Gennings, Edmund, Bl.

views updated


English martyr; b. Lichfield, 1567; d. Gray's Inn Fields, London, Dec. 10, 1591. When Edmund was 16, Mr. Sherwood, a much persecuted Catholic gentleman, came to Lichfield and inquired of the local schoolmaster if there were a youth in the town who would make a good page. The schoolmaster recommended Edmund, who had been brought up a Protestant, but under his new master's influence became a Catholic. In 1584 he fled from England to study for the priesthood at Reims. Overwork and austerity broke his already delicate health, but he recovered and was ordained in 1590 by special dispensation because he was only 23 years old.

On his way back to England as a missionary he was captured and imprisoned for three days by French Huguenots. Edmund adopted the alias Ironmonger, and eventually landed at Whitby and made his way to Lichfield only to find all his family dead except his brother John, who was in London. Determined to convert John, Edmund set out for London. After a month's search he met him on Ludgate Hill; John, however, was very hostile and frightened of being compromised. Edmund, seeing there was no hope of his brother's conversion for the moment, left for the country.

On Nov. 7, 1591, he returned to London, where he met Father Polydore Plasden, a fellow student at Reims. They decided to say Mass the next day in the Gray's Inn Lane at the house of the devout Catholic layman Swithin Wells. While Edmund was saying Mass, Topcliffe, the pursuivant, arrived and arrested the two priests and the congregation. They were accused of treason and all tried together. On December 10 Edmund and Swithin Wells were executed together at Gray's Inn Fields in front of Swithin's house. After Edmund's martyrdom John Gennings, who had wished his brother dead, had a sudden change of heart and could not rid his mind of his brother's image. He decided to become a Catholic; he joined the Franciscans and was appointed the first provincial of the restored English Franciscan province. Edmund was beatified on Dec. 15, 1929. (see england, scotland, and wales, martyrs of.)

Feast: Dec. 10.

Bibliography: j. h. pollen, Acts of English Martyrs (London 1891). A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time 2:415419. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints (New York 1956) 4:532534.

[g. fitzherbert]