Monday, May 19, 2008

St. Peter Wright, Priest and Martyr


"Today is the Feast of St. Peter Wright, slain in 1651 at Tyburn for being a Catholic and a priest.

Here is his entry in the Roman Martyrology:

11*. Londinii in Anglia, beati Petri Wright, presbyteri et martyris, qui, fidem Ecclesiae catholicae professus, in Societatem Iesu admissus et ad ordines sacros promotus, tempore Reipublicae, propter sacerdotium ad Tyburni patibulum ductus est.
He was hanged till dead and then disemboweled, etc. Many of the English martyrs were only lightly hanged, then while alive had various bit cut off and then their intestines pulled out which were burned as they watched. Then the were beheaded and quartered.

The establishments really didn’t want Catholics around.

I have been thinking much of the English Martyrs these days, and learning more about them as well.

They have been on my mind for two reasons.

First, I am watching a series (one of these drama things, so it is spiced up) called The Tudors. Also, I am reading Joseph Pearce’s great book The Quest for Shakespeare. It seems the Bard, a recusant, had a good deal to do with Jesuit priests, including a couple martyrs. I recall there was pretty accurate scene of hanging, drawing and quatering in the two-part movie produced by HBO about Queen Elizabeth I.

So, over at Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit, I found this edifying entry:

Bl. Peter Wright (†1651)

Blessed Fr Peter Wright, S.J., of Slipton, Northamptonshire, England suffered for his priesthood, his vows of religion and his Catholic Faith at Tyburn on 19 May, 1651. His execution on Whit Monday took place before over 20 000 spectators, as Bishop Challoner relates: Having celebrated Mass with great devotion, the time drew near when he was to go down in order for execution. Hearing the knocking at the iron grate, he took it as a summons from Heaven, and cried out:

I come, sweet Jesus, I come.

When Fr Wright was called out to the hurdle, he went with so much alacrity and speed that the officers could scarce keep pace with him; then being placed on the hurdle he made a short act of contrition; and in the midst of mutual embraces was absolved by Fr Cheney, and then drawn away to Tyburn through the streets crowded with an innumerable multitude of people. He was drawn on the hurdle more like one sitting than lying down; his head was covered, his countenance smiling, a certain air of majesty, and a courage and cheerfulness in his comportment, which was both surprising and edifying, not only to the Catholics who crowded to ask his benediction, but to the Protestants themselves, as many publicly declared. Thirteen malefactors were appointed to die with him, to whom the father endeavoured to give seasonable advice for the welfare of their souls, but was continually interrupted by the minister, and therefore desisted, betaking himself to silent prayer, in which he employed about an hour, standing with his eyes shut, his hands joined before his breast, his countenance sweet and amiable, and his whole body without motion as one in deep contemplation. When the minister took occasion to tell him it was not yet too late, and that he might save his life if he would renounce the errors of Popery:

If I had a thousand lives I would most willingly give them all up in defence of the Catholic religion. The hangman having fitted the rope to his neck, the confessor made a short speech to the spectators: Gentlemen, this is a short passage to eternity; my time is now short, and I have not much to speak. I was brought hither charged with no other crime but being a priest. I willingly confess I am a priest; I confess I am a Catholic; I confess I am a religious man of the Society of Jesus, or as you call it, a Jesuit.
This is the cause for which I die; for this alone was I condemned, and for propagating the Catholic faith, which is spread through the whole world, taught
through all ages from Christ’s time, and will be taught for all ages to come.
For this cause I most willingly sacrifice my life, and would die a thousand times for the same if it were necessary; and I look upon it my greatest happiness, that my most good God has chosen me most unworthy to this blessed lot, the lot of the saints. This is a grace which so unworthy a sinner could scarce have wished, much less hoped for. And now I beg of the goodness of my God with all the fervour I am able, and most humbly entreat Him that He would drive from you that are Protestants the darkness of error, and enlighten your minds with the rays of truth. And as for you Catholics, my fellow soldiers and comrades, as many of you as are here I earnesdy beseech you to join in prayer for me and with me till my last moment; and when I shall come to Heaven I will do as much for you. God bless you all; I forgive all men. From my heart I bid you all farewell till we meet in a happy eternity.
Having spoken to this effect, he again recollected himself a while in prayer, and then the cart was drawn away, and he was suffered to hang till he quietly expired. His dead body was cut down, beheaded, bowelled, and quartered. His friends were permitted to carry off his head and quarters which were translated to Liege, and there honourably deposited in the college of the English Jesuits. He suffered aged 48, and after 22 years of religious life. He was beatified in 1929.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints, †

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