If you are an English Catholic, or of English Catholic heritage, say a prayer of thanks today for St. Nicholas Owen, a humble Jesuit lay-brother who may be the single person most responsible for the survival of the Catholic Church during the persecutions of King James I.
Nicholas was a master builder and an inspired designer of hiding places for hunted Jesuit priests. He secreted them between walls and in underground passageways and rooms. Not only did Nicholas build the hiding places, he disguised their entrances with such skills that priests lived in them, protected from martyrdom, for years.
Nicholas was a master builder and an inspired designer of hiding places for hunted Jesuit priests.
Nicholas never told anyone else the location of these hiding places. He alone chose the sites, did the building and camouflaged the entrances. He shepherded the priests to safety, and most of the Jesuit priests who survived the persecution owed their life to him.
Nicholas was arrested twice, first in 1594. Nicholas was tortured, but he refused to divulge either the names of hidden Jesuit priests or the location of their hideouts. Only the large ransom paid by a wealthy Catholic who had heard of Nicholas’ secret work for the Church saved his life.
When Nicholas was arrested for the second, and final, time, he was with two priests he had carefully hidden. Nicholas came out voluntarily, offering himself up in the hopes of keeping his brothers safe. Though he was tortured, Nicholas told no one his secrets. He died on March 2, 1606.
Let us look to the example of St. Nicholas Owen. A man of great skill and imagination, he did not seek to be exalted, but to serve.
St. Nicholas Owen, pray for us.
– Melissa Musick