St Nicholas Owen was born into a very devout Catholic family at Oxford, England. He was lovingly nicknamed “Little John”, to reflect his approximate five-foot height and his caring personality. Perhaps his height was to his advantage since, as a carpenter, he spent most of his life creating hundreds of “Priest holes” in people’s homes to hide the clergy, preventing their arrest and execution during Penal times when the practice of Catholicism was banned.
St Nicholas travelled from house to house, often secretly, “accepting only the necessities of life”. He generally worked alone but under the direction of Fr Henry Garnet. He was accepted as a Lay Brother of The Society of Jesus. Authorities were suspicious of his activities so, they had him arrested and tortured on various occasions but he didn’t reveal his secret priest-holes or the whereabouts of any Catholic Priests.
As time passed, authorities grew, even more, suspicious and with new evidence, they planned to re-arrest him, if they could find him! In the end, St Nicholas gave himself up, but only as a distraction to save the lives of a group of Priests in hiding nearby. The authorities were delighted with their catch. They imprisoned St Nicholas in the Tower of London and subjected him to severe torture before executing him. Despite his suffering, St Nicholas refused to divulge the whereabouts of the hideouts or name the priests.
St Nicholas Owen is one of the noted Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who died between 1535–1679. His Feast Day is 22nd March.
Pray for us that we will remain loyal to God’s teachings despite whatever pain we may face.
Glory be to the…