Tuesday, 22 March 2011

UNSUNG HEROES

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.

4 comments:

  1. You do a splendid job honouring our English and Welsh martyrs- but I agree that more should be known about those whose witness did not extend to the shedding of their blood but who suffered to some extent nonetheless. Perhaps first among these should be the bishops and other clergy who on account of their refusal to subscribe to Elizabeth I's Supremacy were deprived, imprisoned and/or exiled.

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  2. Hello Patricius

    Thank you for your kind words. We have such a wonderful heritage that I don't think we can ever do enough to tell of the great men and women who preserved our faith in times of persecution. You are right. We should be seeing more about the the bishops and other clergy who were deprived of their living and persecuted. Perhaps that is a topic for a future post.

    Thanks and God bless you.

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  3. Hello diddleymaz

    It's nice to hear from you. I hope all is well in your part of the country. Thank you for your visit and God bless you.

    ReplyDelete

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