Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

Three brave women
August 30, 2010, 8:44 am
Filed under: Devotional | Tags: , ,

From the Works of Bishop Richard Challoner.

(On the 26th of March 1586,) Mrs Margaret Clithero, whose maiden name was Middleton, a gentlewoman of a good family in Yorkshire, was pressed to death at York. She was prosecuted under that violent persecution raised in those times by the Earl of Huntingdon, Lord President of the North. The crime she was charged with was relieving and harbouring priests. She refused to plead, that she might not bring others into danger by her conviction, or be accessory to the jurymen’s sins in condemning the innocent, and therefore, as the law appoints in such cases, she was pressed to death. She bore this cruel torment with invincible patience, often repeating in the way to execution, That this way to heaven was as short as any other.

Ann Line was a gentlewoman, of an infirm constitution of body,… but her soul was strong and vigorous, and ever tending by spiritual exercises to Christian perfection… and what was particularly remarkable about her was the desire she had of ending her days by martyrdom. … On Candlemas Day, 1601, the pursuivants having some intelligence, or suspecting that Mrs Line entertained a priest, beset her house at the very time that Mass was actually beginning. However, as the door was strongly barred and fastened, they were forced to wait some time before they could come in; and in the mean time the priest had leisure to… escape. They hurried away Mrs Line to prison (and she) was brought to trial at the Old Bailey before the Lord Chief Justice Popham- a bitter enemy of the Catholics. She was carried to her trial in a chair, being at that time so weak and ill that she could not walk. The evidence against her was very slender… (but) any proof it seems was strong enough with Mr Popham against a Papist; and the jury, by him directed, brought in Mrs Line guilty of the indictment, viz., of having harboured or entertained a Seminary priest. According to which verdict the judge pronounced sentence of death upon the prisoner, and sent her back to Newgate to prepare herself for execution. Here she acknowledged, the day before her condemnation, God had given her a foresight of this happiness… At Tyburn, when she was just ready to die, she declared to the standers by, with a loud voice, “I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far am I repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.”

Mrs Margaret Ward was born at Congleton in Cheshire of a gentleman’s family, and was in service of a lady of distinction when Mr Watson, a secular priest, was confined in Bridewell for his religion…

She asked and obtained leave of her lady to go and attempt to visit and relieve him. (After some time she had an opportunity to bring him a cord whereby he was able to escape.) The jailer seeing the cord, and being convinced that no one but Mrs Ward could have brought it to the prisoner… sent justices and constables (who) apprehended her, and carried her off to prison, where they loaded her with irons and kept her in this manner for eight days… After eight days she was brought to the bar, where, being asked by the judges if she was guilty of that treachery to the Queen and to the laws of the realm of furnishing the means by which a traitor of a priest, as they were pleased to call him, had escaped from justice, she answered with a cheerful countenance in the affirmative…She was executed at Tyburn, August 30, 1588, shewing to the end a wonderful constancy and alacrity, by which the spectators were much moved and greatly edified.


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