Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Temptation of a Martyr: Blessed Alexander Crow

Wikipedia has this brief entry for today's martyr:

Alexander Crow (died 1586/7) was born in Yorkshire around 1550. He took up an early trade as a shoemaker, but in his twenties he travelled to Rheims, France, and trained as a priest at Duoay (sic) College, being ordained in 1584.

He returned to the north of England to continue his mission, until he was arrested in South Duffield whilst baptising a baby. Taken to York, he was hanged, drawn and quartered on 30 November 1586 or 1587. Sources conflict as to the year of his death, whether it was 1586 or a year later, 'being about the year (sic) of thirty five,'

One of the Eighty-five martyrs of England and Wales, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22 November 1987.

In his Memoirs of the Missionary Priests, however, Bishop Richard Challoner includes the story of the great temptations Blessed Alexander Crow suffered the night before he died. He was in a cell with another Catholic prisoner who later reported on the vigil Father Crow kept. He wanted to stay awake and pray, preparing himself for the horrors of being hanged, drawn, and quartered. In the midst of his prayers, however, he was tempted by the devil, who told him he would never be a martyr and never enjoy heaven, but be kept in prison forever and go to hell. The "ugly monster" told him to kill himself rather than endure such lingering punishment. Father Crow kept fighting him off, but the "horrid figure" kept harassing him. Suddenly a vision of St. John the Evangelist and the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Father Crow, casting the demon away and telling him, "Begone from hence, thou cursed creature! Thou hast no part in this servant of Christ, who will shed his blood tomorrow for his Lord, and will enter into his joy." Crow received great spiritual consolation and rejoiced that he would indeed be a martyr the next day.

On the scaffold, however, the devil returned and knocked Father Crow off the ladder even before the noose was placed around his neck; the crowd gathered for the execution thought he was trying to kill himself. He told them that he was not, mounted the ladder again and after "exhorting them to the Catholic faith" and "passing through the usual course of the ordinary butchery, he gloriously finished his career, and went to enjoy his God forever."

Bishop Challoner's entry also includes the detail that when Blessed Alexander Crow was arrested, he was on his way to baptize the baby of "one Cecily Garnet" and I wonder if she was any relation to Father Henry Garnet or St. Thomas Garnet. I also wonder who baptized her baby and what the baby's name was. And note that the confusion about the year of his death was related to his age; the manuscript annals said he was 35 when he was executed, so he would have been born in 1552.

Blessed Alexander Crow, pray for us!

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