Sunday, 25 October 2020

FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY

On Sunday, 25 October, 1970, Pope Paul VI canonised 40 of the almost 400 men and women who gave their lives rather than deny their Catholic faith during the terrible religious persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Heenan,
Almost all the hierarchy of England and Wales were in Rome on that glorious day.  The canonisation ceremony took place during Mass and was begun by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints, Cardinal Bertoli.  Speaking in Latin, Cardinal Bertoli asked "That your Holiness inscribes in the catalogue of saints the Forty Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales so that all Christ's faithful may proclaim them as saints." 

The vice-postulator of the cause, Fr James Walsh S J, then read a plea for the canonisation, including short profiles of each of the martyrs.  The Litany of the Saints was sung before the Pope started the solemn proclamation: "to the glory of the holy and undivided Trinity, for the honour of the universal faith and the advancement of Christian life ...... we decree and define the Forty Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales to be saints." His Holiness then recited the names of the newly canonised using the Latinised Christian names for each of the martyrs.  In his homily on the martyrs, Pope Paul said that the 40 Martyrs had been "loyal to the Crown  but faced with the choice of remaining faithful to the revealed truths of their faith, or of denying them and saving their lives, without hesitation they chose martyrdom."

To read more about the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales just follow this link,  "BUT JUST WHO WERE THEY?" HERE

Six of the Martyrs were Welsh.  They were:

ST RICHARD GWYN, martyred at Wrexham on 15 October 1584

ST JOHN JONES SFM, martyred at Southwark on 12 July 1598

ST JOHN ROBERTS OSB, martyred at Tyburn on10 December 1679

ST PHILIP EVANS SJ, martyred at Cardiff on 22 July 1679

ST JOHN LLOYD, martyred at Cardiff on 22 July 1679

ST DAVID LEWIS SJ, martyred at Usk on 27 August 1679.  He was the last Welsh Martyr.

To read more of the six Welsh Martyrs, please follow this link SIX OF THE FORTY HERE

You can find more information about the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by using the search box at the top left hand corner of the Blog.

FORTY MARTYRS OF ENGLAND AND WALES, PRAY FOR US.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

ST RICHARD GWYN, HUSBAND, FATHER, TEACHER

St Richard Gwyn (Richard White in English)  is the protomartyr of Wales.  Born in Montgomeryshire, Wales, around 1537, he attended Oxford and Cambridge Universities and eventually returned to Wales.  He married, had six children and became a school teacher.  In 1579 he was arrested for his Catholic Faith.  On this date, 15 October, in 1584, Richard Gwyn was hanged drawn and quartered at Wrexham.  He and 39 other Catholic Martyrs were canonised by Pope Paul VI in October 1970.  They are known collectively as 'The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales'.  St Richard Gwyn's feast day is celebrated on 17 October. 

St Richard Gwyn and scenes depicting his life

ST RICHARD GWYN, PRAY FOR US.

For more on St Richard Gwyn, click here ST RICHARD GWYN:

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

ON THIS DAY, 13 OCTOBER 1930

In 1917, three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, witnessed Marian apparitions  at the Cova da Irea, in Fatima, Portugal.  On this day, 13 October 1930, Bishop Jose Alves Correia declared the events worthy of belief. 

"Pray the Rosary every day"
Lucia later became  a Nun and lived to the grand old age of 97, dying on 13 February 2005.  Her cousin, Francisco, died on 4 April, 1919, aged just 10 years.  His sister, Jacinta, died in a Lisbon Hospital on 20 February 1920.  Little Jacinta was 9 years old.  They are buried at the Sanctuary of Fatima. Young Francisco and Jacinta were victims of the flu pandemic that began in 1918 and swept the world for two long years.  The young visionaries were  canonised by Pope Francis on 13 May 2017.

As the world continues to struggle with the current pandemic, Covid19, let us seek the aid of Our Lady of Fatima and  the two little Saints of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. 

OUR LADY OF FATIMA, PRAY FOR US.

ST FRANCISCO MARTO, PRAY FOR US.

ST JACINTA MARTO, PRAY FOR US.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

ST MICHAEL AND THE ROMAN PLAGUE OF 590

Who is St Michael?  Revelation 12:7-9 shows us Michael as the champion and leader of the faithful angels in their struggle against the rebel angels who were led by Lucifer.  St Michael, whose name translates as "Who is like God", is the Guardian Angel of the Church.  He has long figured prominently in Christian tradition and is patron of policemen, sailors, soldiers, radiologists and the sick. 

St Michael, Belmont Abbey (Photo J D Smith)
Abergavenny, birthplace of our own St David Lewis, has an ancient connection to St Michael.  Legend has it that a nobleman, praying atop Skirrid Fawr, had a vision of St Michael.  The nobleman erected a chapel there and dedicated it to Michael. (Skirrid Fawr is also known as St Michael's Mount or the Holy Mountain.)  For centuries this Chapel was a centre of pilgrimage and generations of Catholics wended their way to the top of the mountain.  On Good Friday and on 29th September, Michael's feast, priests celebrated Holy Mass and led the faithful in prayer.  Even during the persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries the pilgrimages continued and St David Lewis was among the priests who conducted services atop the Holy Mountain.

Early in the year 590, a severe plague broke out in Rome.  (According to Wikipedia, it was probably Bubonic Plague.)  As we can well imagine, it was a difficult time for the people!  This plague ravaged the city and many died, including the Pope, Pelagius II.  His successor was Pope Gregory I (St Gregory the Great).  

Pope St Gregory the Great (Photo J D Smith)
Gregory organised a massive procession around the city, asking the people to pray to God for an end to the plague.  The procession took place on 25th April 590.  The people carried an ancient image of the Virgin Mary as they chanted litanies and prayers.  When the procession reached the Mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, the Pope saw an Angel of the Lord standing at the top of the Castle of Crescentius, wiping a bloody sword then sheathing it.  Gregory took this as a sign that the plague was ended, as indeed it was.  Thereafter, the castle was called the Castle of the Holy Angel.  

In 1753 a bronze statue of St Michael the Archangel, in Roman armor, and sheathing his sword, was placed on the top of Castel Sant' Angelo.  It was executed by Peter Anton von Verschaffelt, a Flemish sculptor and architect.

Now, in our own Covid 19 ravaged world, I definitely would NOT advocate any processions!  Even during Pope Gregory's procession, eighty people collapsed as a result of being infected by the Rome Plague!  However, I would heartily recommend putting in some extra prayers.  Today, his special feast day, might be a very good time to turn to St Michael the Archangel and ask his help in cleansing the world of our present pandemic.        

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

HELPFUL - HOPEFULLY?

God help us, it seems that the Covid Virus is on the rise again.  The wearing of masks and face coverings is now mandatory in shops and on public transport.  This little article appeared in the July/August 2020 edition of the Messenger of St Anthony.  (I thank my family members for passing it on to me.) I am posting it here in the hope that you will find it helpful.

HINTS FROM ST ANTHONY MAGAZINE,
 JULY/AUGUST 2020

Stay safe, stay well, follow the guidelines and PRAY 

Saturday, 29 August 2020

341 YEARS AGO TODAY

ABERGAVENNY, BIRTHPLACE OF ST DAVID LEWIS
David Henry Lewis was born in Abergavenny in 1616. He attended King Henry VIII Grammar School in the town. At that time his father, Morgan Lewis, was Headmaster.  David then went to London to study law.  During a stay in Paris, David converted to Catholicism.  Returning to Abergavenny, David lived with his parents until their deaths.  After their deaths, he set out for Rome to study for the priesthood. Shortly after ordination, Fr Lewis joined the Jesuits.

KING HENRY VIII GRAMMAR SCHOOL
Sent on the "English Mission",   Fr David Lewis S J returned to his homeland. During that time of persecution it was usual for priests to work under an assumed name so David Lewis adopted the alias of Charles Baker.  For more than 30 years Fr Lewis laboured tirelessly for his flock. 

THE SITE OF THE CWM

Based at the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier at The Cwm, David Lewis traversed the area, usually at night and on foot, ministering to the needs of the people.  His kindness and compassion knew no bounds and extended to all in need.  He was well loved and because of his care to all, he became known as "Tad y Tlodion", "Father of the Poor".

THE GUNTER MANSION, CROSS ST, ABERGAVENNY
It is recorded that Fr Lewis, as well as his fellow Jesuit, Fr Philip Evans, stayed with the Gunters of Cross Street, Abergavenny.  Relatives of David Lewis, the Gunters were staunch Catholics who had a secret chapel in their home.  The priests regularly said Mass there and conducted Catholic services.  David Lewis also stayed at the home of his aunt, Lady Frances Morgan, at Llantarnam.  The Morgans also had a chapel in their home where the priest celebrated Mass and ministered to the people of that area.

LLANTARNAM ABBEY, HOME OF THE MORGANS
The Popish Plot was a fabricated plot spread by the vile Titus Oates and his sordid ilk. When its poison  spread to Wales, Fr Lewis moved from the Morgan's home in an attempt to spare them any trouble that might befall him.  He rented a little cottage at Llantarnam, roughly opposite where the lovely old Church of St Michael and All Angels is situated.  

PLAQUE MARKING SITE OF ARREST OF ST DAVID LEWIS
Early on Sunday morning, 17 November 1678, Fr Lewis was preparing to celebrate Holy Mass. Suddenly, a group of armed dragoons burst into the cottage and arrested him.  Several days later he was incarcerated in Monmouth Gaol.  On a freezing cold day in January 1679, the Jesuit was moved to the prison at Usk. He had been found guilty of high treason for the 'crime' of being a Catholic priest and saying Mass!  Here he remained to await his execution.

THE FORMER USK GAOL 
On 29 August 1679, 341 years ago today, Fr David Lewis was taken from the Gaol on Bridge St and dragged on a hurdle along the river path to the place of his execution.  It was on a makeshift gallows at the hands of a makeshift hangman that Fr David Lewis  met his martyrdom.

THE RIVER PATH TODAY
On 25 October 1970, Pope Paul VI canonised Fr David Lewis S J and 39 other Reformation Martyrs.  They are known collectively as the "Forty Martyrs of England and Wales".  Today, the Catholic Church of Ss David Lewis and Francis Xavier stands opposite the site of his martyrdom and St David Lewis is remembered with a lovely shrine in his honour.  

ST DAVID LEWIS

"Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints".

Saturday, 20 June 2020

BLESSED JOHN ROCHE

John Roche was born in Ireland and, as a young man, he went to London where he found work as a servant and a waterman.  As was common at that time, Catholics often worked under an alias and Roche sometimes used the name of John Neale.  A devout Catholic, he became involved with Margaret Ward and others who were aiding persecuted priests.  One such priest was Fr William/Richard Watson.  
Blessed John Roche
Fr Watson had been arrested and tortured and, upon learning of this, Margaret Ward began visiting the priest in Bridewell Prison.  Eventually she devised a plan to help the priest escape.  She smuggled a length of rope into the priest and , at a prearranged time, he was to let himself down from his cell at the top of the prison.  She found two Catholic watermen who would be waiting nearby with a boat to spirit the priest away.  However, the two watermen lost their nerve and backed out.  Margaret did not give up!  John Roche readily agreed to assist the priest.  Disastrously, the rope was too short and the priest had to jump the remaining distance.  He crashed down onto a shed below, breaking his right arm and leg.  Immediately, John Roche ran to his assistance and carried him to the boat. 

Of course, the clatter had alerted the jailor and others and the rope, still dangling from the cornice, was discovered.  Margaret Ward, being Fr Watson's only visitor, was swiftly arrested.  

John had managed to get the priest to safety and he was recuperating in John's house.  When he had recovered, John swapped clothes with him and the priest got safely away.  Sadly, John, in the priest's clothes, was spotted by the jailor who arrested him. He was vigorously interrogated and  eventually admitted his role in the escape of Fr Watson.  He was charged with treason and condemned to death.  Offered a full pardon if he would seek the Queen's forgiveness and attend a Protestant service, John Roche refused both!

On 30th August 1588, John Roche and Margaret Ward were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Four other Catholics, including Welshman Richard Flowers, were executed with them that day.  

On 15th December 1929, Pope Pius XI beatified John Roche. He is counted among the English Martyrs and is also venerated in Ireland where his feast is celebrated on 20th June. 

Monday, 15 June 2020

OUR AMAZING PRIESTS

Throughout this awful Covid 19 pandemic, our amazing priests have been there for us.  Here in Wales, as well as in the rest of the U K, our priests have used YouTube, Facebook and all the modern technology to bring us the comforts of our Catholic Faith.  Such devoted pastoral care is not confined to this country either as priests all over the world are doing their very best for their parishioners.  Just as our priests are doing, priests everywhere are live streaming Holy Mass, Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament,  the Rosary and Stations of the Cross.  
Holy Mass, live streamed
God has blessed us with wonderful priests and we owe them so very much. So, we say a heartfelt "Thank You" to priests everywhere.  May God shower blessings galore upon you all and keep you safe.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

SAINTS JULIUS AND AARON

We are on home ground with these two pre-reformation martyrs.  Ss Julius and Aaron were martyred at Caerleon, which is just 7 miles from Usk, where our own St David Lewis died for the faith in 1679.

Most of what is known about Ss Julius and Aaron we glean from the writings of Bede.  In his 'History of the English Church and Peoples', Bede writes "In the same persecution (as Alban) suffered Aaron and Julius, citizens of the City of Legions."  Not too much else is known about the two martyrs.  Some legends maintain that that were Roman soldiers who were converted by the priest, Amphibalus, after his escape from Verulamium.  Some hold the belief that Aaron was a native Briton, and Julius a Roman.  It is thought that, dying soon after Alban, they were probably victims of the Diocletian persecution.  
Catholic Church of Saints Julius, Aaron
and David, Caerleon
The Catholic Church in Caerleon is dedicated to Ss Julius and Aaron.  In Wales, their feast day is celebrated with St Alban on 20th June. 

Saturday, 6 June 2020

THE PROTOMARTYR

In the month of June several martyrs are commemorated.  Over the next few weeks it might be good to take a look at some of them. So far, this blog has dealt only with Reformation Martyrs, mainly St David Lewis, but the beginning is usually the best place to start! So we will start with St Alban, thought to be the first Briton to shed his blood for the faith, and as such, the Protomartyr.  
The martyrdom of St Alban
Alban was a pagan who lived in Verulamium circa third/fourth century.  A Christian priest, possibly named Amphibalus, was fleeing persecution and Alban gave him shelter. Alban was impressed by the priest's holiness and experienced a conversion. Consequently he sought instruction in the faith from the priest.

Discovering where the priest was hiding, the authorities sent soldiers to apprehend him. They found Alban, dressed in the priest's cloak, and thinking him to be Amphibalus, they arrested him.  Alban was brought before a judge who became furious when he realised that this man was not the priest.  He ordered that Alban should receive the punishment that the priest would have been given unless he worshipped pagan gods.  Alban replied that he would never again worship such false gods and said, "If you want to know the truth about my religion, know that I am a Christian, and carry out Christian rites". The judge demanded to know to what family Alban belonged but Alban bravely replied "My parents named me Alban, and I worship and adore the living and true God, who crated all things".  The judge had Alban flogged, tortured, and  beheaded.  On the way to the place of execution, Alban converted the soldier who was to be his executioner and another had to be found to carry out the beheading.  

According to St Bede, the martyrdom took place on 22nd June but the year is uncertain.  St Alban's feast is celebrated on 20th June. 

Monday, 1 June 2020

JUNE, MONTH OF THE SACRED HEART

The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.  The Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost.  This year, 2020, the Feast occurs on Friday, 19th June.
"Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee"
St Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Religious of the Visitation Order,  was born at Lhautecour, France, on 22 July 1647.  In the 1670s she experienced visions of Our Lord in which He made know to her His desire to be loved by men and to manifest His Heart with all its treasures of love, mercy and salvation.  In one of the many private revelations that Jesus gave to her, Our Lord made twelve promises to those who honour His Sacred Heart.

1.  I will give to them all the graces necessary for their state in life.
2.  I will establish peace in their families.
3.  I will comfort them in their trials.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and, above all, in death.
5. I will shed abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
6.  Sinners will find in my Heart an infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Lukewarm souls will become fervent.
8. Fervent souls will rapidly grow in holiness and perfection.
9. I will bless every place where an image of my Heart shall be exposed and honoured.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. The names of those who promote this devotion will be written in my heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise them in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence.  They shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments.  My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

Love of the Sacred Heart was the fire which consumed St Margaret Mary Alacoque.  She died at Paray-le-Monial on 17 October 1690.  She was canonised by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and her feast is kept on 16 October.

This June, as the world is still struggling in the grip of the deadly Covid 19 pandemic,  let's turn once more to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, remembering especially the third promise; "I WILL COMFORT THEM IN THEIR TRIALS".

"Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us". 

Sunday, 31 May 2020

AN OLD IRISH PRAYER

We are nearing the end of another May. As May is Mary's month, it is appropriate that our last post for May 2020 should be in Our Lady's honour.  Therefore, we end with an old Irish prayer to Our Lady of the Wayside.
"Our lady of the Wayside,
for the sake of the Child
you hold in your arms,
take hold of my hand
for the rest of the road." 
"For the sake of the Child you hold in your arms"
(Photo J D Smith)
The spread of the dreadful Covid 19 virus seems to be lessening somewhat but it is still bringing suffering and death to people everywhere.  Please be sensible, follow the rules, keep safe and well.  Let's also ask Our Lady  to take hold of our hands for the rest of the road.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

ANOTHER BAKER RELATIVE

As most of you will know, St David Lewis was born into a prominent  Abergavenny family in 1616.  His father, Morgan Lewis, was head master of King Henry VIII Grammar School in the town.  Morgan saw to it that David, the youngest of his nine children, was brought up in the new state religion.  David's mother, Margaret, was a devout Catholic who openly practiced her faith and brought her other children up as Catholics.  When David was a young man he spent some time in Paris. It was in this city that David converted to Catholicism.  Some years later he became a priest and, under the strict penal laws of the time, he was eventually arrested and executed for the crime of being a Catholic Priest and for saying Mass.  His remains were laid to rest in the churchyard of the Priory Church in Usk.

Some of David's maternal relatives are buried or commemorated in the very beautiful Priory Church of St Mary, Abergavenny. They were important men of their time and their memorials are easily found in that church.  Several of them have already been posted about on this blog,  (HERE) and (HERE).  Now we will post about another of the martyr's close family who is commemorated in this venerable old church.

William Baker was the son of Richard Baker. Richard, until his early death, had been Recorder of Abergavenny. Richard's brother, David, was summoned home from London and he then became Recorder.  Shaken by a profound religious experience, David Baker converted to Catholicism and  went on to became a Benedictine Monk.  He  is well know as the writer and mystic, Dom Augustine Baker  (HERE).  William was also the first cousin of Margaret Pritchard. Margaret was the wife of Morgan Lewis and the mother of St David Lewis. Below is a simple chart showing the relationship.  
William Baker and Margaret Pritchard were first cousins
As we said, William, born around 1584, was the son of Richard Baker.  It was William who had erected the Brass plaque in the Herbert Chapel in memory of his father.  William's son, also named Richard, is remembered on the memorial too. 

William Baker was a Royalist and a staunch supporter of the Stuarts.  During the Civil War he raised an army for the king's service and maintained them for three months.

William, later Sir William, was Recorder of Abergavenny and Sheriff of the county.  In 1640, he presented a bell to the town of Abergavenny.  The bell was inscribed "Bayliff Baker, 1640" This bell was taken down, recast, and re-presented to the town in 1868.  

William Baker married, in 1606, Joan, daughter of Henry Vaughan of Bredwardine Castle, Herefordshire.  Theirs seems to have been a happy marriage for at his death in 1648, Joan erected an elaborate monument to him on the north side of the Herbert Chapel.  A brass plaque informs us, in Latin,  "Here, resting in Christ, William Baker, armiger, magistrate, maintainer of justice, of unspotted integrity, of renowned judgement and eloquence, asserter of the orthodox faith, waits for the resurrection of the just.  He changed life for immortality, 30th October, in the year of our salvation1648, of his age 64, and of a happy marriage 42.  His wife, Joan, the daughter of Henry Vaughan of Bredwardine Castle, and an old family, and lord of the territory of Hereford and Brecon, of illustrious memory.  Therefore she, sorrowful and grieving, caused this monument to be erected."
William Baker's Memorial in the Herbert Chapel, Abergavenny Priory Church
(Photo J D Smith)
So, we have located another relative of St David Lewis.  Llantarnam, Usk, and various places around Monmouthshire and area speak to us of the Last Welsh Martyr. None speak louder than Abergavenny, his birthplace, and the birthplace and last resting place of so many of his family members.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

A MESSAGE OF HOPE

The world is still suffering the ravages of Covid 19.  A group of Catholic Artists have come together in song to bring us their lovely rendition of this well known song. Please take a few minutes to listen to it.  It will uplift you and renew your hope.


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