and the lover of Christ’s blood is like a heavy drinker who forgets himself, immersing all of his thoughts in the wine. Such a man drinks and drinks and drinks until “his stomach becomes so warmed by the wine that he can no longer hold it, and out it comes!” Like the best of wines, Christ’s blood warms the heart and loosens the tongue. It rouses the soul from apathy and propels it outward to preach the truth with fire.
“Up, up,” St. Catherine urges. “No more sleeping.” Drowned and bathed in the blood of the Lamb, the friars are to run with zeal to the battlefield, seeking God’s honor and the salvation of souls. They are to imitate the apostles who “mounted the pulpit of the blazing cross, where they felt and tasted the hunger of God’s Son, His love for humankind.” Saint Catherine implores the friars to preach from the pulpit of the cross and to be consumed there with Christ’s desire; only then can their words burn like red-hot knives from a furnace to pierce their hearers’ hearts.
Saint Catherine bluntly acknowledges that the brethren should expect rejection in their ministry. True servants of Truth are not mercenaries who live for spiritual consolations. They do not flee from hard tasks or hard people. Instead, they remain on the battlefield, finding their rest and joy in their crucified captain. The fiery blood of Christ gives them strength “for every battle—for enduring pain, slander, reproach, and abuse for love of Him.” This blood replaces their small-heartedness with Christ’s own great-heartedness, and it allows them to share Christ’s love and zeal even toward grumblers and persecutors.
Together, St. Catherine’s letters to friars are an accessible entry-point to her spiritual doctrine, tailored to men of the cell and the pulpit. Their fervor and directness pierce through our complacency and alert us to the reality at the heart of St. Catherine’s vision of Dominican life: immersion in the blood and fire of Christ crucified.”
Bl. Anacleto Gonzalez Flores (1888–1927) was the second of twelve children born to a poor family in Jalisco, Mexico. He was baptized the day after his birth. As he grew, a priest recognized his intelligence and recommended that he enter the seminary. Anacleto studied there for a time before discerning that he was not called to the priesthood. Instead he became an attorney, husband, and father, as well as an activist for his Catholic faith.
He was a prolific writer and dedicated catechism teacher, and attended daily Mass. He joined the Catholic Association of Young Mexicans (ACJM) in addition to starting another Catholic lay organization committed to resisting the fierce persecution of the Catholic Church under the infamous Mexican dictator, Plutarco Elías Calles.
-Mexican president & dictator, Plutarco Elías Calles, 1924-1928
González became an activist, led the Catholic Association of Mexican Youth (ACJM), and founded the magazine La Palabra, which attacked the anticlerical and anti-Catholic articles of the Constitution of 1917. He was the founder and president of the Popular Union (UP), which organized Catholics to resist the persecution of the Church.
Originally, González supported passive resistance against the government since he had studied the methods of Gandhi. Initially he participated only in the non-violent resistance against Calles, until four members of the ACJM were murdered in 1926. Their deaths spurred Anacleto to lend support to the armed resistance movement. Anacleto did not take up arms but instead gave speeches to encourage Catholics to support the Cristeros, the Catholic army fighting against Calles. He wrote, “the country is a jail for the Catholic Church…. We are not worried about defending our material interests because these come and go; but our spiritual interests, these we will defend because they are necessary to obtain our salvation.”[
González did not take up arms but gave speeches that encouraged Catholics to support the Cristeros with money, food, accommodation, and clothing. He wrote pamphlets and gave speeches that supported his opposition to the anticlerical government. Seeking to crush the rebellion, the government sought to capture the leaders of the Popular Union and the National League for the Defence of Religious Freedom. González was captured and framed with charges that he murdered an American, Edgar Wilkens, but the government knew that Wilkens had been killed by a robber, Guadalupe Zuno. Anacleto was captured during the Cristero War on April 1, 1927, and was brutally tortured before being martyred by firing squad.
González was tortured, including being hung by his thumbs pulling them out of their sockets, having his shoulder fractured with a rifle butt, and having the bottom of his feet slashed. On April 1, 1927, he was executed by firing squad. Echoing the words of the assassinated Ecuadorian President Gabriel García Moreno, who defied the forces seeking to suppress his faith, González’s last words were “Hear Americas for the second time: I die but God does not! Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long Live Christ the King!”)
Wilkens’s widow, who knew that González had been framed, wrote a letter of protest to Washington, DC, which exonerated him. A letter staying his execution arrived shortly after he had been shot.
González was portrayed by the actor Eduardo Verástegui in the film For Greater Glory (Spanish: Cristada), which also starred Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, and Peter O’Toole. His feast day is April 1st.
Cristero Prayer Composed by the martyr Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and prayed by the Cristeros of Jalisco at the end of the Rosary. -Translated by Fr. Jordi Rivero
My sins are more numerous than the drops of blood that you shed for me. I do not deserve to belong to the army that defends the rights of your church and fights for you.
I would that I had never sinned so that my life were an offering pleasing to your eyes. Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.
By Your holy cross, by my Most Holy Mother of Guadalupe, forgive me, I have not known how to make penance for my sins so I want to receive my death as a deserved punishment for them. I do not want to fight, or live, or die, but by You and Your Church.
Holy Mother Guadalupe!, Accompany in his agony this poor sinner. Grant that my last word on earth and my first song in heaven be:
“Throughout the entire history of the Church, men and women, such as Peter, have heroically paid the ultimate price for their Christian faith. Stories like these touch the deepest parts of our souls and stir up something powerful within us. They both break and inspire our hearts as we hear the gut-wrenching details of their suffering and heroic love for Christ. Although we may not be able to fathom the reality that these saints faced, we can’t help but wonder what we would do in such a circumstance. How would we respond when faced with the same question Jesus posed to Peter: “Will you lay down your life for me?” We may never face the ultimate life-or-death question that so many martyrs did, but it is prudent for us to recognize that, in a certain sense, we face this question every day. We are called to emulate the lives of the martyr—not through physical death but by embracing martyrdom in everyday life.
It is easy to be scared of what we don’t understand, and death is no exception to this statement; you will probably encounter few people in this lifetime who are ready to die. That is part of what makes the stories of the martyrs so compelling—to stare death in the face and accept it is something difficult for many of us to fathom. Yet the thousands of martyrs in the history of the Church did something far grander than simply die. If death was the only thing they did, there would be nothing to celebrate or honor. It is the fact that they died for the sake of Christ, reflecting in their actions the same selfless sacrifice that he made for us. Their sanctification comes from the action being offered for the sake of Christ and his mission, and not from the action itself. Yet, if we are never to face a situation that will call us into such an offering, it can be difficult to see how the martyrs can provide any useful insight into our own sanctification. At the surface, we may find a general sense of inspiration and courage from their stories, but there is far more to gain. While there is a temptation to focus on the single moment that made these men and women saints, their lives are much more complex. Their sainthoods were formed by the accumulation of many small moments that led them and prepared them to undergo their suffering. Whether it was fasting, isolating themselves from their family and friends to follow God’s call, or offering up their labor for God’s greater glory, they understood what it meant to be an everyday martyr—someone who dies to themselves each and every day for the sake of Christ. By dying to themselves day in and day out, they unknowingly prepared themselves for that ultimate test of faith. Through the examples they set, we can see that we, too, are capable of participating in a lower form of martyrdom every day.
In the hidden life of the everyday Christian, we are invited to intimately participate in Christ’s redemption. Although we may feel like distant observers to this, we see that the martyrs offer us an example of how to truly be present: by putting Christ at the center of our actions. To do this, we must embrace the everyday martyr mentality. Through dying to our lower desires and clinging to things that are higher, we are not only living like Christ, but as Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, we are being “changed into Christ.” This is the aim of all Christians—martyrs and non-martyrs alike. From embracing this mentality, there is hope that not only are we changed into Christ but that our families, and ultimately this world, may be too.
The Lenten season has traditionally been a time dedicated to embracing this type of prudence and obedience, but many of us stop at Lent. However, the call to everyday martyrdom continues throughout the entire calendar year. We are always called to reject that which is lower and cling to the higher. It may be a struggle, but it is one worth fighting for. When we fail, we can look to the martyr we mentioned earlier, Peter, for hope and inspiration. As a child, I remember I despised Peter for rejecting Christ during the Passion. No “real” man would ever do such a thing, I thought. To me, this made him weak and a coward. It wasn’t until I realized how easily I fall into sin (and when the stakes are far lower than those that Peter faced) that I began to understand his decision. Peter’s actions—like many of ours—were not only wrong; they failed to live up to the standards of the everyday martyr mentality. However, Peter showed us how we should respond to such failures. He repented and re-committed himself to living a life for the sake of Christ. The next time Peter would have to answer the “Will you lay down your life for me?” question, he would be ready to say yes and mean it.”
-St John of God carrying a sick person with the Archangel Raphael appearing to help him. Raphael (often misattributed by some commentators as Gabriel) stepping out of the darkness to assist him to bear his load. (Apart from his identification with caring for the sick, e.g., Tobit and his father, Raphael is often shown in gold. The name “Raphael” itself means “God has healed”) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682), ca. 1672, oil on canvas, height: 79 cm (31.1 in), width: 62 cm (24.4 in), Hospital de la Caridad, Seville, Spain, please click on the image for greater detail
“Lord be blessed for in Your great kindness to me who am such a great sinner having done so many wicked things, yet You see fit to set me free from such a tremendous temptation and deception which I fell into through my own sinfulness. You have brought me into a safe harbor where I shall endeavor to serve You with all my strength. My Lord, I beg you with all my might, give me the strength of Your grace and always let me see Your clemency. I want to be your slave, so kindly show me what I should do. Give peace and quiet to my soul which greatly desires this. O most worthy Lord, may this creature of Yours serve and praise You. May I give my whole heart and mind to You.” ~Prayed by Saint John of God at the time of his final conversion
Saint John of God was born in the village of Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal to middle-class, faith-filled parents, the son of André Cidade and Teresa Duarte, a once-prominent family that was impoverished but had great religious faith. According to his early biographer, John was abducted from his home when he was only eight years old. According to his original biography, his mother died from grief soon after this and his father joined the Franciscan Order. John was taken to the town of Oropesa, Spain, more than 200 miles away. In Oropesa, John found himself homeless and alone. He met a good man named El Mayoral who gave him a job as a shepherd and a place to live. John worked hard until he was twenty-two years old, never returning to his parents’ home. El Mayoral wanted John to marry his daughter, but John wanted to see the world. He joined the army of the Holy Roman Emperor and battled the French. During his service, he was assigned to guard some captured clothing that went missing. John was accused of theft and condemned to death, but others intervened and he was released. Frustrated with military life, John returned to El Mayoral’s farm where he worked for another four years before entering the army once again to fight the Turks for the next eighteen years.
Upon the completion of his military service, John decided to return to his home country in Montemor-o-Novo to learn what became of his parents. After much searching, he found one of his elderly uncles who informed him that his mother died of heartbreak after his abduction and that his father joined the Franciscans and advanced in holiness. John said to his uncle, “I no longer wish to stay in this country; but rather to go in search of a way to serve Our Lord beyond my native place, just as my father did. He gave me a good example by doing that. I have been so wicked and sinful and since the Lord has given me life, it is fitting that I should use it to serve Him and do penance.”
John began an interior search for the best way he could serve God and decided to journey to Africa, to ransom himself to the Muslims in exchange for their prisoners. On the journey, he met a knight and his family who were destitute and unable to care for themselves. The knight begged for John’s help that John gladly gave by working and giving them his earnings. When one of John’s fellow workers fled to Muslim territory and converted to Islam, John began to despair, thinking he should have done more for his friend. After seeking counsel from a Franciscan monastery, he decided to return to the mainland of Spain for the good of his soul.
Upon his arrival, John threw himself into a life of prayer, made a general confession, and tearfully went from church to church begging God for the forgiveness of his sins. To support himself, he began to buy and sell religious pictures and books as a traveling salesman. He found this to be spiritually rewarding and fruitful for the salvation of souls. Eventually, at the age of forty-six, he set up a small shop of religious items at Granada’s city gate.
Soon after, the great preacher Saint John of Ávila came to town to preach a mission. John was in attendance and was so moved by John of Ávila’s sermons, and so keenly aware of his own sins, that he started running through the streets like a madman, shouting for mercy. He returned to his shop and destroyed every book that was not religious, gave every other religious book and picture away to those passing by, gave away the rest of his possessions, and continued crying out in the streets that he was a sinner. “Mercy! Mercy, Lord God, on this tremendous sinner who has so offended you!” Many thought John was a lunatic. Some good men brought him to Saint John of Ávila who heard his confession, counseled him, consoled him, and offered his continued guidance. But John was so deeply touched by the priest’s holy help that he wanted everyone in the town to know how sinful he was, so he ran through the streets crying out again and rolled in mud as a sign of his sinfulness. Eventually, two compassionate men took John to the local insane asylum for treatment.
The theory of the day was that those who were insane were best cured by locking them in a dungeon and torturing them continuously until they chose to abandon their insanity, and this is what happened to John. Saint John of Ávila heard of this and began communicating with John, encouraging him, and guiding him. He received every beating in the asylum with joy as penance and offered each sacrificially to God. Throughout, John exhorted the warden and other officers to treat the patients better. When John began to exude a peaceful disposition, the warden was pleased and permitted him to be freed of his shackles. John showed mercy and compassion to others, performing menial charitable tasks and spreading God’s love. He thought to himself, “May Jesus Christ eventually give me the grace to run a hospice where the abandoned poor and those suffering from mental disorders might have refuge and that I may be able to serve them as I wish.”
-logo/emblem of the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God, the Fatebenefratelli, please click on the image for greater detail.
After receiving permission to leave the asylum, John made a pilgrimage and had a vision of the Blessed Mother who encouraged him to work for the poor and infirm. Upon his return to Granada, he moved forward with his desire to open a hospital. Through begging, he was able to rent a building, furnish it, and begin seeking out the sick. He worked tirelessly to care for them, begged for food, brought priests to hear their confessions, and nursed them back to health. In the years following, John extended his mission of mercy to the poor, the abandoned, widows, orphans, the unemployed, prostitutes, and all who suffered. Soon, others were so inspired by the work John was doing that they joined him. His example helped others: two men who were in public enmity with each other while sharing common dissolute lives, Antoni Martin and Pedro Velasco, were reconciled to each other and became the nucleus of the new order that John was establishing. His companions in the work made up what would eventually become the Order of Hospitallers. In John’s life, the group would be only an organized group of companions, but twenty-two years after John’s death, the pope would approve this group of men as a new religious order.
Among the many miracles that have been reported, the most notable was when John ran in and out of a burning hospital to rescue patients without being burned himself. He is most known for his reaction when a local hospital caught fire. Bystanders did nothing. Disregarding his own safety, John rushed into the burning building to carry out patients. After having done that, he began throwing pillows and blankets out of the windows, mindful of what it took to get supplies. Finally, it’s said that when the local authorities planned on shooting a cannon at the burning edifice to level it, John stood on the roof and, with an axe, separated the burning part of the building from that which had not yet ignited. He emerged unscathed. A subsequent biographer explained it thusly: “The flame of Divine love which burned in his heart surpassed the intensity of the material fire.”
When a local river was seen to be carrying driftwood, John and his companions went to gather it as useful supplies. When a boy fall into the river and was caught in its current, John leaped in to try and rescue the lad, but came down with pneumonia, the cause of his death. The same city that had earlier put him in a hospital asylum mourned his death. He was canonized in 1690. John of God died on March 8, 1550, his 55th birthday, in Granada.
-St. John of God saving the Sick from a Fire at the Royal Hospital in 1549 by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González (1880), oil on canvas, height: 310 cm (10.1 ft); width: 195 cm (76.7 in), Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada, Alhambra, Granada, Spain, please click on the image for greater detail
-attributed to Juan Zapaca Inga, 1684-1685, “Passing of Saint John of God”, oil on canvas, height: 1,660 mm (65.35 in); width: 2,225 mm (87.59 in), Lima Art Museum, Peru, please click on the image for greater detail
The Order of Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God maintains a presence in 53 countries, operating more than 300 hospitals, services, and centers serving a range of medical needs in addition to mental health and psychiatry. The Family of Saint John of God, as those who commit to his vision are called, is made up of more than 45,000 members, Brothers and Co-workers, and supported by tens of thousands of benefactors and friends who identify with and support the work of the Order for sick and needy people across the world.
Saint John of God is a shining example of God’s power. He was a sinner and was thought to be mentally ill, but God did incredible things through him. If you ever feel as though you have nothing to offer God, think of Saint John and know that the weaker you may feel, the more God can use you.
Saint John of God, you struggled in many ways throughout your life. Through it all, you never gave up your desire to serve God and others. Please pray for me, especially when I lose hope, that I may imitate your example and offer myself to God for His glory and the service of all. Saint John of God, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Blessed Robert Drury was born in Buckinghamshire in about 1567. He studied at the English College, Rheims, France in 1588, and the English College, Valladolid, Spain in 1590. Ordained at Valladolid in 1593. Returned to England in 1593 to minister to covert Catholics around London, England. He was one of the signers of the loyal address of 31 January 1603 which acknowledged the queen as lawful sovereign on earth but maintained their loyalty in religious matters to the Pope. When James I came to the throne, the king required them to sign a new oath that acknowledged his authority over spiritual matters. Robert refused and was arrested in 1606 for the crime of being a priest. He was offered his freedom if he would sign the oath; he declined. Martyred by being hanged, drawn, and quartered on 26 February 1607 at Tyburn, London England.
An invitation from the English Government to these priests to acknowledge their allegiance and duty to the queen (dated 5 November 1602) led to the loyal address of 31 January 1603, drawn up by Dr. William Bishop, and signed by thirteen of the leading priests, including Drury and Roger Cadwallader. In this address, they acknowledged the queen as their lawful sovereign, repudiated the claim of the pope to release them from their duty of allegiance to her, and expressed their abhorrence of the forcible attempts already made to restore the Catholic religion and their determination to reveal any further conspiracies against the Government which should come to their knowledge. In return, they pleaded that as they were ready to render to Caesar the things that were Caesar’s, so they might be permitted to yield to the successor of Peter that obedience which Peter himself might have claimed under the commission of Christ, and so to distinguish between their several duties and obligations as to be ready on the one hand “to spend their blood in defense of her Majesty”, but on the other “rather to lose their lives than infringe the lawful authority of Christ’s Catholic Church”. This repudiation of the papal deposing power was condemned by the theological faculty of the Catholic University of Leuven; but Dr. William Bishop was in the end nominated Bishop of Chalcedon and first vicar Apostolic in England in 1623.
Elizabeth I of England died within three months of the signature of the address, and James I of England was not satisfied with purely civil allegiance. A new oath of allegiance was drawn up. It was imposed 5 July 1606, and about this time Drury was arrested. He was condemned for his priesthood, but was offered his life if he would take the new oath. A letter from Father Robert Persons, S.J., against its lawfulness was found on him. The oath declared that the “damnable doctrine” of the deposing power was “impious and heretical”, and it was condemned by Pope Paul V, 22 September 1606, “as containing many things contrary to the Faith and Salvation”. This brief, however, was suppressed by the archpriest, and Drury probably did not know of it. But he felt that his conscience would not permit him to take the oath, and he died a Catholic martyr at Tyburn, 26 February 1606-7.
-Robert Persons (Parsons), SJ (1546-1610)
Blessed Robert Drury attempted to appease Queen Elizabeth and her government as one of the Appellants. Two of the 13 who signed the Protestation of Allegiance would be executed during the reign of James I of England: today’s martyr and Blessed Roger Cadwallador (in 1610 on August 27). The Appellants opposed the Jesuit methods of leading the Catholic mission to England and attempted to compromise, pleading a divided but honest loyalty–secular loyalty to Elizabeth’s authority as the Queen of England; religious loyalty to Papal authority as the successor to St. Peter. The Appellants also opposed the authority and methods of the Archpriest George Blackwell, whom they thought favored the Jesuit approach. The Jesuit approach, articulated by Father Robert Persons, was uncompromising: total loyalty to the Roman Pontiff and absolute refusal to adopt public acceptance of the Church of England while remaining privately opposed. The Jesuits would not tolerate Church Papists who attended Anglican services to avoid the fines and imprisonments, for example. The Elizabethan regime took advantage of these disagreements to encourage division among Catholics in England.
Even if Elizabeth I had accepted their appeal for relief to her Catholic subjects, the succession of James VI of Scotland ended this attempt–because he would not compromise, either. He demanded that the Appellants accept his authority over both religious and secular matters with the Oath of Allegiance. Members of the Appellant party were divided over whether they could take James I’s new oath. Drury and Cadwallador were arrested and refused to take the oath.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Blessed (then Venerable) Robert Drury:
‘The results of the address were disappointing; Elizabeth died within three months of its signature, and James I soon proved that he would not be satisfied with any purely civil allegiance. He thirsted for spiritual authority, and, with the assistance of an apostate Jesuit, a new oath of allegiance was drawn up, which in its subtlety was designed to trouble the conscience of Catholics and divide them on the lawfulness of taking it. It was imposed 5 July, 1606, and about this time Drury was arrested. He was condemned for his priesthood, but was offered his life if he would take the new oath. A letter from Father Persons, S.J., against its lawfulness was found on him. The oath declared that the “damnable doctrine” of the deposing power was “impious and heretical”, and it was condemned by Pope Paul V, 22 September, 1606, “as containing many things contrary to the Faith and Salvation”. This brief, however, was suppressed by the archpriest, and Drury probably did not know of it. But he felt that his conscience would not permit him to take the oath, and he died a martyr at Tyburn, 26 February, 1606-7. A curious contemporary account of his martyrdom, entitled “A true Report of the Arraignment . . . of a Popish Priest named Robert Drewrie” (London, 1607), which has been reprinted in the “Harleian Miscellany”, calls him a Benedictine, and says he wore his monastic habitat the execution. But this “habit” as described proves to be the cassock and cap work by the secular clergy. The writer adds, “There were certain papers shown at Tyburn which had been found about him, of a very dangerous and traitorous nature, and among them also was his Benedictine faculty under seal, expressing what power and authority he had from the pope to make men, women, and children here of his order; what indulgence and pardons he could grant them”, etc. He may have been a confrater or oblate of the order.’
Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Robert to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, in which we praise as saints and martyrs the children murdered in Jesus’ stead by King Herod, who feared the news of the birth of a rival king.
The biblical basis for this feast is Matthew 2:16, which says that “Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.”
Prudentius (348-c. 413) wrote his beautiful Salvete flores Martyrum in their honor, as part of his larger poem in honor of the Feast of the Epiphany. There are various English translations, but I’m fond on this one by Nicholas Richardson:
Hail, all you flowers of martyrdom, whom, at life’s very door, Christ’s persecutors slew, as storms the new-born roses kill!
O tender flock, you are the first of offerings to Christ: before his altar, innocent, with palms and crowns you play.
But do the Holy Innocents deserve to be called saints, much less martyrs? After all, “martyr” means “witness,” and it’s not as if they were voluntarily witnesses who went to their deaths for the sake of Christ. As Charles Péguy observes, the Holy Innocents were “the only Christians assuredly who on Earth had never heard tell of Herod” and “to whom, on Earth, the name of Herod meant nothing at all.” Even calling them “Christians” seems wrong, since they weren’t baptized and knew no more about Jesus than they did about Herod. Right?
Wrong. Jesus speaks of his own death as a kind of baptism, saying during his public ministry, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). The early Christians picked up on this. Though insisting that baptism is necessary for salvation, Christians like St. Cyprian are clear that “they certainly are not deprived of the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood.”
Similarly, Tertullian describes the blood and water flowing from the pierced side of Christ (John 19:34) as the “two baptisms,” which Jesus gives us “in order that they who believed in his blood might be bathed with the water; they who had been bathed in the water might likewise drink the blood.” He views this “second font,” martyrdom, as “the baptism which both stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that has not been received, and restores it when lost.” So the early Christians didn’t view martyrdom as an exception to the need to be baptized. Rather, they viewed it as a sort of baptism—in blood instead of water.
So it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Holy Innocents—who died for Christ, and even died in Jesus’ place—were baptized in blood. We can be assured of their salvation, since Jesus promised that “whoever loses his life for My sake, he will save it” (Luke 9:34).
And all this despite their young age. St. Irenaeus, writing c. 180 AD, says that God
suddenly removed those children belonging to the house of David, whose happy lot it was to have been born at that time, that He might send them on before into His kingdom; He, since He was himself an infant, so arranging it that human infants should be martyrs, slain, according to the Scriptures, for the sake of Christ, who was born in Bethlehem of Judah, in the city of David.
This is an important detail: St. Matthew presents the death of these children not simply as a tragedy, but also as a fulfillment of “what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah” (Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:16-18). So these infants are martyrs in a unique way, since their death helps to prove that the child Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
Their death also reveals Christ as the New Moses. Prudentius makes this connection in his poem:
’Mid his coevals’ streams of blood the Virgin’s child, alone unharmed, deceived the sword, which robbed these mothers of their babes.
Thus Moses, savior of his race, and Christ prefiguring, did once escape the foolish laws which evil Pharaoh made.
So there are biblical reasons for understanding the Holy Innocents as martyrs in the sense of “witnesses.” Their death tells us something about Jesus Christ.
Cyprian, writing in the middle of the third century, describes the Holy Innocents not only as martyrs, but as a sort of prototype for all martyrs:
The nativity of Christ witnessed at once the martyrdom of infants, so that they who were two years old and under were slain for His name’s sake. An age not yet fitted for the battle appeared fit for the crown. That it might be manifest that they who are slain for Christ’s sake are innocent, innocent infancy was put to death for His name’s sake. It is shown that none is free from the peril of persecution, when even these accomplished martyrdoms.
By their death, the Holy Innocents also teach us something of the ruthlessness of the Enemy, as well as something about the Christian life—namely, that we’re not promised it will be easy. After all, if even these pure and innocent children should suffer such a fate, why should we expect to be spared hardship or persecution?
But Cyprian also highlights where we tend to go wrong in our thinking about martyrdom. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of martyrdom as a kind of good work that the martyr does for Christ. But the early Christians warned against this. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, written within a year of Polycarp’s death in 155, contrasts St. Polycarp’s martyrdom with the failed martyrdom of Quintus, who “forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily” to trial, in an attempt to be martyred, only to end up apostatizing and offering sacrifice to the pagan gods.
Instead, martyrdom is a grace that—if need be—we receive from Christ. As Cyprian says, “the cause of perishing is to perish for Christ. That Witness Who proves martyrs, and crowns them, suffices for a testimony of His martyrdom.” So it’s not the Holy Innocents who make themselves martyrs. It’s ultimately Christ Who makes them saints and martyrs.
Just as Christ makes saints of babies in water baptism every day, He gave the Holy Innocents the grace of becoming saints and martyrs through the baptism of blood, so that (in Péguy’s words), those “who knew nothing of life and received no wound except that wound which gave them entry into the kingdom of heaven.”
Love & Merry Christmas,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom