Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September Martyrs: Blessed William Way

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: Today's martyr, Blessed William Way (Alias MAY, alias FLOWER), was born in Exeter Diocese (Challoner says in Cornwall, but earlier authorities say in Devonshire); hanged, [disem]bowelled, and quartered at Kingston-on-Thames, 23 September, 1588. He is frequently confused with the martyred layman Richard Flower, alias Lloyd, who suffered at Tyburn, 30 September, 1588 (as to whom see RICHARD LEIGH), with the priest William Wiggs, alias Way, M.A., a notable prisoner at Wisbech, and with William Wyggs, M.A., of New College, Oxford. Our martyrWilliam Way received the first tonsure in the Cathedral of Reims from the Cardinal of Guise on 31 March, 1584, and was ordained subdeacon, 22 March, deacon 5 April, and priest 18 September, 1586, at Laon, probably byBishop Valentine Douglas, O.S.B. He set out for England 9 December, 1586, and in June 1587, had been committed to the Clink. He was indicted at Newgate in September, 1588, merely for being a priest. He declined to be tried by a secular judge, whereupon the Bishop of London was sent for; but the martyr, refusing to acknowledge him as a bishop or the queen as head of the Church, was immediately condemned. He was much given to abstinence and austerity. When he was not among the first of those to be tried at the Sessions in August, he wept and, fearing he had offended God, went at once to confession, "but when he himself was sent for, he had so much joy that he seemed past himself".

I presume to that seem "past himself" is like being "beside himself": almost out of his senses from a strong emotion, in his case, joy. Since Father Way was known for his "abstinence and austerity", his display of emotion seemed unlike his usual comportment. This expression evidently comes from William Caxton's translation of a French version of the story of Aeneas: Dido is “hors de soi” when she hears that Aeneas has left her. Henry Purcell tells the story of Dido and Aeneas in his opera. Tatiana Troyanas sings her aria, beside herself with grief on the pyre, whose fires Aeneas will see:

Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.

When I am laid, am laid in earth, 
May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate

We remember both Blessed William Way and his fate (his martyrdom). He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Image: Aeneid, Book IV, Death of Dido. From the Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican Library, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225).

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