On the July Franciscan Calendar, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature the Martyrs of Holland as the saints of the month. These holy confessors of the Catholic Church were punished in particular for their belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. What led to this sad event?
In the first half of the Sixteenth Century, political resentment towards the Catholic Church was increasing. Lutheranism and Calvinism were spreading throughout Europe. Emperor Charles V and his son King Philip II desired to stop new religious movements, including the Catholic Church.
By 1572 the Netherlands were in open revolt against Spanish rule, and there was conflict among the Protestant denominations, Calvinism managed to suppress Lutheranism. In the process Calvinists took possession of the city of Gorcum. At this time, they imprisoned 19 of the clergy. The group included four secular priests, four priests of other religious orders, and 11 Friars Minor of the convent at Gorcum. The Franciscans included guardian, Father Nicholas Pieck; his vicar, Father Jerome of Weert; Fathers Wilhad, an old man of 90; Theodoric of Emden; Nicaise Jonson, a learned theologian; Godfrey of Mervelan; Anthony of Weert; Anthony of Hornaer; young Father Francis Rod; and 2 lay brothers, Peter van Asche and Cornelius of Dorstat.
Guardian, Father Nicholas, was the first to be tortured by the guards. Thought dead, they moved to torment the others. Father Nicholas later regained consciousness encouraged the men with the words: “For, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.”
More cruel treatment and grueling conversations aimed weakening their beliefs continued. Eight days later the confessors were taken to Briel and hung on July 9, 1572. In 1867, on the Feast of the martyrs Apostles Peter and Paul Pope Pius IX canonized the martyrs of Gorcum.
All you holy martyrs of our Church, pray for us!