Rigby, John, St.

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Serving man, lay martyr; b. Harrock, near Wigan, Lancashire, England, c. 1570; d. St. Thomas' Watering's, Southwark, June 21, 1600. He came from a family of respected lineage, though impoverished through its years of loyalty to Catholicism. His lack of formal education and his destitution forced him to enter domestic service. While in the employ of a Protestant household, he occasionally conformed by attending their religious services. Later as a gentleman servant of the Catholic Huddlestons of Sawston Hill, near Cambridge, he came in contact with Father John gerard, then a prisoner in the Clink. Gerard's influence and the example of the Huddlestons effected a reconciliation of Rigby with the Church, either through Gerard or St. John jones. Rigby desired to become a Jesuit lay brother, though there is no record of any formal entrance into the Society of Jesus. This desire may have been inspired by the example of St. Nicholas owen, who built a hiding hole at Sawston. About two years after Rigby's reconciliation, he was sent to the Middlesex sessions of the Old Bailey to plead the illness of his master's widowed daughter, Mrs. Fortescue, as the reason for her nonappearance on a recusant charge. His firm answers impressed the aldermen; and when asked about his own religion, Rigby in his direct way replied that he had been reconciled to Catholicism, which was a capital offense. He was sent to Newgate prison, and after interrogations in which he rejected pardon on the condition of his attendance in the queen's church, he was sentenced to death. On his way to execution he was met by the Earl of Rutland, who admired his courage and counseled him in vain to conform. In his execution, which was performed with barbarity, his strong physique prolonged the agony. After the hangman had cut him down he stood dazed, and when pushed over was heard to say distinctly "God forgive you. Jesus, receive my soul." A man standing by pressed his heel on Rigby's throat to stop further speech. Rigby was beatified by Pius XI on Dec. 15, 1929, and canonized by Paul VI on Oct. 25, 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Feast: June 21; Oct. 25 (Feast of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales); May 4 (Feast of the English Martyrs in England).

See Also: england, scotland, and wales, martyrs of.

Bibliography: j. gerard, The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, tr. p. caraman (New York 1952). Seven Lancastrian Martyrs (Postulation Pamphlet; London 1960). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 2:611612. r. challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, ed. j. h. pollen (rev. ed. London 1924; repr. Farnborough 1969), 23845. t. worthington, A Lancashire Man: The Martyrdom of John Rigby of Southwark, ed. c. a. newdigate (London 1928). j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time (New York 1961) 5:420. j. e. paul, Blessed John Rigby (Postulation Pamphlet; London 1964).

[g. fitzherbert]