Dominican Saints 101: St. John of Cologne

July 8, 2012

Night now is over, rising sun casts splendor over the triumph of those valiant soldiers fallen in battle on the field of Gorkum; great in their courage!

These words begin the Lauds hymn for the feast of St. John of Cologne, also known as St. John of Gorkum, (+ 1572, feast – July 9)  and his 18 companions who were martyred in Holland by Calvinists.  With the spread of Calvinism during the Reformation, the area of Gorkum had become overrun with Calvinists who would have nothing to do with the Catholic priests still living in the vicinity.  So they imprisoned and tortured them in an attempt to get them to renounce the Church’s teaching.  These priests and religious, many of whom were Franciscans, remained steadfast in their faith. When St. John, who was serving in a parish in the nearby Hornar, heard of their plight, he obtained permission from his superiors to go and serve the priests in cognito and offer them the sacraments.  Eventually, he was caught and was subjected to the same torments that his fellow priests suffered.  Through various methods of torture, the Calvinists sought to get the priests to renounce the Eucharist and Papal supremacy.  Yet, 19 of the 20 captured remained faithful (the other was not blessed to join them in martyrdom).

Reliquary of the Martyrs of Gorkum
As time went on, the Calvinists continued to try to get the faithful priests and religious to proclaim heresy.  Ultimately, they would not, and so they were brought to Briel, and  on the night of July 8th, they were taken to a barn outside the city.  As they walked along, they heard one another’s confessions, and upon arriving, they were hanged.  One Dominican, eleven Franciscans, two Praemonstratensians, one Canon Regular of St. Augustine, and four secular priests offered their lives as witnesses to the truth of the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist and the Papacy. That night, a couple of the Catholics in Gorkum, some of whom even thought there was a chance for the release of the prisoners, had visions of a troop of martyrs.  Moreover, a shrub bearing 19 white flowers is said to have sprung up at the site of their martyrdom.  Many miracles have been attributed to their intercession, especially the curing of hernias. May St. John of Cologne and his companions intercede for us that the Lord may grant us perseverance no matter what hardships or persecutions we may have to endure. O God, who didst crown with the wreath of immortality the strife of Thy blessed Martyrs, John and his companions, for the faith, mercifully grant that, fighting here on earth, we may likewise deserve, through their merits and after their example, to be crowned with them in heaven.  Through Christ our Lord.

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