We remember, today, the great feast of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Of course, there were many, many more martyrs during this period of intense Catholic persecution but the Forty Martyrs feast day provides a focal point for what it meant to die a most terrible and unnatural death with more than an echo of Calvary about it.
The litany of the martyrs contains well known illustrious names such as Edmund Campion, Nicholas Owen, Robert Southwell, Cuthbert Mayne, Anne Line and Margaret Clitherow but, today, I plan to focus on just one famous but not so well known Welsh Martyr (as a tribute to Fr Jason Jones).
ST PHILIP EVANS SJ
St Philip Evans was born in Monmouth in 1645 and educated at St Omer. He joined the Jesuits on 7th September 1665 and was eventually ordained at Liege in Belgium.
Arriving in South Wales in 1675, he ministered the Sacraments to his flock, scattered as they were, over many hundreds of square miles. On 4th December 1678 he was captured and arrested at Sker, the Glamorganshire home of Christopher Turberville.
Thrown into Cardiff Castle, he shared his imprisonment with St John Lloyd where he remained until his day of execution the following year.
He gained his martyrs crown at Gallows Field in Cardiff on July 22nd 1679.
In the absence of any image of St Philip, here is an illustration of St Edmund Campion's execution that, very graphically, depicts the savagery of being hanged, drawn and quartered.
There is a Catholic Church dedicated to St Philip in Cardiff but, sadly, their website does not mention their patron saint - appalling!
St Philip and the remainder of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales - Ora pro nobis!