Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom Begins: St. John Rigby

The annual Fortnight for Freedom, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to promote religious liberty, begins today and ends on July 4, our Independence Day.

FYI: tomorrow, Monday, June 22, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show to discuss the Fortnight and Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, whose shared feast is always an important part of the Fortnight.

Today, however, we should honor an English Catholic martyr who died because England did not respect religious freedom in the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries (who did? until Lord Baltimore founded Maryland), and one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, the layman St. John Rigby:

Rigby was born circa 1570 at Harrock Hall, Eccleston, near Chorley, Lancashire, the fifth or sixth son of Nicholas Rigby, by his wife Mary (née Breres). In 1600 Rigby was working for Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter Mrs. Fortescue was summoned to the Old Bailey for recusancy. Because she was ill, Rigby appeared for her, was compelled to confess his Catholicism, and sent to Newgate. The next day, the feast day of St Valentine, he signed a confession saying that since he had been reconciled to the Roman Catholic faith by Saint John Jones, a Franciscan priest, he had not attended Anglican services. He was sent back to Newgate and later transferred to the White Lion. Twice he was given the chance to recant, but twice refused. His sentence was carried out. He gave the executioner who helped him up to the cart a piece of gold, saying, "Take this in token that I freely forgive thee and others that have been accessory to my death." Rigby was executed by hanging at St Thomas Waterings on June 21, 1600.

Saint John Jones, the priest who had reconciled Rigby, had died at the same place Rigby had died, St Thomas Waterings, two years earlier, on July 12, 1598.

St John Rigby Roman Catholic Sixth Form College in Orrell, Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester is named after St. John Rigby. One of its buildings, Harrock House, is named after Rigby's birthplace.

Other reports of his execution include this exchange:

On his way to execution, the hurdle was stopped by a Captain Whitlock, who wished him to conform and asked him if he were married, to which the martyr replied, "I am a bachelor; and more than that I am a maid", and the captain thereupon desired his prayers.

Rigby's conversion to Catholicism was a felony in Elizabethan England (so much for Elizabeth I's claim not to want to see into men's souls!), as was attendance at the Catholic Mass--he would have just been fined and/or imprisoned for not attending Anglican services.

I will be highlighting the several English martyrs, canonized and beatified--and one Irish martyred saint--throughout the Fortnight. Here is an overview of them, published on The Christian Review.

1 comment:

  1. An annual Mass was Celebrated on the estate where the saint worked and lived. I am unaware as to the present arrangements.