Saint of the Day|
Scots saint didn't have dry spell
John Ogilvie didn't let state religion stand in way of faith
By Tony Staley
The sports world talks about teams being in a dry spell when they
go for several years - or decades in the case of the Chicago Cubs
and the Boston Red Sox - without winning a championship.
But the church world has a broader perspective. Still when Pope
Paul VI canonized John Ogilvie in 1976, it would be fair to say
that his action ended a dry spell. For he became the first
Scottish saint since St. Mary of Scotland in 1250 - a stretch
that the Cubs and Red Sox might yet match, but one we won't be
around long enough to know about.
So who was St. John Ogilvie? He was born in about 1579 in
Banffshire, Scotland, the son of the baron of Drumn-na-Keith and
Lady Douglas of Lochleven.
John was born less than 20 years after the death of John Calvin,
one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, and a few years
after John Knox succeeded in switching the Scottish state
religion from Catholicism to Calvinism (later known as
Presbyterianism). Although John's family included both Catholics
and Protestants, he was raised as a Calvinist in line with his
When John was 13, he was sent to Belgium to study at Louvain, a
Catholic university. In 1596, he converted to Catholicism after
listening to the arguments of both Catholics and Protestants and
hearing about the lives of the martyrs. He continued his studies
at Ratisbon and Olmütz, before joining the Jesuits at Brünn in
In 1610, he was ordained to the priesthood in Paris. After
ministering in both France and Austria, he was granted his wish
and allowed to return to Scotland to minister to the Catholics
who were being persecuted under King James I.
John was able to minister in Edinburgh and Glasgow - particularly
among the wealthy nobles - by pretending to be John Watson, a
horse trader and/or a soldier back from the wars in Europe. He
also visited prisons and, at least once, the castle.
He succeeded in convincing several people to return to the church
until Adam Boyd, who had told him he was interested in becoming a
Catholic, turned him into the authorities.
During his months-long imprisonment, John was tortured - once he
was not allowed to sleep for eight straight days - in a vain
effort to force him to reveal the names of other Catholics.
He was tried three times and found guilty of high treason. The
verdict stemmed from his refusal to acknowledge the spiritual
supremacy of the king, his efforts to convert others to
Catholicism and his refusal to become a Presbyterian.
He was hanged in 1615 on March 10, the day on which we observe
his feast day.
(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, Lives of the Saints II, 365 Saints and World Book Encyclopedia)