Friday, November 08, 2002

9 NOVEMBER

. . . .is the day on which Blessed George Napper (or Napier) was executed in 1610 for being a Roman Catholic priest and reconciling an Anglican to the Roman obedience. The basic facts of his life are given here.

Bowden’s Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales gives the story of his final hours:

A lay friend of Napper wrote: “Being at supper I said to him: ‘Mr. Napper, if it be God’s holy will that you should suffer, I do wish that it might be to-morrow, Friday, for our Saviour did eat the paschal lamb with His disciples the Thursday night and suffered Friday following.’ He answered, very sweetly, ‘Welcome, by God’s grace; pray you all that I may be constant.’ The next morning the keeper’s wife begged me to tell him that he was to die between one and two in the afternoon, for she could not bear to take the news herself. On hearing the message he embraced me joyfully, and asked if he might say Mass. I prepared all things, and surely methought he did celebrate that day as reverently in all his actions and with as much sweet behaviour as ever I saw him. At the end he prayed some hours, and then declined my offer of some drink for he said that, hoping to meet his Saviour, he would have a sumptuous banquet shortly. Then I put him on a fair shirt which I had warmed at the fire and a white waistcoat. He then gave his money to the poor among his fellow prisoners, reserving a silver piece for the executioner, and went out to suffer, beating his breast thrice as he yielded his blessed soul into His hands that gave it.” This was at Oxford on 9 November 1610.

In both the traditional and the reformed calendars this day is kept in honor of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran – Omnium Urbis et Orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput: The Mother and Head of All Churches in the City (of Rome) and throughout the World. This, not St. Peter’s, is the Pope’s cathedral.

Another martyr is also commemorated today, St. Theodore, a Christian soldier who was burned alive on 9 November. According to his Acta, ecumenism not being his strong suit, he set fire to the temple of the mother-goddess Cybele at Amasea. He was promised release if he repented his act and renounced the Christian faith both of which he refused to do.