Feast of Saint Nicholas Owen
St. Nicholas Owen was born in England, the son of an Oxford carpenter. He became a carpenter himself, and joined the Jesuits as a lay brother during the era when Catholicism was outlawed in England. After serving jail time for defending the martyred St. Edmund Campion, Nicholas began working for and traveling with the Jesuits, staying in Catholic houses where he made repairs during the day and secretly constructed well-disguised ‘priest-holes’, or hiding places for hunted priests, during the night. He was so skilled at his craft that his priest holes saved hundreds of lives over his 20 years of work.
While on a trip to London with a Jesuit priest they were betrayed by a household servant, captured, and tortured. After Nicholas’ release he masterminded the priest’s escape from the Tower of London. Years later, after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Nicholas was again a wanted man. He hid along with a priest in one of his priest holes, and although 100 men searched for them diligently, they were not discovered. After eight days of hiding without food, Nicholas left the hole disguised as a priest in order to protect the real priest who was still concealed. He was captured and tortured on the rack in the Tower of London. Day after day he refused to give up any information about the underground Catholic Church in England. He died a martyr after his entrails burst open.
St. Nicholas Owen is one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. Father John Gerard wrote of him: “I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.”
His feast day is March 22.
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St. Nicholas Owen never gave away the whereabouts of any priest hole he had built.”
From an account of Saint Nicholas Owen
During the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I it was high treason, and therefore death, to be a Catholic priest in England. It was consequently vital that there be somewhere to hide when the pursuivants came battering at the door. One name is prominent in the construction of priest-holes that of Nicholas Owen.”
from the book St Nicholas Owen: Priest Hole Maker, Gracewing Publishing
Saint Nicholas Owen, Protector of Priests, Martyr of England and Wales, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family, pray for us. Amen.