Sunday 18 September 2022

Saint John Southworth The Parish Priest of Westminster - Nicholas Schofield and Gerard Skinner

Saint John Southworth:
The Parish Priest of Westminster
Nicholas Schofield
Gerard Skinner
ISBN 9780854398249

Saint John Southworth The Parish Priest of Westminster - Nicholas Schofield and Gerard Skinner

Reading about English Catholicism has become a soft of hobby of mine. Having been raised Irish Catholic and being in High School during the height of the IRA, both at school and in the family there was never much good said about the English. When I discovered the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society while researching a specific author I encountered the Saint of the Isles Series, And between reading histories and biographies from the CTS and expanding out this volume crossed my path. I was working on a review for a different volume by Nicholas Schofield, and saw this as a good next step. It did not disappoint. It took me a while to track down a copy of this book, there appears to be no distributor for the publisher in Canada, and there is no eBook edition available, so it sat on a wish list for over a year waiting for a copy to show up. Finally I ordered one shipped across the pond direct from the publisher. I am thankful I did.

The description of this volume is:

“Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Catholics in England had to endure the greatest persecution the Church has ever faced in this country. During this time countless men and women risked their very lives to keep the Faith alive. Leading them were faithful priests, amongst whom was Fr John Southworth. Like many priests, Southworth trained for the priesthood in the north of France, returning to this country, despite the inevitable danger to his own life, in order to enable the faithful to receive the Sacraments. 

In this book Fathers Schofield and Skinner show how Southworth remained faithful to his vocation, with particular reference to his ministry in Westminster. With previously unpublished pictures, the book details St John Southworth's road to sainthood and includes the remarkable story of the recovery of his mortal remains which are now enshrined within Westminster Cathedral.”

We are informed about the authors that:

Fr Nicholas Schofield: is a parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Michael, Uxbridge and Archivist of the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Fr Gerard Skinner: is the sub-administrator of Westminster Cathedral.

The chapters in the volume are:

Good People, I was Born in Lancashire
Joannes Southworthus Lancastrensis
In Vineam Anglicanam
‘God’s own country’
‘The Greatness of this calamity exceedeth all belief’
‘They have recently arrested an English priest in bed’
‘All admired his constancy’
Douai’s Treasure
The return to Westminster
‘Our Precious Relics’
Some places to visit
Selected Bibliography

This is a small volume in comes in under 100 pages. But it is packed full of information. It is clearly well researched and is a mix of the story of John, and excerpts from his own words and other sources contemporary to his life and martyrdom. The volume can easily be read by anyone with a secondary school education. In some ways it reads like an academic volume but with out the tangents or becoming too deep and heavy. 

The writing is engaging and entertaining. To some extent it read like an adventure or action novel. But as we know the events happened, and the results fatal. Saint John Southworth was a man who lived his faith, he was cool, and calm during his trial, and even during his execution. His faith was a great witness in his time, and is one to us as well.

At the back of the volume are 5 pages of recommendations of other volumes from St Pauls. It is a pity there are not eBook edition I would have picked up several right away. That being said, this is an excellent volume. It does a wonderful job of presenting the life and times of the martyr Saint John Southworth. I greatly enjoyed it and have already passed the book on to a friend. If you lay your hands on it I am certain it will be worth the read. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Other books about Saint John Southworth:

Books by Nicholas Schofield:
The English Cardinals
The English Vicars Apostolic (1688-1850)
Roman Miscellany
History of the Papacy
William Lockhart

Books by Gerard Skinner:
Newman the Priest - Father of Souls
The English Vicars Apostolic (1688-1850)
Dominic Barberi
The Pallium: A Brief Guide To Its History And Significance
Father Ignatius Spencer: English Noble and Christian Saint

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