Monday, August 27, 2012

Blessed Roger Cadwallador

English martyr, b. at Stretton Sugwas, near Hereford, in 1568; executed at Leominster (pronounced Lemster), 27 Aug., 1610. He was ordained subdeacon at Reims, 21 Sept., 1591, and deacon the following February, and in Aug., 1592, was sent to the English College at Valladolid, where he was ordained priest. Returning to England in 1594, he laboured in Herefordshire with good success especially among the poor for about sixteen years. Search was made for him in June, 1605, but it was not till Easter, 1610, that he was arrested at the house of Mrs. Winefride Scroope, widow, within eight miles of Hereford. He was then brought before the Bishop, Dr. Robert Bennet, who committed him to Hereford gaol where he was loaded with irons night and day.

Challoner notes that Dr. Bennet tripped himself up: after asking Father Cadwallador if he was a Catholic priest (and Cadwallador admitted that he was) the bishop proclaimed that Jesus Christ was the only priest of the New Testament (because Cadwallador had stated Dr. Bennet was not a true bishop)--so the martyr said, well then, I cannot be held guilty of being a priest then, can I, since there are no priests!?

On being transferred to Leominster gaol he was obliged to walk all the way in shackles, though a boy was permitted to go by his side and bear up by a string the weight of some iron links which were wired to the shackles. On his arrival, he was treated with the greatest inhumanity by his gaoler--kept in chains and even constrained in his movements. He was taken again to the bishop for some religious arguments, but he was very ill, suffering with a fever. He was condemned, merely for being a priest, some months before he suffered. A very full account of his sufferings in prison and of his martyrdom is given by Challoner. He hung very long, suffering great pain, owing to the unskilfulness of the hangman, and was eventually cut down and butchered alive.

Bishop Challoner's description of his execution is gruesome. The knot of the noose ended up under his chin--and the undersheriff started to get impatient with the time it was taking to execute Father Cadwallador because of the hangman's incompetence. The crowds at these executions knew how they were to be carried out and some even tried to "help" the priest die on the gibbet. They did not cheer when one of the sheriff's men raised the severed head of the martyr because they had witnessed the cruel incompetence of the execution and the Catholic priest's fortitude. Before he died he asked any Catholics in the crowd to pray the Pater Noster with him, secretly for their safety if they must.

Pits praises his great knowledge of Greek, from which he translated Theodoret's "Philotheus, or the lives of the Father of the Syrian deserts"; but it does not appear when or where this translation was published.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II, on the 22nd of November 1987. In 2010, the Herefordshire Catholic community celebrated the 400th anniversary of his martyrdom.

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