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Charles Johnston

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Feast of Saint Robert Southwell

Robert was an English Catholic, at a time when it was a capital offense to be one. Educated in continental Europe to be a priest, Robert willingly and heroically returned to England to bring the sacraments to Catholics in need of them.

He was hunted like an animal, and eventually caught by the Richard Topcliffe, who was the queen’s best priest hunter. When asked to speak before his execution, he made the sign of the cross and repeated the words of Saint Paul from Romans 14:8 “Sive uiuimus, Domino uiuimus, sive morimur, Domino morimur, ergo uiuimus, sive morimur, Domini sumus.” (If we live, we live in the Lord. If we die, we die in the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or we die, we are in the Lord.)

Being fitted with the noose he was offed a chance to recant his beliefs, he said “I die a Catholic and a Jesuit priest, offenses for which I am not sorry to die” he then offered an apology to the queen if he’d done anything to offend he, he also prayed for her soul and offered his forgiveness to the queen for his own murder.

His final words were “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. Redemisti me, Domine Deus veritatis,” (Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, Lord God of truth.) He said these while repeatedly making the sign of the Cross.

While still alive, as was the custom to be done to Catholic priests, he was disemboweled with his intestines strewn across the platform, and then dismembered. All for the crime of celebrating the sacraments.

Saint Robert Southwell, pray that we may have the spirit of peace that you had facing your own gruesome death, and that we may be as forgiving and loving as you were to those who eventually murdered you.

Ora pro nobis.

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