Tuesday, 22 March 2011


The trials and executions, if not the lives, of most of our martyrs are well documented. However, there are many who, though not actually put to death for the faith, nonetheless died heroically for their faith and for their loyalty to their Catholic priesthood and the holy Mass. I refer to the many unheralded and possibly unknown priests who died in prisons up and down the country and to those who died on the run, hunted like wild beasts!

Fr Edward Turner S J was the brother of Blessed Anthony Turner. They were the sons of a Protestant minister. The brothers converted to Catholicism, studied at the English College in Rome and eventually returned to England to minister to their persecuted Catholic brethren. Fr Edward Turner was arrested and died in Gatehouse Prison in 1681, two years after Anthony’s execution at Tyburn.

Fr William Lloyd was the brother of Welsh Martyr, Saint John Lloyd. St John Lloyd was a secular priest who was executed in Cardiff in July 1679. Fr William Lloyd was in charge of the Secular clergy in South Wales. Like his martyred brother, he too was apprehended and imprisoned. Found guilty of being a Catholic priest and celebrating Mass, which was considered treason, he was sentenced to be hanged drawn and quartered. This was the usual punishment meted out for treason. Harshly treated in prison, Fr William Lloyd died in Brecon Gaol just days before his scheduled execution.

The Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm, Herefordshire, was sacked in December 1678. With the fury of the Oates Plot spreading over the country, the Superior of the College, Fr David Lewis, decided that the College should be evacuated and the priests hid as much property as they could. Books, vestments, altar plate, etc, were hidden in outbuildings and the priests were dispersed with the hopes of one day returning to the Cwm. Unfortunately that was not to be. Some of the priests found shelter with Catholic families while others took to the hills and woods of their beloved Wales. Under cover of night they traversed the countryside bringing the comforts of religion to the harried Catholics of the area.

Fr Charles Pritchard found shelter in the home of a friend. By day he hid and at night he went forth to attend to the needs of his flock. His health broke down and one dark night he suffered a severe fall. He managed to return to his friend’s house but he never recovered and, on 14th March 1680, he died. His unnamed friend secretly buried the 43 year old Jesuit in the garden.

There are many sad tales to be told of the sufferings of priests and laypeople alike during the times of persecution. One of the most poignant is that of Fr Ignatius Price S J, another of the priests from the Cwm.

Fr Ignatius Price was born in Monmouthshire in 1610. Working under the alias of Walter Price or Harries, he served the Jesuit Welsh Mission from 1644 until his death in 1679. The following is an account of the tribulations of Fr Price: “For nearly two months in the depths of winter, scarcely a night passing in which he was not sought for in the houses of Catholics, flying from cottage to cottage, sometimes barefoot through heavy snow and deep water, clad for the most part in linen, the aged priest, had no place that could offer him any real shelter. Catholics even, through fear of the terrible laws, sometimes denied him hospitality, while he avoided their houses lest he involve his host in the punishment of death for harbouring a Jesuit. In order to avoid the snares laid for him, Fr Price had been compelled to fly by night from barn to barn, from cave to cave, even from hog sty to hog sty. At length he contracted a violent fever from which he would soon die.”

Fr David Lewis had been arrested at Llantarnam on 17th November 1678 and imprisoned in Monmouth Gaol. On 13th January 1679, a snowy and freezing cold day, Fr Lewis was moved to the County Gaol at Usk. On that snowy January day in 1679, Fr Lewis and his guards stopped at an inn in Raglan. While there a messenger came with a heartbreaking request for Fr Lewis. Father Lewis wrote: “Whilst I was in Raglan, a messenger came to the door of the inn, desiring to speak with me on urgent business. A very good friend of mine, one Mr Ignatius alias Walter Price, lay dying about half a mile away. He had undergone much hardship from hunger and cold and lay dying. He desired to see me. But I was quite unable to perform the friendly duty, as I was under the actual custody of the officers. So I only sent him my true and best wishes for his soul’s happy passage out of this turbulent world to an eternity of rest.” Three days later Fr Ignatius Price died.

Fr David Lewis himself was martyred at Usk on 27th August 1679. Beatified in 1929, Saint David Lewis was canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Last St Patrick’s Day I wrote about St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, who was executed at Tyburn in 1681. Another innocent victim of the Oates Plot, Oliver Plunkett was the last Catholic executed for his faith in this country.

On this St Patrick’s Day, let’s remember a kinsman of St Oliver Plunkett, Blessed Charles Mahoney. This Irish Franciscan was another victim of the evil Titus Oates.

Charles Mahoney (alias Meehan) was born in Ireland around 1639/40. He and his three brothers, James, Terence and Christopher, were educated by their uncle, Fr Bonaventure O S F, who was guardian of St Anthony’s College in Louvain. Three of the boys, Charles, Terrence and James, followed in their uncle’s footsteps and became priests.

In 1674, several years after his ordination, Charles was sent to Germany to study theology. He remained there for two years then spent another two years in Rome, preaching and teaching at the Irish Franciscan College of St Isadore. Then, in 1678, Charles was sent back to Ireland. Charles was aboard a ship heading for home when disaster struck. In a raging storm his ship was wrecked off the coast of Wales. With some of his belongings, he managed to swim ashore near Milford Haven in West Wales.

The plucky Franciscan decided to travel North, on foot, in the hope of finding a ship bound for Ireland. Unfortunately, Charles didn’t get very far. In June 1678 he was arrested not far from Denbigh and imprisoned in Denbigh Gaol. In the spring of 1679, Charles Mahoney was tried, found guilty of being a Catholic priest, which was considered treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for treason.

On 12th August 1679, Fr Charles Mahoney was taken from his prison, tied to a horse-drawn hurdle and dragged to a spot outside the town. Here the awful sentence was carried out.

The months of July and August 1679 were busy ones for the anti-Catholic authorities. Titus Oates and his fellow perjurers must have been smugly satisfied too. Executions of Catholic priests were being carried out in various parts of England and Wales. In Wales, Fr Philip Evans S J and a secular priest, Fr John Lloyd, were barbarously executed in Cardiff on 22nd July. Just over the border, in Hereford, eighty year old Fr John Kemble, another secular priest, met his fate on 22nd August. Fr Kemble, a cousin of St David Lewis, had spent fifty-four years ministering to the Catholics of Herefordshire and Monmouth. On that same day Fr John Wall, a Franciscan, was executed at Red Hill, Worcester. Fr Wall, who ministered mainly in the Worcester area, was a classmate and friend of our Last Welsh Martyr, St David Lewis. Fr David Lewis S J followed his friends and fellow priests to martyrdom on 27th August at Usk. All five were canonised in 1970 when Pope Paul VI canonised the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

The British Museum is in possession of a one page document entitled “The Last Speeches of Three Priests that were executed for Religion, Anno Domini 1679”. The document reads; “An Account of the words spoken by Mr Charles Mahony, an Irish priest of the holy Order of St Francis, who was executed in his Habit at Ruthin in North Wales, August 12, 1679. Now God Almighty is pleased I should suffer Martyrdom, His Holy Name be praised, since I dye for my religion. But you have no right to put me to death in this country, though I confessed myself to be a priest, for you seized me as I was going to my native country, Ireland, being driven at Sea on this coast, for I never used my Function in England before I was taken, however, God forgive you, as I do and shall always pray for you, especially for those that were so good to me in my distress. I pray God bless our King, and defend him from his enemies, and convert him to the Holy Catholick Faith. Amen. His age was under forty. He was tryed and condemned at Denby confessing himself to be a priest.”

With 129 other martyrs of England and Wales, Charles Mahoney/Meehan was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22nd November 1987.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


This film 'Of Gods and Men' tells the true story of the French monks of the Algerian Monastery, Our Lady of Atlas. For years they lived and worked in peace and friendship with their Muslim neighbours. Then things went terribly wrong. This acclaimed film is about modern martyrs, martyrs of our time. Sometimes we need to be reminded that in some countries our fellow Christians are still being persecuted, still being martyred. We should never take our religious freedom for granted.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


I don't know how much of this is fact and how much is fiction. I think it is a nice story so I will let you decide for yourself. In any case, have a Happy St David's Day!

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