Blessed Memorial of St John Ogilvie SJ – 10 March – St John Ogilvie, his Rosary and the Baron
Although the judge had tried to pin the crime of treason on him, Ogilvie forced him to assert that it was for his Catholic Faith that he was being killed, rather than for treason, which Protestant history alleges. Just as with Saint Thomas More, the heroic Jesuit protested his allegiance to the King saying that he was the King’s loyal subject but God’s servant first. Again, as it was with Thomas More, the executioner begged the martyr’s forgiveness, which he paternally gave.
There were many brave Catholics who came to the execution site to support the saint with prayers and with shouts. They were fearless. John said onthe scaffold “If there be here any hidden Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have.” Then something spontaneous happened, by divine intervention and inspiration. Just before they tied his hands on the scaffold the saint quickly pulled out his rosary and tossed it to the crowd as a token of farewell. There was a Protestant Baron, a traveller, who happened to be in the crowd and the rosary bounced off his chest. The man tried to reach down for the beads but was beaten to them by the surrounding faithful anxious to get such a relic.
This episode of the Protestant gentleman in the crowd was recounted in the records of the trial of the saint because he, the Baron John ab Eckersdorff, was converted by means of the rosary of our Jesuit martyr. Here is how the event is related, in the words of the Baron, as we have them in Father Daniel Conway’s three part history of Venerable John Ogilvie, published in 1878, in a Glasgow diocesan journal “The Month”:
“His Rosary struck the breast of a young noble
man who was on his travels in these kingdoms.
He was a foreigner and a heretic his name, Baron
John ab Eckersdorff. ” I was on my travels
through England and Scotland as it is the custom
of our nobility being a mere stripling, and not
having the faith. I happened to be in Glasgow the
day Father Ogilvie was led forth to the gallows,
and it is impossible for me to describe his lofty
bearing in meeting death. His farewell to the
Catholics was his casting into their midst, from the
scaffold, his rosary beads just before he met his
fate. That rosary, thrown haphazard, struck me
on the breast in such wise that I could have caught
it in the palm of my hand; but there was such a
rush and crush of the Catholics to get hold of it,
that unless I wished to run the risk of being trodden
down, I had to cast it from me. Religion was the
last thing I was then thinking about : it was not in
my mind at all; yet from that moment I had no
rest. Those rosary beads had left a wound in my
soul; go where I would I had no peace of mind.
Conscience was disturbed, and the thought would
haunt me : why did the martyr’s rosary strike me,
and not another? For years I asked myself this
question it followed me about everywhere. At
last conscience won the day. I became a Catholic;
I abandoned Calvinism – and this happy change I
attribute to the martyr’s beads and to no other
cause those beads which, if I had them now, gold
could not tempt me to part with and if gold could
purchase them, I should not spare it.”
Saint John Ogilvie, pray for us!