Blood of Christ,
strength of confessors,
Those who died for their fidelity to the Pope...
- And faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
I want to share the story of the Gorkum Martyrs, men who were tortured and mutilated before and after being hanged to death. They died a martyr's death because they would not renounce their faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and because of their obedience and fidelity to the Pope. How fitting to commemorate them once again in our day.
The Gorkum Martyrs.
By 1572, the Netherlands had fallen culturally and politically into Protestant hands, and Catholics of the country became objects of persecution for Lutherans and Calvinists alike. As town after town fell to Protestant control, the Catholic clergy of the area were arrested and often tortured. The goal of this mistreatment was not death, but apostasy.
In June of 1572, the town of Gorcum (modern Gorinchem, 20 miles west of Rotterdam) fell into the hands of Calvinist pirates, and immediately they arrested nine Franciscan priests. Later, two Franciscan lay brothers, three secular priests, and an Augustinian canon were also arrested. Eventually four more priests were added to their number. These included two Norbertines, another secular priest, and John of Cologne, a Dominican friar working outside of Gorcum. After hearing of the arrests of the Franciscans, St. John disguised himself and traveled to Gorcum to console his brother priests with the sacraments. He was eventually caught and imprisoned along with them.
The pirates demanded that these nineteen priests and religious deny the Real Presence and the authority of the Pope. They refused, much to their captors’ distress. Despite a plea for leniency from William of Orange, the Dutch prince and leader of the Protestant Rebellion, the Calvinists of Gorcum transferred their prisoners to nearby Brielle, where they were martyred outside of town in a dilapidated shed. Their bodies were horrifically desecrated both before and after their deaths, out of mockery for their priesthood.
De heilige Andreas Wouters / Arnoldus.
One of the secular priests, Andreas Wouters was notorious for his unchastity. When accused of this by his captors, he offered his famous reply, “Fornicator I always was, but heretic I never was.” - Source
St. Andreas' example is encouraging to all of us 'steeped in sin since birth' demonstrating the love and mercy of God who will choose the most unlikely of sinners to participate in the Passion and Death of His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Precious Blood of Christ is the courage of martyrs, the hope of the penitent, even bringing forth virgins from those who were once contaminated by the world's slow stain.