Saturday 16th October 2021

Home » saints » Currently Reading:

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Nicholas Owen

September 21, 2021 saints No Comments

By DEB PIROCH

First you see him…and then you don’t. Dangerous times call for dangerous measures. During the reign of Elizabeth I and James I of England, St. Nicholas Owen was the expert at creating what became known as “priests’ holes,” or secret hiding spots for clergy. Located in the homes of wealthy recusant Catholics, these were hidden compartments or locations where priests could hide at a moment’s notice when agents came hunting Catholics. If one were caught, as Catholicism was treason, the price paid was martyrdom.
With King Henry VIII’s break with Rome, when he declared himself the head of the Church of England, an anti-Catholic persecution began. To be a Catholic was a crime. To go to Mass was a crime. To accept the Pope instead of the King as head of the Church was treason. A Catholic priest was not even allowed on English soil. While the Popes were far from shy themselves and quite clear in their excommunication of both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, these monarchs destroyed what was once a Catholic nation. Catholics had hoped that King James I would be more tolerant, but this was sadly not the case. When he ascended the throne he, too, would persecute the Church.
After the Gunpowder Plot, hostility toward Catholics increased and James I also demanded the Oath of Allegiance as had his predecessors. In return, Pope Pius V issued a condemnation of the English oath (which stated the king, not the Pope, was head of the Church) and James I responded that to reject the oath was “craft of the devil.”
Recusant families often refused to attend Anglican services and paid heavy fines levied as punishment instead. Viewed with suspicion and knowing that the Church had gone underground, they were watched by the monarch’s spies to see if they harbored priests, or attended secret Masses.
Into this world was born Nicholas Owen, in about 1562. Gifted with a unique ability, he was able to visualize in existing structures areas that could be created, carved out, hidden…ways to create secret spaces completely undetectable to the enemy. Each location was different — some houses even had several — and these were known only to Nicholas and the house’s owner. To this day no one knows how many he created, for the only safety lay in secrecy.
Born in Oxford, Owen came from a family of Catholic recusants. Two of his brothers became priests. Nicholas followed in the footsteps of his father, a carpenter, and was apprenticed to a joiner. Clearly, he also learned something of masonry — both skills were critical in his future work.
Nicholas was much shorter than the average male height, nearly a dwarf. Perhaps this accounts for his alias, “Little John.” He walked with a limp, due to a leg broken and poorly set. He had a hernia, which would later play a role in his death. In 1580 he officially joined the Jesuits as a lay brother, one of the order’s first, according to Henry More, the great-grandson of St. Thomas More. And for 18 years, Nicholas would be the foremost architect and builder of priest holes across England.
Nicholas would be arrested three times over the course of his lifetime. First, for protesting the innocence of St. Edmund Campion, for whom he had worked. He was released. The second time in 1597, he was arrested along with Fr. John Gerard. Not being known to authorities yet, Nicholas was released when Catholics paid a bribe for his release. His next deed was memorable — he arranged the escape of Fr. Gerard from the Tower! A friendly jailer allowed Fr. Gerard, who was being badly tortured, to daily leave his cell to meet and say Mass for another imprisoned Catholic. One night they climbed to the cell’s roof by pre-arrangement and caught a rope thrown over the moat, climbing to safety. Fr. Gerard still managed later to warn the jailer not to show for work next day — he would have been received rather poorly — and the jailer later converted.
But on the third occasion when Nicholas was arrested, he was known as a prolific building of priests’ holes. As Fr. Gerard would say of Nicholas, “I verily think no man can be said to have done more good for all who labored in the English vineyard.” At a moment’s notice, a call could come that the Queen’s men were at the door, and a priest would dart into on his priest holes to hide, sometimes for many days, as they searched.
These “holes” were sometimes just that, a space barely big enough for a priest to fit into, but other times much larger. And each time Owen altered their designs. They were different sizes, different places, with different ways of getting inside. He performed all the labor at night. During the day he continued as a carpenter. Only he and the owner knew the truth — for spies were everywhere.
Fr. Gerard wrote: “[Nicholas] was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular, and of the estates also of these seculars, which had been lost and forfeited many times over if the priests had been taken in their houses; of which some have escaped not once but many times in several searches that have come to the same house, and sometimes five or six priests together at the same time.”
Fr. Tanner who summarized contemporary information on Nicholas wrote: “With incomparable skill he knew how to devise a place of safety for priests in subterranean passages, to hide them between walls, to bury them in impenetrable recesses. But what was more difficult of accomplishment, he so disguised the entrances to these as to make them most unlike what they really were. Moreover, he kept these places so close a secret with himself, he would never disclose their existence to anyone else.”
Eventually, he was captured in 1606 at Hindlip Hall, along with a servant of one of two Jesuit priests in hiding there at the time. Long since gone, Hindlip was rather unique — it had 12 priest holes! It is believed Nicholas came out of hiding with a Catholic servant, to help distract attention from two other Catholic priests still safely secreted. Unfortunately, the plan did not work, and the two priests were eventually discovered. All would be killed.
Nicholas was tortured in the Tower, hung by manacles from the ceiling, with weights attached to his feet. He was known to have a hernia, and to keep the intestinal tissue “protected,” an iron band was girded around him. Yet after a month of horrible suffering, this band instead ruptured the hernia and he bled to death. His torturers invented a story that he had committed “suicide.”
During all his torture, Nicholas betrayed not one single secret. He invoked the names of Jesus and Mary, as he must have done so often in his work, praying as he built his secret passages behind walls, in sewers, above attics and behind fireplaces. In the end, St. Nicholas Owen took the secrets with him. His life is still largely one shrouded in mystery: We do not know how many priests’ holes he built, nor the numbers he saved. But in the end at the Tower, like Christ before him, he died for them all as “he gave up his spirit.”
He was canonized in 1970 and his feast day is March 3.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Pro-Life Group Calls for Removing Fauci After He's Caught Funding Aborted Baby Parts - https://t.co/kqxQXGgoG8

LifeNews.com - The Pro-Life News Source

.

LifeNews.com

Load More...

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Vatican observes ‘Earth Hour’

On Saturday, along with the Vatican, symbolic monuments of cities all across the globe turn off their lights, to demonstrate the serious global climate crisis. By Vatican News staff writer Vatican City State took part in the traditional international initiative Earth…Continue Reading

House passes bill setting up path to citizenship for millions of Dreamers

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Thursday passed an immigration bill that would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Catechism

Adopt A Center

Today . . .

Cdl. Müller: COVID-19 is ‘dangerous’ but ‘mortal sin is more dangerous’

In a yet unpublished manuscript given to LifeSite, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, insists that the Catholic Church not lose sight of her supernatural mission, pointing to the “uniqueness and salvific universality of Jesus and the Church.” He also discusses the coronavirus and its dangers, saying it is indeed “dangerous,” but that “mortal sin is much more dangerous.”

">Must See Video!

Cdl. Gregory ‘grateful’ for Pope’s support of Communion for pro-abortion politicians

Thu Sep 30, 2021 – 11:57 am EDT VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – Washington’s Cardinal Wilton Gregory has once again supported giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, saying that bishops are “not there as police,” and praising the Pope’s recent restrictions on the Latin Mass. Gregory spoke to assembled members of the press on September 27, while in Rome to take possession of his titular church, Santa Maria Immacolata in Grottarossa.

Covid-19: decree on rules for entry into the Vatican published

A General Decree signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, lays down rules for entry into Vatican City State in times of pandemic. The document concerns external employees and guests.

Cardinal Burke . . . Letter to Those Who are Praying for Me

25 September 2021 Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Thanking you once again, with all my heart, for your faithful and generous prayers for the recovery of my health, I write to update you on the progress of my rehabilitation. In thanking you, I thank, above all, Our Lord, who, in answer to your prayers, has preserved me in life. I thank, too, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and all the Saints through whose intercession you…Continue Reading

Are China’s Threats To Taiwan A Bluff?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Monday, October 4, four dozen Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defense zone, climaxing a weekend of provocations that saw nearly 150 sorties of China-based fighters and bombers.The U.S. State Department countered by issuing a stern statement warning Beijing about the adverse effect on regional “stability” of such “provocative military…Continue Reading

Terry McAuliffe Did Not Go To Government Schools

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY “You’re an Irish Catholic kid from Syracuse, from St. Ann’s school, right?” asked Hugh Hewitt.“Yes,” said Terry McAuliffe in that January 29, 2007, radio interview.At that time, McAuliffe had just recently become chairman of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. He would later go on to serve as governor of Virginia…Continue Reading

The Hand Of God At Work: St. Kateri Tekakwitha

By JAMES MONTI Our Lord has an uncanny way of putting us precisely where we need to be, precisely when we need to be there, to accomplish His purposes for us. He often does this through seemingly insignificant incidents, or even events that seem to us sheer misfortunes.In 1675, the French Jesuit missionary Fr. Jacques…Continue Reading

Democrats’ Ongoing Defense Of Child Sacrifice

By BARBARA SIMPSON (Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on WorldNetDaily on October 1. Barbara Simpson has a 20-year radio, TV, and newspaper career in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.) + + Abortion. It’s a battle that seems to have no end, neither in the realm of the law and the courts nor in…Continue Reading

The Real Crisis Of Education… Virtue And Love Or Cynicism And Hate

By PAUL KRAUSE The battles over schools and education are back in public attention. Not since the 1960s has the American public been so concerned over what is going on in America’s classrooms. As a graduate of Yale, I can say from experience that what you read in the news is worse on campus. Amid…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: We are starting a new series on Apologetics that is based on the book Catholicism & Reason. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. You can send them either to the postal mailing address or to the email address below, and…Continue Reading

Catholic Identity Confirmed At Conference

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK One of the most important events of the year is the annual Catholic Identity Conference. Big thinkers and writers from Rome and throughout the U.S. gather for liturgy, presentation of papers and talks, and to share news and ideas. Most important, as the name of the conference implies, they pray and work together to cement…Continue Reading

What Conscience Dreads And Prayer Dares Not Ask

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Pope posted this column on October 3 and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + The Collect (Opening Prayer) for this week’s Masses (27th Week of the Year), though directed to God, teaches us that our prayer is not always about things with which we are comfortable. It sometimes leads us to…Continue Reading

Participate In Christ’s Redemptive Work

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Ninth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11Heb. 4:14-16Mark 10:35-45 In the Gospel reading today, our Lord tells us that He came to serve, not to be served. This service is one of charity, the highest form of love. As such, He gives Himself freely without looking for or expecting anything in return. This…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. After reading a column in a recent issue of The Wanderer, I have to ask, was Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner, the same woman as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus? — B.R., via e-mail.A. What we do know for certain about Mary Magdalene is that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (cf. Luke 8:2), that she…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Lawrence

By DEB PIROCH This week’s column is particularly dedicated to all the cooks preparing for the Thanksgiving feast, less than two months away. In searching out recipes, one could do worse than remember the patron saint of cooks: St. Lawrence.St. Lawrence, despite having died as long ago as 258 AD, is among the most remembered of the saints, for his…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… What’s In A (Saint’s) Name?

By DEB PIROCH Why do we use a saint’s or other Christian name as our given choice? Early Christians took new names in Baptism, just as many of us are given these names at infant Baptisms. We also may take a saint’s name at our Confirmation (or stick with our Christian baptismal name), and religious often take another name when…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)