SS. Martyrs of Gorcum
NINETEEN priests and religious men, who were taken by the Calvinists in Gorcum, after suffering many insults, were hanged on account of their religion at Bril, on the 9th of July, 1572. Of these, eleven were Franciscan friars, called Recollects, of the convent of Gorcum, amongst whom were Nicholas Pick the guardian, and Jerom Werden, vicar of the same convent. The former was thirty-eight years old, an eminent preacher, and a man endued with the primitive spirit of his order, especially the love of holy poverty and mortification. He feared the least superfluity even in the meanest and most necessary things, especially in meals; and he would often say: “I fear if St. Francis were living, he would not approve of this or that.” He was most zealous to preserve this spirit of poverty and penance in his house, and he used to call property and superfluity the bane of a religious state. His constant cheerfulness rendered piety and penance itself amiable. He often had these words in his mouth: “We must always serve God with cheerfulness.” He had frequently expressed an earnest desire to die a martyr, but sincerely confessed himself altogether unworthy of that honour. The other martyrs were a Dominican, two Norbertins, one Canon Regular of St. Austin, called John Oosterwican, 1 three curates, and another secular priest.
The first of these curates was Leonard Vechel, the elder pastor at Gorcum. He had gained great reputation in his theological studies at Louvain under the celebrated Ruard Tapper; and in the discharge of pastoral duties at Gorcum, had joined an uncommon zeal, piety, eloquence, and learning with such success, that his practice and conduct in difficult cases was a rule for other curates of the country, and his decisions were regarded as oracles at the university itself. For the relief of the poor, especially those who were sick, he gave his temporal substance with such tenderness and profusion as to seem desirous, had it been possible, to have given them himself. He reproved vice without respect of persons; and by his invincible meekness and patience disarmed and conquered many who had been long deaf to all his remonstrances, and added only insults to their obstinacy. Nicholas Poppel was the second pastor at Gorcum, and though inferior in abilities, was in zeal worthy to be the colleague of Vechel, and to attain to the same crown with him. The rest of this happy company had made their lives an apprenticeship to martyrdom. They were declared martyrs, and beatified by Clement X. in 1674. The relation of several miracles performed by their intercession and relics which was sent to Rome in order to their beatification, is published by the Bollandists. 2 The greater part of their relics is kept in the church of the Franciscan friars at Brussels, whither they were secretly conveyed from Bril. See the accurate history of their martyrdom written by the learned doctor William Estius, printed at Douay in 1603. Also Batavia Sacra, part. 2. p. 174. and various memoirs collected by Solier the Bollandist, t. 2. Julij, p. 736. 1
Note 1. John Oosterwican was director to a convent of nuns of the same order in Gorcum; he was then very old, and had often prayed that God would honour him with the crown of martyrdom.
The names of the eleven Franciscans were Nicholas Pick, Jerom, a native of Werden, in the county of Horn, Theodoric of Embden, native of Amorfort, Nicaise, Johnson, native of Heze, Wilhade, native of Denmark, Godfrey of Merveille, Antony of the town of Werden, Antony of Hornaire, a village near Gorcum, Francis Rodes, native of Brussels. These were priests and preachers. The other two were lay-brothers, namely, Peter of Asca, a village in Brabant, and Cornelius of Dorestate, a village now called Wick, in the territory of Utrecht. The three curates were Leonard Vechel, Nicholas Poppel, and Godfrey Dunen. This last was a native of Gorcum, who having been rector of the university of Paris, where he had studied and taught, was some time curate in Holland, near the French territories, but resigned his curacy and lived at Gorcum.
The other martyrs were John Oosterwican mentioned above; John, a Dominican of the province of Cologne, curate of Hornaire; Adrian Hilvarenbeck, a Norbertin of Middleburg, who served a parish at Munster, a village near the mouth of the Meuse; James Lacop of the same order and monastery, an assistant in a neighbouring parish to Munster; and Andrew Walter, a secular priest, curate of Heinort, near Dort. [back]
Note 2. Julij, t. 2, p. 823. [back]
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler (Metropolitan Press: Baltimore, 1845), Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882)