March 10, 2017

Saint John Ogilvie, Scottish Martyr

Saint John Ogilvie

March 11th, is the feast of Saint John Ogilvie (1579 – 1615), born in 1579, at Drum, Scotland. Walter Ogilvie was a Scottish noble who raised his son John in the state religion of Scotland, Calvinism. The Ogilvie family was partly Catholic and partly Presbyterian. John eventually converted to Catholicism at the age of 17 in Louvain, Belgium. He initially studied with the Benedictines, but joined the Jesuits in 1597, and was ordained in Paris in 1610. He was then sent to Rouen.

Two French Jesuit missionaries returning from Scotland told him of the blatant persecution of Catholics there. He repeatedly requested assignment to Scotland where wholesale massacres of Catholics had taken place, but by this point the oppressors were searching more for priests than for those who attended Mass.

The Jesuits were determined to minister to the oppressed Catholic laity. When captured, they were tortured for information, then hanged, drawn, and brutally quartered. Any cleric caught attending to the faithful would face certain death.

Ogilvie's request was granted, and he returned to Scotland in November 1613. He worked as an underground missionary in Edinburgh and Glasgow, dodging the Queen's priest-hunters, disguising himself as a soldier named Watson. After 11 months in the field, John was betrayed, imprisoned, interrogated, then tortured for the names of active Catholics. He suffered horribly in courageous in silence.

At his final trial, the presiding judge ordered Ogilvie to renounce his faith and pledge allegiance to the king. The future saint answered defiantly, refusing to comply, “In all that concerns the king, I will be slavishly obedient; if any attack his temporal power, I will shed my last drop of blood for him. But in the things of spiritual jurisdiction which a king unjustly seizes I cannot and must not obey.”

Faithful to the very last, on the scaffold he was offered his freedom and a good living if he denied his beliefs. His courage and devotion was reported throughout Scotland. He is the Church's only officially recorded Scottish martyr. He died hanged on March 10, 1615 in Glasgow, Scotland and was canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 17, 1976. O God, who chose to manifest the blessed hope of your eternal Kingdom by the toil of Saint John Ogilvie, by the shedding of his blood, graciously grant that through his intercession our own faith may be strengthened.

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