Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13: Rochester (1590) and York (1642)

These two sets of priests were executed during the reigns of Elizabeth I and Charles I under the same law that made it illegal for Catholic priests to be in England:

Blessed Francis Dickinson or Dickenson was born in Otley and christened at Otley Parish Church on 28th October 1564. Nothing is known of his early life, but in 1582, at the age of 17, he entered the English College in Rheims. He was ordained at Soissons on 18th March 1589 and returned to England in November of that year. He was captured along with another priest (Blessed Miles Gerard). Upon refusing to swear allegiance to the Queen Francis was sent to London and committed to Bridewell Prison.

During this time he was tortured in an attempt to obtain a self-incriminating confession. The date and place of his trial are unknown, however, he was taken to Rochester and there hanged, drawn and quartered on 13th April 1590. Francis had been a priest for just over one year and, at the age of 25, was one of the youngest Douai martyrs. Blessed Francis is venerated at Our Lady and All Saints Catholic Church in Otley (along with another martyr from that area, Blessed Matthew Flathers).

Blessed Miles Gerard born about 1550 at Wigan; executed at Rochester 13 April, 1590. Sprung perhaps from the Gerards of Ince, he was, about 1576, tutor to the children of Squire Edward Tyldesley, at Morleys, Lancashire. Thence in 1579 he went to the seminaries of Douai and Reims, where he was ordained 7 April, 1583, and then stayed on as professor until 31 August, 1589 (O.S.), when he started for England with five companions. At Dunkirk the sailors refused to take more than two passengers; so the missioners tossed for precedence, and Gerard and Francis Dicconson, the eldest (it seems) and youngest of the party, won. Though bound for London, they were driven out of their course into Dover harbour, where they were examined and arrested on suspicion (24 November, N.S.). A contemporary newsletter says that they were wrecked, and escaped the sea only to fall into the hands of persecutors on shore, but this is not consistent with the official records. These show that the prisoners at first gave feigned names and ambiguous answers, but soon thought it better to confess all. After many tortures in the worst London prisons under the infamous Topcliffe, they were condemned as traitors, and "taken to Rochester, where they were hanged and quartered", says Father John Curry, S.J., writing shortly afterwards, "and gave a splendid testimony to the Catholic Faith".

Blessed John Lockwood was the eldest son of Christopher Lockwood, of Sowerby, Yorkshire, by Clare, eldest daughter of Christopher Lascelles, of Sowerby and Brackenborough Castle, Yorkshire. With the second son, Francis, he arrived at Reims on 4 November 1579, and was sent to Douai College to study philosophy.

Francis was ordained in 1587, but John entered the English College, Rome, on 4 October 1595,and was ordained priest on 26 January 1597. He was sent on the English mission, 20 April 1598.

After suffering imprisonment he was banished in 1610, but returned, and was again taken and condemned to death, but reprieved. He was finally captured at Wood End, Gatenby, the residence of Bridget Gatenby, and executed with Edmund Catherick.

Catherick was born in Lancastershire in 1605 and was descended from the Catholic family of Catherick of Carlton, North Yorkshire and Stanwick, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Educated at Douai College, he was ordained in the same institution, and about 1635 went out to the English mission where he began his seven years' ministry which closed with his death. During this time he was known under the alias Huddleston, which was probably his mother's maiden name.

Apprehended in the North Riding, near Watlas, Catherick was brought by pursuivants to York for arrainment as a Catholic priest illegally present in England and was condemned to death together with Father John Lockwood.

King Charles I signed their death warrants reluctantly and witnessed their executions at York.

All four of these martyrs are listed among the Blessed Martyrs of Douai.

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