Undercover Jesuit, Harper, Tennis Player??

Father Philip Evans, S.J., was apparently a man with lots of chutzpah and no nerves at all. :) He was one of the ten Jesuits based at the secret College of St. Francis Xavier in Monmouthshire (aka Cwm College). He was one of the younger Jesuits working in the area, and was only there for four years before he was caught, imprisoned, put on trial, and sentenced to death for being a priest. (It was all part of the Oates Plot hysteria — though none of them apparently knew anything about any plots, being somewhat busy with pastoral work.)

For some reason, his execution was delayed. (They had a hard time finding executioners to kill priests, in a lot of these Welsh towns.) The jailer allowed him to have a lot of leeway for recreation. (Prospective martyrs didn’t usually try to escape once caught, lest people think them afraid to die for Christ.)

So when the news came that the priest was to be executed the next day, the jailer had to go to the local tennis court to fetch him. Father heard him out, but when the jailer said he’d take him back immediately, he asked, “What haste is there? Let me first play out my game.” And the jailer let him. He also let him write a letter to his sister, who was a nun in Paris.

But apparently somebody else must not have had any sense of humor whatsoever, because they proceeded to bind the poor man’s legs with chains that were so tight it took them an hour to take them off the next day.

Nevertheless, when they came to get him from his cell for execution, they found him playing his harp, chains and all. After they got the chains off, he was hung, drawn and quartered at Gallows Field in Cardiff, on July 22, 1679.

(Something we won’t see on the Welsh Dr. Who….)

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