Thursday, March 10, 2016

Saint John Ogilvie: Man of Faith, Forgiveness, Courage, and Love

Today, the Church celebrates the life of Saint John Ogilvie, a former Calvinist who was martyred in Scotland during the Protestant Reformation.

St. John Ogilvie was born of a noble Scottish family in 1579 and was raised as a Calvinist. He converted to Catholicism at the age of 17 when he studied abroad at the Scots College in Louvain, Belgium. He attended several Catholic schools and soon discovered a call to join the Jesuits. In 1599, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Vienna and was ordained in Paris in 1610, the year before the last two Jesuits working in Scotland were obliged to leave as persecution intensified.

He returned to Scotland in November 1614 disguised as a soldier, and began to preach in secret, celebrating mass clandestinely in private homes. However, his ministry was to last less than a year. In 1614, he was betrayed and arrested and taken to jail.

There, he suffered terrible tortures, including being kept awake for eight days and nine nights, in an attempt to make him reveal the identities of other Catholics. However, he gave no information. “Your threats cheer me; I mind them no more than the cackling of geese,” he told his captors. Asked if he feared to die Father John replied, “No more than you do to dine.”

After a long imprisonment, John was tried on charges of treason and was convicted after three trials. He continued to refuse to name names and was sentenced to death by hanging.

As a final gesture before his hanging, John had tossed his Rosary beads into the crowd where they were caught by a Calvinist nobleman. The man, Baron John ab Eckersdorff, later became a Catholic,  tracing his conversion to that incident.

St. John Ogilvie was martyred in 1615 at the age of 36. He was beatified in 1929 and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1976.  He is the patron saint of youth and people with AIDs.

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