Thought for the Day- 22 March – The Memorial of St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) Martyr – “The Priest Hole Maker”

Thought for the Day- 22 March – The Memorial of St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) Martyr – “The Priest Hole Maker”

Saint Nicholas Owen possessed great faith and courage and he is highly respected for this, for he is a Saint.   However, what also makes him memorable, is how he used a rather obscure skill and talent for the good of God.   His ability to make hiding places ultimately became a tool of God for protecting the Church.

Saint Nicholas reminds us that any of our talents, regardless of how seemingly unusual or unimportant, can be put to good use for the good of God and our neighbour.   What are your talents and how can you use them for good?

Dear God, please use me to do Your will.    St Nicholas Owen, pray for us!st nicholas owen - pray for us no 2 - 22 march 2018


One Minute Reflection – 22 March 2018 – Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent and the Memorial of St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) Martyr

One Minute Reflection – 22 March 2018 – Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent and the Memorial of St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) Martyr

Rejoice … in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly...1 Peter 4:13

REFLECTION – “Let us strive to face suffering with Christian courage. Then all difficulties will vanish and pain itself will become transformed into joy.”…St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) Doctor of the Churchlet us strive to face suffering - st teresa of avila - 22 march 2018

PRAYER – Jesus, Man of Sorrows, in every suffering keep my eyes fixed on You. Let me keep ever before my mind the glory to come and so face the suffering with true Christian courage.   Lord our God please grant that by the intercession of St Nicholas Owen, who suffered beyond all our understanding, for love of You, we may learn to suffer in silence and with true courage, nicholas owen - opray for us - 22 march 2018


Saint of the Day – 22 March – St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) The Priest-Hole Builder – Martyr

Saint of the Day – 22 March – St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) The Priest-Hole Builde, Martyr , Lay Brother of the Society of Jesus, Assistant to St Edmund Campion- born in the 16th century in Oxford, England and was tortured to death on 2 March 1606 in London, England.  Also known as • John Owen and • Little John.   St Nicholas was a Jesuit lay brother who was the principal designer and builder of priest holes during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I of England.   He was Canonised on 25 October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

header - st nicholas owen

St Nicholas was born in Oxford, England, around 1562 into a devoutly Catholic family and grew up during the Penal Laws.   His father, Walter Owen, was a carpenter and Nicholas was apprenticed as a joiner in February 1577 where he acquired skills that he was to use in building hiding places.   Two of his older brothers became priests.   St Nicholas served as St Edmund Campion’s (1540-1381) assistant and was arrested for protesting Campion’s innocence.   Upon his release, he entered the service of Henry Garnet S.J. around 1588 and for the next 18 years built hiding places for priests in the homes of Catholic families.   He frequently travelled from one house to another, under the name of “Little John”, accepting only the necessities of life as payment before starting off for a new project.   He also used the aliases “Little Michael”, “Andrewes”, and “Draper”.   During the daytime he would work as a travelling carpenter to deflect suspicion.

Owen was only slightly taller than a dwarf and suffered from a hernia, as well as a crippled leg from a horse falling on him.   Nevertheless, his work often involved breaking through thick stonework and to minimise the likelihood of betrayal he often worked at night and always alone.   Sometimes he built an easily discovered outer hiding place which concealed an inner hiding place.   The location of the secret room was known only to himself and the owner of the house.   Examples of his work survive at Sawston Hall (Cambs),[Oxborough] [Norfolk] Huddington Court (Worcestershire) and Coughton Hall (Warwickshire).   Harvington Hall in Worcestershire has seven “priest holes”.   Due to the ingenuity of his craftsmanship, some may still be undiscovered.  Below are 3 at Harvington Hall, the first 2 pics are the entrance and inside the hole.   The third is another in the staircase.

For many years, St Nicholas worked in the service of the Jesuit priest Henry Garnet and was admitted into the Society of Jesus as a lay brother.   He was arrested in 1594 and was tortured at the Poultry Compter but revealed nothing.   He was released after a wealthy Catholic family paid a fine on his behalf, the jailers believing that he was merely the insignificant friend of some priests.   He resumed his work and is believed to have masterminded the famous escape of Father John Gerard from the Tower of London in 1597.

San Nicolas Owen

Early in 1606, St Nicholas was arrested a final time at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire, giving himself up voluntarily in hope of distracting attention from his master Fr Garnet who was hiding nearby with another priest.   Realising just whom they had caught and his value, Secretary of State Robert Cecil exulted:  “It is incredible, how great was the joy caused by his arrest… knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places and the innumerable quantity of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England.”

After being committed to the Marshalsea, a prison on the southern bank of the Thames, St Nicholas was then removed to the Tower of London.   He was submitted to terrible “examinations” on the Topcliffe rack, dangling from a wall with both wrists held fast in iron gauntlets and his body hanging.   As his hernia allowed his intestines to bulge out during this procedure, the rackmaster strapped a circular plate of iron to his stomach. When he remained stubborn, it is believed that he was transferred to the rack, where the greater power of the windlass forced out his hernia which was then slashed by the plate, resulting in his death.   He revealed nothing to his inquisitors and died in the night between 1 and 2 March 1606.   Father 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.

Martyrdom of st nicholas owen

St Nicholas was canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970.   Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic consider St Nicholas Owen the patron saint of Illusionists and Escapologists, due to his facility at using “trompe l’oeil” when creating his hideouts and the fact that he engineered an escape from the Tower of London.

There is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Nicholas Owen in Little Thornton, Lancashire.


Nostra Signora dei Sette Veli / Our Lady of the Seven Veils, Foggia, Italy and Memorials of the Saints – 22 March

Nostra Signora dei Sette Veli / Our Lady of the Seven Veils, Foggia, Italy (11th Century) – 22 March:

In the Cathedral of Foggia one can find an ancient and mysterious image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This icon, called “Our Lady of the Seven Veils,” once caused Saint Alphonsus to go into ecstasy, which I will describe below. As a young priest, St Pio of Pietreclina would make a visit to this image everyday.
In the eleventh century Foggia, Italy was a tiny town perched around the Tavern of the Owl.   One day some local farmers saw three flames over a small pond or bog.   Intrigued, they dug where the miraculous fire had been and discovered a large “table” buried in the mud.   They realised that this “table” was actually a Byzantine icon that had remained somewhat preserved despite being soaked in water and mud.   The image was cleaned and then cloaked with new veils.   I assume there were seven veils and hence the name but I cannot verify this.   The icon was then placed in the local Tavern of the Owl for veneration.   Soon the tavern became a place of pilgrimage.   In 1080 Robert Guiscard built a church to honour the sacred image.   In 1172 the church was expanded by William II “the Good” of Sicily.   The “face hole” is all that one can now see of the original wooden icon.   It is black and the face is now indiscernible.   However, on Maundy Thursday of 1731, the Virgin Mary’s white face appeared in this portal, which was usually black and dark.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori heard about apparition and went to Foggia to venerate the Immaculate Mother of the Saviour.   He also received an apparition of the Virgin’s face in the small black portal.   He described the Blessed Virgin’s face on that occasion as a girl of 13-14 with a white veil.   The apparitions of the Virgin’s face on the icon continued until about 1745.
As the city grew larger, the church was decorated and enriched.   The Normans, Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese, Spaniards and Bourbons considered the church to be one of the most important in Italy.  It has served as the site for several royal weddings. Today, the image is said to be covered in seven layers of precious metal and embroidered material – hence the name Madonna of the Seven Veils.

St Avitus of Périgord
St Basil of Ancyra
St Basilissa of Galatia
St Benevenuto Scotivoli of Osimo
Bl Bronislaw Komorowski
St Callinica of Galatia
Bl Clemens August von Galen
St Darerca of Ireland
St Deghitche
St Epaphroditus of Terracina
St Failbhe of Iona
Bl François-Louis Chartier
St Harlindis of Arland
Bl Hugolinus Zefferini
St Lea of Rome
Bl Marian Górecki
St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606)

St Octavian of Carthage
St Paul of Narbonne
St Saturninus the Martyr
St Trien of Killelga