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.