Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom: Blesseds George Beesley and Montford Scott

Two Recusant Martyrs tortured by Richard Topcliffe and beatified by Pope St. John Paul II!

Blessed George Beesley was born at The Hill in Goosnargh parish, Lancaster, England, of an ancient Catholic family; died 2 July, 1591. He was ordained priest at the English College at Reims, 14 March, 1587, and left for England, 1 November, 1588. A man of singular courage, young, strong, and robust, he was captured by Topcliffe late in 1590, and was by his tortures reduced to a skeleton. He endured all with invincible courage and could not be induced to betray his fellow Catholics. He suffered by the statute of 27 Eliz., merely for being a priest, in Fleet Street, London. His last words were "Absit mihi gloriari nisi in Cruce Domini Nostri Jesu Christi" and, after a pause, "Good people, I beseech God to send all felicity". 

Blessed Montford Scott, who suffered on the same scaffold was born in Norfolk, England; martyred at Fleet Street, London, on 2 July, 1591. He went to Douai College in 1574, being one of the earliest students at that seminary, and studied theology. The next year he was made subdeacon, and accompanied Dominic Vaughan to England. In Essex they fell into the hands of the Government, Dec., 1576, and under examination, Vaughan was weak enough to betray the names of Catholics both in London and Essex. They were then given over by the Privy Council to the Archbishop of Canterbury for further examination, but nothing more was elicited, and they were afterwards set at liberty. Scott returned to Douai on 22 May, 1577, and having been ordained priest at Brussels set out for the English mission on 17 June. The vessel in which he crossed to England was attacked by pirates, but he escaped with some loss of his goods. He is mentioned as having laboured in Kent (1580), Norfolk, Suffolk (1583), Lincolnshire and Yorkshire (1584). On 24 April, 1584, John Nedeham and others were indicted at Norwich for having on 1 June, 1582, received blessed beads from him. In 1584 he was captured at York at brought to London, where he remained a prisoner for seven years. His release was procured by a money payment of one Baker, on condition of his leaving the country, but Topcliffe immediately procured his re-arrest. Meanwhile he had visited the confessors in Wisbech Castle. He was brought to trial at the sessions at Newgate in company of Blessed George Beesley (30 June, 1591), ad was condemned on account of his priesthood and of his being in the country contrary to the Statute. The next day he was drawn to Fleet Street, where he suffered martyrdom. Topcliffe said that he had that day done the queen and the kingdom a singular piece of service in ridding the realm of such a praying and fasting papist as had not his peer in Europe. 

Fleet Street is near the site of the Knights Templar's church and the home of the fictional Demon Barber, Sweeney Todd. The Wisbech Castle referred to above was set aside in 1580 by Elizabeth I's Privy Council as a special prison for recusants. In Cambridgeshire, it was the site of the Wisbech Stirs as the priests interned there argued over who had authority over the order of life in the castle, how regularly they should keep the fast days, etc. The Jesuit faction was more strict, while the secular priests' leader Christopher Bagshawe called them Puritans and Calvinists! Catholic priests were also held in internment "camps" in Framlingham Castle, Suffolk.

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