Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Bl Ralph Corby and Bl John Duckett

According to the Roman Martyrology, today is the feast of two English beati – Fr Ralph Corby SJ and Fr John Duckett who was martyred at the hands of the Roundheads in 1644 during the English Civil War. Both were arrested while ministering in County Durham (in the North East of England), so they are of special significance for those of us who live in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. Below are two short biographies taken from Wikipedia.

Ralph Corbie SJ (also Corby; Corbington) from the age of five spent his childhood in the north of England. Then going overseas he studied at Saint-Omer, Seville, and the English College, Valladolid; where he was ordained. Having become a Jesuit about 1626, he came to England about 1631 and laboured at Durham.

He was seized by the Parliamentarians at Hamsterley, 8 July 1644, when clothed in his Mass vestments, conveyed to London, and committed to Newgate Prison (22 July) with his friend John Duckett, a secular priest. At their trial (Old Bailey, 4 September), they both admitted their priesthood, were condemned to death, and executed at Tyburn, 7 September.

John Duckett (1603 Sedbergh – 7 September 1644 Tyburn) was born at Underwinder, in the parish of Sedbergh, in Yorkshire, in 1603, the son of the Protestants James Duckett and his wife Frances Girlington who had been married in the parish on March 19, 1600. The boy was baptized after a long delay on February 24, 1614.

The boy was educated at Sedbergh School and brought up a Protestant like his parents but was received into the Catholic Church by the priest Andrew North. At the age of about thirty he entered the English College, Douai, arriving on 1 March 1633 and was ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Cambrai in 1639 and was then sent to study for three years at the College of Arras in Paris.

He is said to have had an extraordinary gift of prayer, and as a student would spend whole nights in contemplation. After Paris it came time to embark on the English mission, but on his way he spent two months in retreat under the direction of his uncle, John Duckett, prior of the Charterhouse at Nieuport.

Once arrived in England around Christmas 1643, Duckett worked largely in the North and laboured for about a year in Durham. It was in the time of the Civil War and he was seized only a few months later, on 2 July 1644, near Wolsingham in the neighbourhood of Lanchester, County Durham, while on his way to baptize two children. Taken to Sunderland, he was examined by a Parliamentary Committee of sequestrators, and placed in irons.

He admitted he was a priest and so was to London with the Jesuit Ralph Corby, arrested about the same time near Newcastle-on-Tyne. They were both confined in Newgate, where they were the cause of crowds of Catholics gathering. On these and on others who encountered them they made an impression by their cheerfulness and sanctity. He was brought to trial on September 4, and given the inevitable and terrible sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering the day after. It was carried out at Tyburn in London on 7 September 1644.

Both priests were declared Blessed by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929.

1 comment:

Richard Collins said...

Excellent post. What is so moving about these two great martyrs is that, as they stood, waiting for the execution to begin, each embraced the other in one last kiss of peace.