Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meeting in Prison: Blesseds Lacy and Kirkman

Blessed William Lacy or Lacey, born and raised in Yorkshire, had been married twice and widowed twice before he went to Rome, studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1581. As a layman, Lacy had suffered imprisonment for his Catholicism in Yorkshire, paid many fines for not attending Anglican services, and had lost his official post as coroner. After his ordination, he traveled to England with Jesuit Fathers Jasper Heywood (John Donne's uncle) and William Holt. Upon his return home he was arrested in York on July 22, 1582 while present at a Mass celebrated by Thomas Bell with another martyr-to-be, Blessed William Hart and suffered greatly in prison. He was loaded with heavy irons, confined in an underground dungeon, and subjected to numerous examinations before arraignment on August 11--it's not clear what he he was found guilty of, since the Elizabethan statute that made the presence of a priest in England an act of treason. He refused to accept Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church and had some items blessed by Pope Gregory XIII, so that was enough to find him guilty of some treason.

He and Blessed Richard Kirkman met in prison. Kirkman was born at Addingham, in the West Riding. He went to Douai in 1577 to study for the priesthood and was ordained at the English College in Reims on Holy Saturday in 1579. He returned to England in August of that year with St. Alexander Briant and was arrested a year later on August 8, after his lay host and protector, Robert Dykmore of Lincolnshire was arrested. Before execution, he was moved to an underground dungeon. His last words were from Psalm 120: 'Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.'

Neither priest had much opportunity to serve the Catholics in northern England, altough Blessed William Lacy may have had a year. Blessed William Lacy is honored on December 1 every year at the Venerable English College in Rome. The students gather in the chapel to sing Te Deum Laudamus before Alberti's Martyrs' Picture. Blessed Richard Kirkman is remembered as one of the Martyrs of Douai at Allen Hall in Chelsea, London.

These two martyrs were hung and quartered on August 22, in the year 1582, in York. The Lord President of the North was Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntington, appointed by Elizabeth I in 1572 (his mother was Catherine Pole, Blessed Margaret Pole's granddaughter!)--he was a devout Puritan and hated anything Catholic (rather awkward family circumstances, when his wife was a Pole!), and although his religion irritated Elizabeth, she found him very useful in the North of England during the crises of Mary, Queen of Scots' imprisonment and the Spanish Armada. He was also most diligent in the apprehension of Catholic recusants and Catholic priests.

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