Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three English Martyrs of 1591

After the Spanish Armada scare in 1588, the Elizabethan regime stepped up its persecution of Catholics. Three saints were executed on July 7, 1591 in Winchester--Blessed Roger Dicconsen or Dickenson for being a Catholic priest present in England, Blessed Ralph Milner for being a Catholic layman who assisted a Catholic priest (Father Dickenson), and Blessed Lawrence Humphrey, like Milner a convert and layman.

Father Dicconsen had studied for the priesthood at Rheims and come to England as a missionary priest in 1583, serving in Hampshire. He was arrested and sentenced to exile, but returned almost immediately, going to Worcestershire.

The judge offered Ralph Milner a reprieve and pardon if he would just go into an Anglican church--Milner had a wife and eight children. But Milner refused and offered his family a final paternal blessing. He was arrested on the day he had received his first Holy Communion, but had been held in the Winchester gaol very loosely, able to come and go and even help the priest who had converted him (and Milner), Father Stanney.

Lawrence Humphrey, while delirious with a fever, was overheard cursing Elizabeth and proclaiming her a heretic. When he recovered he was charged with treason, even though he could not remember saying what witnesses reported.

All three were hung, drawn, and quartered as traitors, the priest for being a priest, the laymen for being converts and/or delirious! They were among the fifteen were martyred in 1591, which included eight laymen and seven priests.

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