Saint John Ogilvie


St John Ogilvie, Priest and Martyr, SJ (Memorial)
John Ogilvie, the son of a wealthy laird, Walter Ogilvie, was born into a respected Calvinist family at Drum-na-Keith in Banffshire, Scotland, in 1579. As a youth he studied on the continent at a number of Catholic institutions – under the Benedictines at Regensburg, Germany, and with the Jesuits at Olomouc and Brno (in the present-day Czech Republic). Perhaps under the influence of his teachers, he decided to become a Catholic and was received into the Church at the Scots College in Louvain, Belgium, in 1596 at the age of 17 by Fr Cornelius a Lapide. In 1599 he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and was ordained priest in Paris in 1610.
Following his ordination he begged to be sent back to his native Scotland in order to minister to the small number of remaining Catholics in the Glasgow area. After the Scottish reformation in 1560, it had become illegal to preach or, in any way, support the Catholic faith. In the meantime, John went to work in Rouen, France. Earlier, wholesale massacres of Catholics had taken place in Scotland, but by this time the hunters concentrated more on priests than on those who secretly attended Mass. Among others, the Jesuits were determined to minister to the oppressed Catholic laity. They knew that, when captured, they would be tortured for information, then hanged, drawn, and quartered.
In November 1613 John was able to return secretly to Scotland, disguised as a soldier. He began to preach secretly to the Catholics and celebrate the Eucharist in private homes in Edinburgh and Glasgow. He evaded the priest hunters disguised as a soldier called Watson. But his ministry was only to last 11 months. On 4 October 1614, he was betrayed by a false friend, arrested in Glasgow and imprisoned in Paisley. He was subjected to interrogations and dreadful tortures, including being kept awake for eight consecutive days and nights in an effort to make him reveal the identities of other Catholics. He was brought to trial on 10 March 1615, accused of denying the king’s supremacy in religious matters and convicted on the same day of high treason. He was paraded through the streets of Glasgow and hanged at Glasgow Cross. He was 36 years of age.
His last words were, “If there be here any hidden Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have.” After being pushed from the ladder, he threw his hidden rosary beads into the crowd. It is said that they were caught by someone supporting his execution who, as a result, was converted to the Catholic faith. After his execution, Ogilvie’s followers were rounded up and put in prison. They were given heavy fines but none of them was executed. John was buried in a felon’s grave to the north of Glasgow Cathedral.
John Ogilvie was beatified as a martyr of the Counter-Reformation by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976.
He is the Church’s only post-Reformation saint and the only officially recorded martyr from Scotland.
 

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