Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sts. John Jones and John Wall

Sts. John Jones and John Wall c. 1530-1598; 1620-1679
(With thanks to Saint of the Day)


These two friars were martyred in England in the 16th and 17th centuries for refusing to deny their faith.

John Jones was Welsh. He was ordained a diocesan priest and was twice imprisoned for administering the sacraments before leaving England in 1590. He joined the Franciscans at the age of 60 and returned to England three years later while Queen Elizabeth I was at the height of her power. John ministered to Catholics in the English countryside until his imprisonment in 1596. He was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered. John was executed on July 12, 1598.

John Wall was born in England but was educated at the English College of Douai, Belgium. Ordained in Rome in 1648, he entered the Franciscans in Douai several years later. In 1656 he returned to work secretly in England.

In 1678 Titus Oates worked many English people into a frenzy over an alleged papal plot to murder the king and restore Catholicism in that country. In that year Catholics were legally excluded from Parliament, a law which was not repealed until 1829. John Wall was arrested and imprisoned in 1678 and was executed the following year.

John Jones and John Wall were canonized in 1970.


We Anglicans should, I think, look unflinchingly at some of these shameful incidents from our past. I don't mean we should continually beat ourselves up over them, nor that we should all immediately go over to Rome as a penance. I just feel we need to own where we are coming from. We need to do this in fairness to our sisters and brothers of the Roman Church; more urgently, we need to look at our current attitudes and behaviour in the light of our past.

There is much loose talk of schism, on both "sides" of however you wish to characterise the present unrest in the Anglican Communion. How then are we going to behave towards those with whom we disagree? Are we going to be like Titus Oates, and ferment distrust and intolerance, and ultimately injustice, against those we fear; or are we going to behave more like the Franciscan Poor Clare St Veronica Giuliani, who though unjustly accused and deprived of office and privilege, remained in obedience and quite free of bitterness till she was finally restored?

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