“My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing His designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to Him, and not to spoil His work by our shortcomings.”
-Saint Isaac Jogues
St. Nicholas Owen is one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales; he died in 1606. Own was the son of an Oxford carpenter becoming a carpenter himself. His personal mission was to secretly construct well-disguised ‘priest-holes’, or hiding places for hunted priests, during the night.
Nicholas Owen was a professed co-opperator (lay) brother of the Society of Jesus in England. On the mission, Owen served jail time for defending the martyred St. Edmund Campion. History shows that Nicholas masterminded the priest’s escape from the Tower of London and he was a wanted man after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. His martyrdom was the usual English horror with his entrails burst open.
Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errantry. When he felt he was getting better, he asked for some of these books to pass the time. But no book of that sort could be found in the house; instead they gave him a life of Christ and a collection of the lives of saints written in Spanish.
By constantly reading these books he began to be attracted to what he found narrated there. Sometimes in the midst of his reading he would reflect on what he had read. Yet at other times he would dwell on many of the things which he had been accustomed to dwell on previously. But at this point our Lord came to his assistance, insuring that these thoughts were followed by others which arose from his current reading.
While reading the life of Christ our Lord or the lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: “What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?” In this way he let his mind dwell on many thoughts; they lasted a while until other things took their place. Then those vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain a long time. This sequence of thoughts persisted with him for a long time.
But there was a difference. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference. Then he understood his experience: thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. And this was the first time he applied a process of reasoning to his religious experience. Later on, when he began to formulate his spiritual exercises, he used this experience as an illustration to explain the doctrine he taught his disciples on the discernment of spirits.
This poignant waiting titled, “The Vocation of St. Aloysius Gonzaga,” by Guercino, hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC). The Gonzaga family castle looms in the background and the crown of the marquisate on the ground behind him, which he has relinquished. The lily is a sign of his chastity.
Aloysius’ father was not persuaded that his son had a vocation to be part of the new group called the Society of Jesus, much less a priest. Therefore, he sent his son to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus with a letter stating, “I merely say to Your Reverence that I am sending you the most precious thing I possess.” The young Aloysius distinguished himself as a model Jesuit. As the plague came to Rome in 1591, Aloysius threw himself into caring for plague victims. But he was told by his superiors not to touch them, lest he contract the disease. One day, he carried a man from his bed, was infected with the plague and then died, at age 23 in the octave of Corpus Christi.
The opening Collect of his Mass today speaks of asking for the same grace Aloysius had: to join innocence with penitence. As J. Michael Thompson writes in a hymn for our saint, we trust as Aloysius did, in the “Trinity of endless mercy.”
The Church named Saint Aloysius a patron of youth, and of those living with HIV/AIDS.
Asked if he feared death, Father John replied, “No more than you do to dine.”
One says, In February 2010, during a visit to Rome by the Scottish bishops’ conference, Benedict XVI asked the bishops to promote devotion to St. John Ogilvie among priests – since the Jesuit martyr had been “truly outstanding in his dedication to a difficult and dangerous pastoral ministry, to the point of laying down his life.” Later that year, during the Scottish segment of his U.K. visit, the Pope again encouraged priests to look to the saint’s “dedicated, selfless and brave” example
Walter Ogilvie was a Scottish noble who raised his son John in the state religion of Scotland, Calvinism. John converted to Catholicism at age 17 at Louvain, Belgium. He joined the Jesuits soon after in 1597, and was ordained in Paris, France in 1610. Sent to work in Rouen, France.
It was a time of great persecution of Catholicism in Scotland. “Send only those,” wrote the Earl of Angus to the Jesuit General, “who wish for this mission and are strong enough to bear the heat of the day, for they will be in exceeding danger.” Wholesale massacres of Catholics had taken place in the past, but by this point the hunters concentrated on priests and those who attended Mass. The Jesuits were determined to minister to the oppressed Catholic laity, but when captured, they were tortured for information, then hanged, drawn, and quartered.
Ogilvie repeatedly requested assignment to his home Scotland, and it was finally granted; he returned in November 1613. He worked as an underground missionary in Edinburgh and Glasgow, dodging the Queen‘s priest-hunters, disguised as a soldier named Watson. After 11 months in the field (and on the run), John was betrayed by a phony Catholic, imprisoned, interrogated, then tortured for the names of active Catholics. He gave no information. “Your threats cheer me; I mind them no more than the cackling of geese,” he told his captors. Asked if he feared to die Father John replied, “No more than you do to dine.”
After three trials he was convicted of treason for being loyal to the Pope, and denying the king‘s supremacy in spiritual matters. He is the Church‘s only officially recorded Scottish martyr. He suffered terrible tortures, including being kept awake for eight days and nine nights, in an attempt to make him divulge the identities of other Catholics. Nonetheless, Ogilvie did not relent; On 10 March 1615, aged thirty-six years, he was paraded through the streets of Glasgow and hanged and disembowelled, according to the penalty of the time, at Glasgow Cross.