Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Godspeed, John Speed!

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the layman John Speed of John Spence was an

English martyr, executed at Durham, 4 Feb., 1593-4, for assisting the venerable martyr St. John Boste, whom he used to escort from one Catholic house to another. He died with constancy, despising the inducements offered to bring him to conformity. With him was condemned Mrs. Grace Claxton, wife of William Claxton, of the Waterhouse, in the parish of Brancepeth, Durham, at whose house Boste was taken and probably Speed also. She was, however, reprieved on being found to be with child. In 1929, John Speed was beatified by Pope Pius XI as one of the Durham Martyrs. (More about the Durham Martyrs here.)

Regarding the priest and martyr Blessed John Speed and Mrs. Grace Claxton suffered for: St. John Boste: b. of good Catholic family at Dufton, in Westmoreland, about 1544; d. at Durham, 24 July, 1594. He studied at Queen's College, Oxford, 1569-72, became a Fellow, and was received into the Church at Brome, in Suffolk, in 1576. Resigning his Fellowship in 1580, he went to Reims, where he was ordained priest, 4 March, 1581, and in April was sent to England. He landed at Hartlepool and became a most zealous missioner, so that the persecutors made extraordinary efforts to capture him. At last, after many narrow escapes, he was taken to Waterhouses, the house of William Claxton, near Durham, betrayed by one Eglesfield [or Ecclesfield], 5 July, 1593. The place is still visited by Catholics. From Durham he was conveyed to London, showing himself throughout "resolute, bold, joyful, and pleasant", although terribly racked in the Tower. Sent back to Durham for the July Assizes, 1594, he behaved with undaunted courage and resolution, and induced his fellow-martyr, Bl. George Swalwell [or Swallowell], a convert minister, who had recanted through fear, to repent of his cowardice, absolving him publicly in court. He suffered at Dryburn, outside Durham. He recited the Angelus while mounting the ladder, and was executed with extraordinary brutality; for he was scarcely turned off the ladder when he was cut down, so that he stood on his feet, and in that posture was cruelly butchered alive. An account of his trial and execution was written by an eye-witness, Venerable Christopher Robinson, who suffered martyrdom shortly afterwards at Carlisle.

Christopher Robinson is now Blessed Christopher Robinson. More about Blessed George Swallowell here.

It may be obvious but I don't think it's trite to point out how we see the links in the chains of recusant Catholics in this era. The priests come in great danger to serve the laity, offer the Sacraments, teach them the Faith, etc; the laity in great danger themselves assist the priests as they travel, gathering other Catholics--some of whom could be spies pretending to be Catholic--for the celebration of Mass, paying the fines for not attending Anglican services, preparing the safe houses, staying on watch.

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