Saint John Kemble
Saturday was the Feast of Saint John Kemble (1599-1679) – 22nd August
John Kemble was one of the oldest of the martyrs, being 80 when executed. He was from near Hereford, being born into a Catholic family in 1599. He studied for the priesthood at Douai where he was ordained priest, and worked as a priest in England and Wales for 54 years. He founded several missions, some of which were still functioning well into the 19th century. In 1678 he was caught up in the aftermath of the “gunpowder plot” (this was a fictitious plot invented by Titus Oates and is now known as the “Popish Plot” to distinguish it from Guy Fawkes’ plot of 1605). He was cleared of all involvement of this and was eventually condemned for being a “seminary priest”. Before his execution he said: “I die only for professing the old Catholic religion, which was the religion that first made this kingdom Christian” He was hanged, drawn and when dead quartered at Widemarsh Common on 22 August 1679.
Saint David Lewis
Today is the Feast of St David Lewis (1616-1679) – 26th August
David Lewis was born at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, in 1616 and raised in the Church of England. At sixteen years of age, while visiting Paris, he became a Catholic and subsequently went to study in Rome, where in 1642 he was ordained priest. Three years later he became a Jesuit. In 1647 he returned home and, for over thirty years, worked in South Wales, with his base at the Cwm on the borders of Herefordshire, an area sheltered between the high ridges of the Welsh Black Mountains to the west and Malvern Hills to the east. Here the Jesuits maintained two remote farmhouses, which also functioned as shelters for hunted Catholic priests. Lewis used the name Charles Baker. He was arrested in November 1678 in Monmouthshire, and condemned as a Catholic priest and for saying Catholic masses, at the Assizes in Monmouth in March 1679. He was then taken to Newgate Prison in London with John Kemble (Herefordshire) and questioned about the “gunpowder plot” (this was a fictitious plot invented by Titus Oates and is now known as the “Popish Plot” to distinguish it from Guy Fawkes’ plot of 1605) . Oates and his companions could find nothing against him. The judge advised him that if he gave evidence about the “plot” or renounced his Catholic faith, his life would be spared and he would be greatly rewarded. Lewis said in his dying speech, “discover the plot I could not, as I knew of none; and conform I would not, for it was against my conscience”. He was returned to Usk and waited for three months for his call to death by execution. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on 27 August 1679. After the Titus Oates affair (1679—80), the remaining Welsh-speaking Catholic clergy were either executed or exiled.
Saint John Kemble, ora pro nobis.
Saint David Lewis, ora pro nobis.
Holy Martyrs of Wales, ora pro nobis.