Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Catholic Martyrs Under Elizabeth I and Charles I

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 and Blessed Miles Gerard were captured, tried, and executed together, being hung, drawn, and quartered in Rochester on April 13, 1590.

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 and Blessed Edmund Catherick suffered execution during the reign of Charles I:

John Lockwood, priest and martyr, born in of Sowerby, Yorkshire, about 1555 (some say 1561). He was the eldest son of Christopher Lockwood and Clare Lascelles. With their second son, Francis, he arrived at Reims on 4 November 1579, and was at once sent to Douai to study philosophy. John then entered the English College in Rome on 4 October 1595, was ordained priest on 26 January 1597, and sent back to the English mission on 20 April 1598. After suffering imprisonment he was banished in 1610. He then returned to England, was again taken and condemned to death, but reprieved.

After 44 years of hidden ministry, John was finally captured in 1642 at Wood End, Gatenby, near Thirsk, where he had been living for some years, and taken to York for trial. Because of his advanced age – he was 81 years old – he had to be held on a horse in a slow and painful journey. He was tried for being a seminary priest and condemned to death, along with a younger priest called John (Edmund) Catherick. Thinking he saw signs of faltering in the younger man, he asked to be allowed to die first. They were both hung, drawn and quartered at York on 13 April 1642, and both were beatified in 1929. They were probably executed at Knavesmire, just outside the city walls, where there is now a racecourse.

Blessed Edmund Catherick was descended from the old family of Catherick of Carlton and Stanwick, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, known for its loyalty to the Faith. 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 before Justice Dodsworth, a connection by marriage — possibly an uncle. Gillow states (IV, 310) that it was through admissions made to Dodsworth, under the guise of friendship, that Catherick was convicted. He was arraigned at York and condemned to death together with Father John Lockwood. The execution was stayed by the king for a short time, but he finally signed the warrant and it was carried out during his presence at The Manor in York. Catherick and Lockwood were dragged through the streets of York on a hurdle to the place of execution and hanged, drawn, and quartered. Catherick's head was placed on Micklegate Bar, and what fragments remained, after the hangman's butchery, were buried at Toft Green. The "body" is now at St. Gregory's Monastery, Downside, and the skull, said to have been found at Hazlewood Castle, was carefully examined by Lingard in 1845.

Note that 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. All four were beatified in 1929. Holy Martyrs of England and Wales, pray for us!

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