Saturday, 31 July 2010


The Last Welsh Martyr, St David Lewis, was a Jesuit priest who was martyred for the Faith during the Popish Plot. The Popish Plot, the invention of the base Titus Oates, began in the summer of 1678 and before its horrific executions ended in 1681, eight Jesuit priests were among the innocent Catholics who gave their lives. Two of the Jesuits, Fr David Lewis and Fr Philip Evans, were canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

St Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Today, 31st July, is the Feast Day of this illustrious saint.

The first video tells a little of the story of St Ignatius of Loyola. The second video is the well known prayer attributed to St Ignatius. The prayer has been put to music and it will be familiar to many of us.


Thursday, 22 July 2010


Charles Brown was in fact, the alias of Fr Charles Gwynne. Like most priests in England during Penal Times, he refrained from using his real name for safety reasons. He sometimes used the names of ‘Bodvel’ or ‘Bodwell’. Charles Gwynne was born in 1582, the son of Thomas Wynn of Boduan, Pwllheli, and Elizabeth, daughter of Owen ap Gruffydd of Plas Du. They brought up their son Charles in the Protestant religion. While on a visit to his mother’s brother, Hugh Owen, in Brussels, Charles was reconciled to the Catholic Church by Fr J Chambers. Charles entered the English College in Rome and was ordained there in 1613. He became a Jesuit in 1620.

In 1623, Fr Brown was sent on the Welsh mission of St Francis Xavier. In 1625 he became its Rector, succeeding Fr John Salisbury, and was instrumental in establishing the mission’s headquarters at the Cwm, Llanrothal. The Morgans of Llantarnam were generous benefactors. Fr Brown secured from his uncle, Hugh Owen, funds for maintaining a Welsh scholar at Rome. Coincidentally, it was this fund which made it possible for Fr Brown to enable a future Rector, David Lewis, to enter the English College in 1638. (David Lewis was martyred in 1679 and canonised in 1970.)

In 1618, Fr Brown inherited Hugh Owen’s fortune. To commemorate his munificent uncle, Fr Brown erected a tablet to his memory at the English College in Rome.

Fr Charles Brown was another Welsh Jesuit who, under hazardous circumstances, played a major part in the life of the Cwm and the continuance of the Catholic Faith in Wales. This dedicated priest died in 1647.
SUNDAY, 29th AUGUST 2010

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Esther G has tagged me for a Catholic meme. Now, for all the blogging world to see, I admit my ignorance! My first thought was a Catholic what? Hey, I am a cradle Catholic, from a good Catholic home and educated in a convent school. So how come I don't know what a Catholic 'meme' is? Well, I googled 'meme' and now I am up to scratch, so here goes!

The rules, (from Mac) which need to be posted:
"Name your three most favorite prayers, and explain why they're your favorites.
Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme. The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favorite devotional prayers."

My three favourite prayers are:

"O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have asked you for many favours but I plead for this one. Take it and place it in your own broken heart, and when the Eternal Father sees it, covered with your most precious blood, He cannot refuse it. For it is your prayer then and not mine. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee."

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I come unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.

All three prayers are prayers I was taught in childhood, they are easy to commit to memory and can be said anywhere, anytime, waiting for the bus, peeling the vegetables for dinner, etc.

Now I have to tag five others. O K, I tag:


One of nine children, David Henry Lewis was born in 1616 in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. His parents were Morgan Lewis and Margaret Pritchard. Morgan Lewis, a Protestant, was headmaster of King Henry VIII Grammar School in the town. Margaret Pritchard was a devout Catholic and she brought up eight of their children as Catholics but Morgan saw to it that their son David was brought up in the Protestant religion. Until the age of sixteen, David was educated at the local grammar school where his father was headmaster. He then went to London to study law.

It was while David was studying in London that he went on a visit to Paris. During this time in Paris he became a Catholic. In 1636, the young man returned to Abergavenny and lived with his parents until their deaths in 1638. Fr Charles Brown S J (vere Charles Gwynne) was then the Jesuit Superior of Wales and the other counties which came under the mission of St Francis Xavier. It was under the patronage of Fr Brown that David Lewis set off, in August 1638, for the English College in Rome. Upon his entrance to the College in November of that year, he assumed the name of Charles Baker. The College Diary notes, “Charles Baker, vere David Lewis, a South Welshman of the County of Monmouth was admitted as an alumnus November 6th 1638”. Because of the perilous conditions existing under the anti-Catholic Penal Laws in England at that time, it was common practise for those destined for the English Mission to assume an alias. David was ordained priest on 20th July 1642 and in April 1645 he entered the Jesuit novitiate of Sant’ Andrea in Rome. The newly professed Jesuit was sent back to Wales but he was quickly recalled to Rome to take up a position at his alma mater. However, 1648 saw the return of Fr David Lewis S J to Wales and to the Jesuit mission of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm, near Llanrothal. Here he would spend the rest of his life ministering in the area of Monmouth and the Welsh marches.

It was a dangerous time for Catholics in general but for priests in particular. Many of the authorities in Wales turned a blind eye to their Catholic friends, neighbours, and in some cases, family members, who clung to “The Old Faith”. Nonetheless, the priests had to work in secret, mainly at night. The administrative centre for the area was at the College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm. Fr David Lewis served two periods as Superior, from 1667 – 1672 and then again from 1674 – 1678.

When the Oates Plot, the preposterous invention of the fetid mind of Titus Oates, engulfed the country in the autumn of 1678, there were about six priests at the Cwm, including the Superior, Fr David Lewis, his good friend Fr Ignatius (Walter) Price and Fr Charles Pritchard. Only one of the priests at the Cwm, the Superior, Fr David Lewis, had been named by Oates in his fairytale. Oates claimed that he had seen a papal bull naming those who would hold positions of authority upon the success of the plot and, he maintained, this papal bull had stated that the See of Llandaff would be given to Fr David Lewis. Upon the mysterious death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, the magistrate appointed to investigate the plot, a Chepstow born degenerate entered the scene. Lured by the prospect of a reward, William Bedloe joined Oates in his evil pursuit and the innocent Fr Pritchard’s name also became linked with the plot. Bedloe asserted that Godfrey had been murdered by three Jesuits and one of them was Fr Charles Pritchard. That, of course, was impossible because it is on record that Fr Pritchard, who carried on his priestly ministry for sixteen years, had never in all that time left the South Wales area.

The Rector, Fr Lewis, was astute enough to see that they were all in grave danger and he immediately evacuated the Cwm. Some of the priests were sheltered in the homes of courageous Catholics. Others, like Fr Ignatius Price, took to the woods and hills and, while still carrying on their covert ministry, had to sleep in caves or barns.

Fr Lewis lived for a time with his relatives, the Morgans, at Llantarnam but, so as not to place them in danger, he moved to a nearby cottage. It was at this cottage that Fr Lewis was arrested early on Sunday morning, 17th November 1678, as the priest was preparing to celebrate Holy Mass. He was imprisoned at Monmouth Gaol until January 1679 when he was moved to Usk Gaol. On 27th August 1679, the Jesuit was taken from Usk Gaol and, tied to a hurdle, he was carried along the river path to the place of execution. There he was executed for the crime of being a Catholic priest and for saying Mass. He was buried in the churchyard of the Priory Church, Usk. Next to the earlier entry in the Diary of the English College, Rome, a poignant note was added, “Vir prudens et pius. (A devout and prudent man.) Hanged for the Faith and the priesthood in the year 1680 in Wales.”

Beatified in 1929, Fr David Lewis S J, was canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. There is an annual pilgrimage to the Martyr’s grave on the Sunday nearest to the 27th August.


Sunday, 29th August, 2010
3:00 p m – Mass at SS Francis Xavier and David Lewis Church, Porth-Y-Carne St, Usk;
Procession to the grave of St David Lewis;
Refreshments in the Parish Hall.

Sunday, 18 July 2010



Friday, 16 July 2010



When the poison of the Oates Plot spewed over the country in 1678, Fr Charles Pritchard was one of the Jesuits at the College of St Francis Xavier at a place called the Cwm, near Llanrothal in Monmouthshire. This priest of “meekness and simplicity” was soon to be engulfed in a terrifying ordeal.

Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey was the London magistrate appointed to investigate the Oates Plot and when he was found dead in mysterious circumstances, Catholics came under suspicion. A reward of £500 was offered for the discovery of the murderer /murderers. It was then that the professional criminal and perjurer, William Bedloe, inspired by the reward of £500, came on the scene. In November, Bedloe appeared before the Lords and announced that Godfrey had been murdered by three Jesuits. One of the Jesuits, claimed Bedloe, was Fr Charles Pritchard. Since, as confirmed by the Jesuit Provincial letter for 1680, Fr Pritchard had been on the English mission for sixteen years and in all that time, he had never left South Wales, he could not have played a part in Godfrey’s murder in London. Bedloe, purporting to be a trusted emissary of the Jesuits, also declared that Fr Prichard was his informant! Of course, this was all fantasy, for why would the Jesuits, who carried out their ministry at great risk to themselves, trust a known felon and perjurer? However, with Oates and Bedloe avidly spreading their vicious lies and certain politicians using them to their own advantage, the ashes of anti Catholicism were soon fanned into a raging inferno.

Intoxicated with the celebrity status he was now enjoying and the success of his fabrications so far, Bedloe went on to dizzying heights of fictional accusations. He asserted that he had learned of plans for uprisings all over Wales and that every noteworthy Catholic in the country was aware of the plot. Some of this information, fanaticised Bedloe, had come from the Rector of the Cwm, Fr David Lewis. Fr Charles Pritchard, according to Bedloe, was to murder the Duke of Buckingham and Bedloe himself had been offered £4,000 to commit a murder!

The son of James and Elizabeth Pritchard, Charles Pritchard was born in 1637 at Blaen Llymman, Monmouthshire. He became a Jesuit in 1663 and around 1667 he embarked upon the English mission. He spent the remainder of his life ministering in the South Wales area, particularly Monmouth.

In light of the Oates Plot and Beldoe’s preposterous accusations, Fr Lewis grasped the gravity of the situation and decided to evacuate the Cwm, and the priests were dispersed. Some were sheltered by Catholic families but some had to take to hiding in woods and countryside.

Fr Pritchard now had a price on his head. A reward of 80 gold Crowns was offered for his capture and conviction. Despite this, for six months the priest was sheltered in the home of an unidentified faithful friend in the area of Monmouth. By day he remained hidden but at night Fr Pritchard emerged to attend to the needs of Catholic families in the area. Under such conditions, Fr Pritchard’s health suffered greatly and one dark night, whilst engaged in the visitation of his flock, he suffered a fall. As a result of this fall, the courageous Jesuit died in his friend’s house on 14th March 1680. He was buried secretly in the garden. At 43 years of age, Fr Charles Pritchard, S J, had given his life in the service of the oppressed Catholics of South Wales.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010


In 1595 Fr Robert Jones arrived in England. The Jesuit General, Aquaviva, had sent him to assist Fr Robert Persons, Prefect of the English Jesuits. Fr Persons wished to provide for the needs of the many faithful Catholics in Wales. By 1605, Fr Jones had established a Jesuit mission closely involving the Welsh Jesuits, the Welsh Secular clergy and recusant gentry. This was largely financed by the Morgans of Llantarnam. Lady Frances (Somerset) Morgan was one of Fr Jones’s converts and Fr Jones sometimes lived at Llantarnam. This financial support made it possible to maintain two Jesuits in North Wales and two in South Wales. When Fr Jones died in 1615, Fr John Salisbury succeeded him as Superior of the North and South Wales Districts. Raglan Castle was a major Catholic centre and Fr Salisbury went to live there. The generous and continued support of the Morgans of Llantarnam and the Somersets of Raglan Castle enabled him to lease and eventually buy the farm known as the Cwm and to found there in 1622 the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier. Over the years, the College of St Francis Xavier housed many priests, Seminary priests as well as Jesuits. It is interesting to note that, according to Br Henry Foley, Fr John Lloyd and Fr David Lewis were together at the Cwm in 1655. Fr John Lloyd was a secular or seminary priest who was martyred at Cardiff just days before Fr Lewis was martyred at Usk.
Fr David Lewis served two terms as Rector of the Cwm, 1667 – 1672 and again from 1674 – 1678. As early as 1660 the Government authorities had know of the existence of the College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm. The priests went about openly and unmolested until Titus Oates exploded upon the scene in 1678. Titus Oates was a detestable character who hated Catholics in general and Jesuits in particular. He claimed to have uncovered a plot to restore Catholicism to England by murdering the King, Charles II, and putting his Catholic brother James Duke of York on the throne. The King himself did not believe a word of the Plot but among a populace that believed Catholics responsible for the Great Fire of London as well as the Plague, it was easy for certain politicians to use the plot to serve their own purposes. The Oates Plot took wings and before it had ended, many innocent Catholics up and down the country had lost life and liberty.

Only two Jesuits at the Cwm were named in the spurious plot, Fr Charles Prichard and the Rector, Fr David Lewis. Fr Lewis was aware of the seriousness of the situation and decided to evacuate the Cwm and the priests dispersed. Some found shelter with Catholic families but most had to hide in woods, barns or caves. Through it all, those courageous and faithful priests, travelling by night and on foot, ministered to their scattered flocks. The Government ordered the Bishop of Hereford, Herbert Croft, to investigate the Cwm and in December 1678, Croft, with the exuberant assistance of John Arnold, John Scudamore and Charles Price, raided the College. The buildings were ransacked and among items taken away were the books from the Cwm’s extensive library. Many of the books were stolen by Croft to restock the library of Hereford Cathedral, which had been rifled by Cromwell’s Roundheads. About 100 volumes can still be seen in Hereford Cathedral Library.

The lease on the Cwm did not expire until 1737 but after 1678, it was never again occupied by Jesuits. Eventually, the old house, which was said to have at least two priest holes, was demolished. In 1830 the present house was built. Today, the Cwm, nestled in gentle countryside, is a beautiful Bed and Breakfast Hotel. Catholicism in South Wales never fully recovered! Neither did it die out so the priests who tended the Catholics of Monmouth and the Welsh marches did not suffer or die in vain. The Faith lives on and their memory is revered.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


In England during Penal Times, because of the importance of the Mass, the necessity of the priesthood to the Catholic Faith was recognized by both the Church and by its enemies in Parliament. As one writer put it: “If the ‘head’ of priesthood could be severed, then the ‘body’ of Catholicism would die.”

As we know, the penalties for priesthood were severe. The Church, therefore, sought to offset government actions by establishing seminaries abroad and by developing a covert network of clergy to meet the needs of those who clung to ‘yr hen ffydd’ (the old faith). Priest Hides’ or ‘Priest Holes’ became a necessary feature in the continuance of the work of priests.

All over the country, such hiding places existed. Even today, because they were so well concealed, priest holes are still being discovered. These finds often take place when repairs, restoration, or demolition work is being carried out on old houses. Excellent examples of priest holes can be seen at such places as the Bar Convent in York and at Harvington Hall in Kidderminster.

The most famous builder of priest holes was Nicholas Owen who was a carpenter and one of the first Jesuit lay brothers. The danger of betrayal was ever present so, for this reason, Nicholas always worked alone and at night. Before beginning a new job, Nicholas would spend time in prayer. He was so good at his craft that when he was arrested, the Secretary of State, Cecil, wrote:
“It is incredible how great was the joy caused by his arrest…knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places, and the innumerable qualities of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England.”

Owen was tortured to death in the Tower of London in 1606 but revealed nothing that would in any way jeopardise the safety of Catholics or of the priests who ministered to them. In 1970, along with St David Lewis and thirty-eight others, Nicholas Owen was canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Fellow Jesuit, Fr Henry Gerard said of Nicholas Owen: "I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular."

**Visit BEVANSINC to learn more about this courageous little man. They have recently released a DVD of St Nicholas Owen.

Related Posts with Thumbnails