Last Sunday in the first reading we heard about the inspiring witness of the Macabbean martyrs who suffered torture and death in their faithfulness to God and his Commandments. Today we have a lesser known martyr of the English Reformation.
Blessed George Napier was born at Holywell Manor in Oxford and studied at Corpus Christi College. He later went to Douai and was ordained priest in 1596. He returned to England secretly in 1603 and worked as a priest in Oxfordshire. He was arrested at Kirtlington on 19 July 1610 after he had brought the sacraments to a sick Catholic woman; the possession of the holy oils and a breviary was considered sufficient evidence of priesthood and he was condemned to death at the Oxford assizes. While imprisoned in Oxford Castle, he reconciled a condemned criminal to the Church and prepared him for a Christian death. This was reported to the judges, who angrily brought forward the date of George Napier’s execution, lest he should influence other prisoners in the same way. When the martyr was told, he said that he would be glad to do the same for the judges if ever they required it “for he came into the county to execute his functions and to save men’s souls.” He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Oxford on 8 November 1610 and beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.