April 12, 2021 Religious Liberty

Church Persecuted (April 10-11, 2021)

Saints are not always pious monks or contemplative nuns in monasteries or abbeys. Some are ordinary people. Take for instance Saint Nicholas Owens. He lived in the 16th century Elizabethan England. Living his faith in an anti-Catholic regime that made Catholicism illegal was a challenge that he freely accepted. Nicholas, a devout Catholic, was also an extraordinary craftsman.

Known as “Little John” because of his short stature, in 1588 he was hired by the Jesuits in England for a secret mission. He was to construct “priest holes” in the homes of Catholic families in England to hide priests. He did it for the next 18 years working undetected alone and at night.  He constructed “holes” under floorboards, in attics, and between walls. He hid the entrances behind fake walls, floors, and fireplaces for hundreds of priests.

In 1597, he and Jesuit Father John Gerard were captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. After a wealthy Catholic paid a ransom to release Owens, the latter then returned to the Tower to dramatically free Father Gerard. Finally in 1606, the anti-Catholic police came knocking again. Hidden in the home were Owens and two other priests. Owens gave himself up in order to successfully protect the other priests and to not betray his secret “holes.” He was tortured and died in captivity. He was just an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.

(Source: Columbia Magazine March 2021, pg. 5)