St. John Boste

One may be forgiven for thinking that all English martyrs were called John! This is not entirely the case but we do have something of a run of them at this time of year.

John Boste (or Boast), also termed by the Lord Huntingdon “the greatest stag of the north” eluded capture for ten years, ministering during some of the most difficult of penal times: the 1580s & 90s.

Born in Cumbria in the 1540s, he was an academic, being a fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford from 1572, although later resigning his fellowship around the time of becoming a Catholic. He was also made headmaster of his former school: Appleby Grammar School. He fled to Rheims and was ordained priest in 1581.

On returning to the English mission, he arrived first in East Anglia, before going to London and posing as the servant of Lord Montacute, and then returning to his native Cumbria, where, for the next ten years, he ministered in secret to recusant Catholics in that area. He travelled from house to house in the company of John Speed, a layman, who was also to be caught and martyred in 1594. Fr. Boste was known to the authorities, but skillfully evaded capture until, in 1593, he was betrayed by Francis Egglesfield whilst leaving the Waterhouse on the Egglesfield estate.

Egglesfield asked for a blessing as Boste was leaving the house, which Boste willingly gave, not realising this was the signal to the Militia. He retreated into the house, before being found in a priest hole behind the fireplace. He was then handed over to Richard Topcliffe for interrogation and torture in the Tower of London, before being returned to Durham for the July Assizes, where he faced trial and condemnation. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

An eye witness account states that he was “resolute, bold, joyful, and pleasant” throughout his torture, trial and execution. He publicly absolved Bl. George Swalwel, who had recanted his faith out of fear, and who then returned and suffered martyrdom for the faith.

He announced that he was not a traitor, saying: “My function is to invade souls, not to meddle in temporal invasions”, and going up the steps of the scaffold, he recited the Angelus, and was martyred with great brutality; being cut down from the gallows semi-conscious, and hacked as he stood.

He was martyred on this day in 1594, at the age of 50.

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Ordinary Interviewed

Our Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, has given an interview to; read more here

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St. Philip Evans & St. John Lloyd, Martyrs of Wales.

The Roman Martyology records no fewer than 60 saints who bear the name John, and no fewer than 13 Philips. This is by no means a complete list, and many good and holy men and women who have not been raised to the altars have also received these names at baptism, confirmation and religious profession.

In some ways, therefore, today’s two saints, Philip Evans, SJ, and John Lloyd, are unremarkable and very ordinary priests. But the reformation, and indeed the whole of human history, is full of ordinary people performing remarkable works.

St. John Lloyd, the older of the two saints by some 15 years, was born at about 1630, and went to the Royal English College at Valladolid, being ordinaed priest on 7th June 1653. The following April he returned to Wales, and spent 24 years ministering among the Catholics of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire operating over a vast area. His brother was also a secular priest: Fr William Lloyd, who was also imprisoned in the Titus Oates plot, but died as a result of his torture before he was executed.

John Lloyd was arrested 20th November, 1678 and placed in solitary confinement, until being united in a cell with the younger Philip Evans.

St Philip Evans was born in Monmouthshire in 1645, studied at St. Omer, in France, and was ordained for the Society of Jesus in 1675. He immediately returned to Wales, and spent the next four years administering the Sacraments around Abergavenny, in his native Monmouthshire, staying in various different houses and continuing largely unmolested. He stayed at Sker House, with the Tuberville Family, where he was eventually arrested, in the wake of the Titus Oates plot. His betrayer was the younger bother of the owner of the house. He was arrested on the 4th December, 1678. He was then taken to Cardiff and imprisoned in the Castle Goal. For the first few weeks of his incarceration he was in solitary confinement, before being put in the same cell as Fr. John Lloyd. They were imprisoned until trial in May of 1679.

Their trial found them guilty of being priests, and they were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered on the 9th May, 1679. It was not, however, until July that the sentence was decreed to be carried out. Philip, a light hearted man, was found playing tennis (they were allowed quite a bit of liberty) on the 21st July when news that the execution was to take place the following day reached him. The jailer told him he should return to prison, to which he responded “what haste is there? First let me play out my game!” which he duly did.

Philip was also a fine harp player, and when his jailers came to collect the two priests on the morning of the execution, they found Philip playing his harp, in spite of his leg shackles. These shackles took an hour to remove, so tight were they, and caused him excruciating pain.

Eventually they were led out and dragged on hurdles through the streets of Cardiff to what is still known as “Death Junction”. Philip was the first to be executed, saying: “This is the best pulpit a man can have to preach in, therefore, I cannot forbear to tell you again that I die for God and for Religion’s sake.” He addressed the crowd in English and in Welsh, then turning to Fr Lloyd, who stood waiting his own turn, he said, “Adieu, Mr Lloyd! Though only for a little time, for we shall soon meet again.”

Mr. Lloyd then had to watch as his friend and cell mate was hanged drawn and quartered, before suffering the same fate himself. Both men were under 50 years of age.

Oddly, they both had sisters who were nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, at Paris (the Blue Nuns). St. John’s sister died four years before he did, but St. Philip’s sister still lived when they were martyred. St. John wrote to her, after his tennis match, and told her of his impending execution , telling her to neither mourn or worry for him.

They were executed on this day, 338 years ago.

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St John Plessington

Continuing our series on the forty canonised martyrs of England & Wales

20th July: St. John Plessington

It is, as we have said before, so very easy to lump the martyrs of England and Wales together in one solid mass of witness, we seldom think of them in terms of who they were, where they came from, the time in which they lived.

Our martyr today, St. John Plessington, was born about forty years after the death of our last martyr: St. John Jones. He was born into a recusant family at around 1637 (more than that we cannot say with any certainty); we do know, however, that he was born in the delightfully named Dimples, in Lancashire, in what is now the Shrewsbury diocese.

He was educated by Jesuits in Scarisbrick, before going to study for priesthood at the Royal English College of St. Alban, in Valladolid in Spain. He entered the college on 18th November, 1660, under the assumed name of Scarisbrick, and was ordained priest on the feast of the Annunciation, 1662, before returning to exercise his ministry in England.

He returned to Lancashire, and worked in Cheshire and Holywell, being based out of Puddington Hall, where he served as tutor to the Massey family children. He carried on a quiet, harmless existence from 1663-1679.

However, he became one of those accused in Titus Oates’ Popish Plot: a fabricated plot wherein Jesuits and others were working to assassinate Charles II. Oates, a well known perjurer, had been received into the Catholic Faith, and gone off to Valladolid and St. Omer, in France, with the intention of learning more of the methods of Jesuits, and working to bring about the end of their work in England. He may well have known Fr John.

Legend has it that the reason Fr. Plessington was fingered in the Oates Plot because a local Protestant landlord was furious at his blocking a marriage between the landowner’s son and a Catholic heiress. Plessington was tried, and hanged, drawn and quartered on 19th July, 1679, near Chester. On the scaffold, he forgave those who had born false testimony against him. His words on the scaffold were also written ahead of time, and widely circulated:

It perhaps shows how much feeling was turning against such state persecution of Catholics (the last martyr, Oliver Plunkett was martyred only a couple of years later in 1681), ad perhaps a testimony to the esteem in which they held their local Catholic priest, that the local residents refused to allowed his dismembered remains to be exhibited before the rude and scoffing multitudes, but instead he was buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas, in Burton.





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American Ordinary on the Ordinariate Liturgy

Image result for bishop steven lopes

The Rt. Rev’d Steven Lopes, who became Ordinary of the American Ordinarite of the Chair of Peter in February of last year, has written a dissertation on the nature of the Ordinariate Liturgy which was presented to The Liturgical Institute, Mundeline at the end of June this year.

We encourage anyone with an interest in this Use to spend some time reading and reflecting on Bishop Lopes’ words.

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