Friday, October 16, 2015

The Relics of St. John Plessington?

The Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury wants to find out if they have the relics/remains of one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, a Popish Plot victim, St. John Plessington, according to this story from CNA:

The English priest St. John Plessington was among dozens martyred because of an anti-Catholic hoax in the seventeenth century. Now a diocese seeks to confirm whether remains long venerated as a martyr’s relics are his.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury praised the saint’s “faithfulness to the point of death” and his witness to priestly life and mission in the diocese.

St. John Plessington was canonized in 1970 by Blessed Paul VI as one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.

“As one of England’s 40 martyrs he points to the long continuity of our Catholic faith and our unswerving loyalty to the See of Peter,” the bishop told the Shrewsbury Catholic Voice.

“If funds could be found to identify and authenticate his relics it would allow our connection to his heroic ministry and martyrdom to become visible and tangible in a new way for generations to come.” . . .

Many of the saint’s bodily remains were lost after his execution in Chester, more than 40 miles north of Shrewsbury.

In the late 19th century bones were discovered hidden in a pub next to St Winefride’s Well in Flintshire, a Welsh county which borders on Chester. The location was a headquarters of Jesuit missionaries, though Plessington was not a Jesuit.

These bones were taken to the Jesuit retreat house of St. Beuno’s and venerated as the relics of an anonymous martyr.

Bishop Davies and others hope that DNA testing of the bones can be matched with known relics, to prove they are the remains of St. John Plessington.

I don't think it would be that unusual for the Jesuits to keep relics of a martyr who was not a Jesuit, especially since the Popish Plot was especially focused on finding and executing Jesuits. (Titus Oates had tried to join the Society of Jesus on the Continent, but his unworthiness for entrance into the order was readily detected and he was sent away.) St. John Plessington has been honored in both Neston and Chester, and the search for his remains has been ongoing:

St John was buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas’s, Burton, after Puddington locals would not allow his quarters to be displayed. Attempts to locate and exhume his body, as recent as 1962, have been unsuccessful but vestments associated with him are kept at St Winefride’s in Neston and a small piece of blood-stained linen is treasured as a relic in St Francis’s Church in Chester.

Statues and stained-glass windows were installed in his honour in St Laurence’s, Birkenhead, and St Werburgh’s, Chester. He is commemorated in St John Plessington College, Bebington, Wirral.

If you can contribute to this project, contact information may be found here.

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