Napper was born in Holywell Manor in 1550, and educated in Corpus Christi College, before being ejected (in 1565) for recusancy. He later spent nine years in prison in London for the same reason (until 1589), before joining the seminary at Douai, being ordained (1596), and coming on the English mission (1603), to bring the Mass and other sacraments to the Catholics of his home county. He was arrested near the village of Kirtlington in July 1610, imprisoned in Oxford Castle, and executed on 19th November 1610. He was beatified in 1929.
The Pilgrimage began with Solemn High Mass in the Church of St Aloysius, the Oxford Oratory, at 11.15. The celebrant was Fr Dominic Jacob of the Oratory, assisted by his confreres Fr Jerome Bertram (deacon) and Br Anton Webb (subdeacon). Mr Gordon Dimon was MC, and led a team of seven servers. This seems to have been the first Traditional Solemn High Mass in Oratory since 1970, and was a truly magnificent occasion, attended by more than 80 people.
The music was provided by the Oratory Choirmaster, Mr Edward de Rivera, and members of the Oratory Choir. The Ordinary of the Mass was the Mass for Five Voices by the great William Byrd, whose music brought so much comfort to Catholics in the period of the Elizabethan persecution. He was born in Lincoln in 1543? and died at Stondon Massey, Essex on 4 July 1623. His output of Latin works: Motets, Gradualia etc was considerable to say nothing of his secular songs and madrigals and English settings for the Reformed Church. Despite his steadfast devotion to his Catholic Faith, he was a great favourite of Queen Elizabeth.
At 2pm, after a break for lunch, Br Anton Webb, assisted by Gordon Dimon and three acolytes with processional cross, silk banner, and megaphone, led a procession from the top of New Road, past the Castle, to the site of Bl George Napper’s execution, approximately where the Memorial Gate of Nuffield College now stands. Forty people came on the procession, which was an impressive witness to the Faith. At Nuffield a large gallows, with a single noose hanging from it, marked the procession’s goal, where we completed chanting the Litany of the Saints. We paused there while a contemporary account of Napper’s execution was read out, and then processed back to the Oratory, singing the Te Deum, the Canticle of the Three Young Men, and vernacular hymns (including Faith of Our Fathers), and reciting five decades of the Rosary.
At 4pm Fr Dominic Jacob celebrated Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Oratory, bringing the pilgrimage to a close. Thanks are due to all those who came to honour our glorious predecessor in the Faith, and particularly to the Fathers of Oxford Oratory, who gave so much of their time as well as their church for this occasion.
I'm delighted to say that this important local event was covered by the Catholic Herald, and even got a mention in the Oxford Times.
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