John Ogilvie (saint)

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Saint John Ogilvie
John Ogilvie martyr.jpg
John Ogilvie
Born 1579
Drum-na-Keith, near Keith, Banffshire, Scotland
Died 10 March 1615
Glasgow Cross, Scotland
Venerated in Catholic Church
Beatified 1929
Canonized 1976
Feast 10 March

Saint John Ogilvie (1579 – 10 March 1615) was a Scottish Catholic Jesuit martyr.


Ogilvie, the son of a wealthy laird, was born into a respected Calvinist family at Drum-na-Keith near Keith in Banffshire, Scotland and was educated in mainland Europe where he attended a number of Catholic educational establishments, under the Benedictines at Regensburg in Germany and with the Jesuits at the University of Olomouc and Brno in the present day Czech Republic. In the midst of the religious controversies and turmoil that engulfed the Europe of that era he decided to become a Catholic. In 1596, aged seventeen, he was received into the Catholic Church at Louvain, Belgium. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1599 and was ordained priest in Paris in 1610. After ordination he served in Rouen in Normandy where he made repeated entreaties to be sent to Scotland to minister to the few remaining Catholics in the Glasgow area (after 1560 it had become illegal to preach, proselytise for, or otherwise endorse Catholicism).

It was his hope that some Catholic nobles there would aid him, given his lineage. Finding none, he went to London, then back to Paris, and finally returned to Scotland in November 1613 disguised as a horse trader named John Watson. Thereafter he began to preach in secret, celebrating Mass clandestinely in private homes.

Saint John Ogilvie being hanged and drawn.

This ministry was to last less than a year. In 1614, he was betrayed and arrested in Glasgow and jailed in Paisley. He suffered terrible tortures, including being kept awake for eight days and nine nights, in an attempt to make him divulge the identities of other Catholics. Nonetheless, Ogilvie did not relent; consequently he was convicted of high treason for refusing to accept the King's spiritual jurisdiction. On 10 March 1615, aged thirty-six years, he was paraded through the streets of Glasgow and hanged and drawn, according to the penalty of the time, at Glasgow Cross.

His last words were "If there be here any hidden Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have". After he was pushed from the stairs, he threw his concealed rosary out into the crowd. The tale is told that one of his enemies caught it and subsequently became a devout, lifelong Catholic. After his execution Ogilvie's followers were rounded up and put in jail. They suffered heavy fines, but none was to receive the death penalty.

As a martyr of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation he was beatified in 1929 and canonised in 1976. He is the only post-Reformation saint from Scotland. His feast day is celebrated on 10 March in the Catholic Church.

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