"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, receive my soul!"

Tyburn Martyrs

Those of us who occasionally have been cantankerous can take some solace that among the ranks of the Blessed there are those who also had such moments while on Earth.  One of those is Blessed William Ward whose feast day is today.

Born about 1560 at Thornby in Westmoreland as William Webster, William was brought up a Protestant by his Protestant parents.  We know very little about his early life other than that he converted to Catholicism during a trip to Spain, and then converted his mother to the Faith.  He was about 44, an advanced age for the Seventeenth Century, when he began studying for the priesthood at Douai.  Ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Secular Franciscans on June 1, 1608, he traveled to England in October, but was driven onto the shores of Scotland by a severe storm and was imprisoned there for three years.

Nothing daunted by his three years in captivity, upon his release he immediately went to England where he spent the next 30 years serving as an undercover priest, with 20 of these years being spent in captivity for the “crime” of being a Catholic priest.  Described as being of a fiery temperament, Blessed Ward developed a reputation as being tough on penitents in the confessional.  In spite of, or rather because of, this trait, he never lacked penitents eager to be placed under his spiritual direction.  He was accused of avarice, because of the poverty in which he lived, his accusers having no knowledge of his numerous secret charities to which he dedicated almost all donations he received.  A hard man in many ways, he was hardest on himself, as he pursued his mission of preaching Christ in a completely hostile environment.

In 1641 Parliament and King Charles I were involved in an ever escalating conflict that would lead to open civil war in 1642.  The Puritans in Parliament accused King Charles of being soft on “popery” and on April 7, 1641 Parliament passed a law banishing all Catholic priests in England on pain of execution.  Father Ward heard of this law, but brave and stubborn as always, he refused to leave his England. 

Arrested, he was  hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on the feast day of Saint Anne, to whom he had always had a particular devotion, on July 26, 1641.  His last words were, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, receive my soul!”.   He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 along with 162 other English martyrs.

7 Responses to "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, receive my soul!"

  • e. says:

    Today’s brand of Catholics wouldn’t give a pittance about the brave souls who died a gruesome death at Tyburn; indeed, they would look at these loyal Catholics as nothing more than needlessly adamant stiffs who cared nothing for the noble glory of “ecumenism”, where conversion to Catholicism isn’t the way to a united Christendom but, instead, look to the compromising of Catholicism proper as the very means to achieve just that.

    Unlike the stalwart Catholics of those days in England who went so far as even sacrificing their very lives for the True Faith, the Catholics of today seek to destroy the very Faith for which they and Our Lord Himself died for.

    Truly, a pity; but, then again, a compromised Faith to today’s breed of Catholics is the Catholic faith regardless; at least, according to these seemingly noble ecumenical patriots!

    Talk about Salt going Flat!

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    No e., you overstate the case. There are plenty of Catholics today who would regard Blessed Ward as a hero as well as a Saint.

  • e. says:

    Donald,

    The point being, as had been the case historically, that conversions are more often the way to ensuring not only a more genuine preservation of that which is handed down (i.e., both Scripture & Tradition); but that which is more conducive towards rebuilding that Christendom which had been unfortunately lost centuries ago.

    There are those of certain Catholic stripe who seem to think that unity at all costs, even to the extent of compromising the Catholic Faith itself, is the way to go; however, they neglect the fact that by far it is conversion of the protestant that is (and has been) the better way to go — and, indeed, has produced some of the more distinguished Catholics even in our times.

    I would think historical precedence counted for at least something even in this day and age where rampant revisionism has been an unfortunate condition of today’s society.

    Yet, “ecumenism” of the vile sort has become the rallying cry of today’s generation of Catholics to the very detriment of the Catholic Faith.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    A look back at Church history e. will always show more that a few Catholics who do not recognize the precious gift that they have been granted. Fortunately there are other Catholics like Blessed Ward who recoginze that the Faith is the most important thing that they possess. I think if push ever comes to shove you might be pleasantly surprised to see how many Catholics would be willing to defend the Faith with the same intensity Blessed Ward did. I agree with you that one convert like Blessed Ward is worth more than most of what has passed for ecumenism since Vatican II.

  • e. says:

    Donald,

    Which is perhaps amongst the very reasons why I admire a great many of your posts since you often offer us such reminders of how precious the Faith actually is and, most especially, our past; as this one is amongst those particularly inspiring and just as poignant as some of your previous!

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Thank you e. When we think of the Catholic Church, the part on Earth today is only a small part of a Church stretching from the Crucifixion to Eternity. It is easy to lose sight of that fact.

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