Above: Vatican Coat of Arms
BLESSED MONTFORD SCOTT AND VENERABLE GEORGE BEASLEY
Roman Catholic Martyrs
Executed on July 2, 1591
SAINT EDMUND GENNINGS, SAINT POLYDORE PLASDEN, SAINT SWITHUN WELLS, SAINT EUSTACE WHITE, BLESSED JOHN MASON, BLESSED SIDNEY HODGSON, AND BLESSED BRIAN LACEY
Roman Catholic Martyrs
Executed on December 10, 1591
SAINT HENRY WALPOLE AND BLESSED ALEXANDER RAWLINS
Roman Catholic Martyrs
Executed on April 7, 1595
Most feasts transferred from October 25
Sometimes I begin with one name and end up with a bevy. Such is the case with this post. These tales are related to each other. They constitute a tapestry of martyrdom, a fabric which simple religious toleration would have prevented. May we honor these faithful servants of Christ Jesus who followed him to the bloody end, one which an officially Christian state deemed necessary and proper in the midst of anti-Roman Catholic hysteria combined with national security concerns in the wake of the Spanish Armada incident of 1588.
Blessed Montford Scott studied at Douai, France. He became a subdeacon in 1575 then returned to England. Arrested then freed in 1576, he returned to Douai in 1577 after having become a priest at Brussels. Scott’s stay at Douai was brief, for he returned to England that year. Arrested in 1584, he spent seven years in prison before a brief stint of freedom in 1591. Yet authorities reapprehended Scott, who went to his gruesome martyrdom (hanging, drawing, and quartering) on July 2, 1591.
Venerable George Beasley died on the same day as did Scott. Also on Englishman, Beasley studied at Rheims, becoming a priest in 1587. He returned to England in 1588. Authorities captured Beasley in 1590. Imprisoned, Beasley suffered tortures which left him, in the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia, “reduced to a skeleton.”
Blessed Montford Scott had a cousin, Blessed Brian Lacey, with whom authorities arrested him. Lacey had aided and abetted Roman Catholic priests in England. As if the fact that this was a capital crime was not bad enough, Lacey’s brother turned him in. Lacey died on December 10, 1591.
That was a day of much bloodshed. St. Edmund Gennings and four others linked with him also died on December 10, 1591. They were St. Polydore Plasden, a priest; St. Swithun Wells, host of an illegal Mass; and Blessed Sidney Hodgson and Blessed John Mason, who tried to protect Gennings and the others from authorities. And St. Eustace White, another priest, died on that dark day.
St. Edmund Gennings (1567-1591), born at Lichfield, Staffordshire, England, converted to Roman Catholicism at age sixteen. He studied at Rheims, becoming a priest in 1590, aged twenty-three years. Then Gennings returned to England.
November 7, 1591. was a fateful day. On that day, at the home of St. Swithun Wells (circa 1536-1591), Gennings said his last Mass, one which ended prematurely due to a raid. Wells was the long-time schoolmaster at Monkton Farleigh, Wiltshire. He had returned to Roman Catholicism in 1583. Also present at that Mass was St. Polydore Plasden (1563-1591), a priest since 1586, who had been undercover in England since 1588. Blessed John Mason and Blessed Sidney Hodgson, members of the congregation, offered physical resistance to the raiding forces. Law enforcement, then as now, labeled resistance to arrest an offense.
Alice Wells, the widow of St. Swithun Wells, died in prison in 1602.
St. Eustace White (1559-1591), also executed on December 10, had been born at Louth, Lincolnshire, England. A convert to Roman Catholicism, he studied for the priesthood. Ordained in 1588, he returned to England that year. Three years later, authorities arrested and executed him.
St. Edmund Gennings began his English mission with Blessed Alexander Rawlins. Imprisoned twice in 1585 for his Roman Catholicism, Rawlins studied at Rheims in 1589-1590, becoming a priest in 1590. His English mission lasted from 1591 to 1595, when authorities arrested him. Rawlins died on April 7, 1595, with St. Henry Walpole.
St. Henry Walpole (1558-1591), born in Docking, Norfolk, England, studied law. Witnessing the execution of St. Edmund Campion in 1581 prompted Walpole to convert to Roman Catholicism and study for the priesthood (in Europe) instead. He became a Jesuit in 1584 and a priest four years later. Walpole went on a mission to Lorraine then to the Netherlands, where he served as a chaplain to Spanish soldiers there. There, in 1589, Calvinists arrested him and imprisoned him for a year. Walpole, released in 1590, taught at Seville and Vallodolid (in Spain) then went on a mission to Flanders. The saint began his English mission in 1593, but authorities arrested him almost immediately. Walpole spent most of the rest of his life in the Tower of London, suffering tortures.
The blood of the martyrs waters the church.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 25, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE
Almighty and everlasting God,
who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyrs
Venerable George Beasley,
Saint Edmund Gennings,
Blessed Sidney Hodgson,
Blessed Brian Lacey,
Blessed John Mason,
Saint Polydore Plasden,
Blessed Alexander Rawlins,
Blessed Montford Scott,
Saint Henry Walpole,
Saint Swithun Wells,
Alice Wells, and
Saint Eustace White:
Grant to us, your humble servants,
a like faith and power of love,
that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example;
through Jesus Christ our Lod,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 124 or 31:1-5
1 Peter 4:12-19
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 715