In light of the recent identification of the relics of the Welsh Martyrs St. Philip Evans & St. John Lloyd, Archbishop George Stack reflects:
Little did I know on 25th October 2020 that our pilgrimage to the cell of our two great Welsh martyrs in Cardiff Castle would bear so much fruit! The procession of the statues of St. John Lloyd and St. Philip Evans from the cell to their place of execution at Gallows Field which is now known as Richmond Road had it’s own profound significance. The date marked the 50th anniversary of their Canonisation in Rome by Pope Paul VI, together with the Canonisation of the other 48 martyrs of England and Wales. The authentication of the mortal remains of our two great martyr saints by Jan Graffius the curator of the Jesuit museum at Stonyhurst College is surely an answer to prayer.
There is a particular devotion to both St. John Lloyd and St. Philip Evans throughout Wales and particularly in Cardiff. Philip Evans was the jolliest of all the martyrs. He was playing tennis when told of his executuin the next day. So happy did the new make him that he went on with the game. His Jesuit provincial wrote:
“He possessed a wonderful frankness of disposition, and pleasant, unclouded countenance, with a brow ‘always free from furrows’.”
John Lloyd, born in Brecknockshire, was arrested at the same time as Philip Evans during the madness of the Titus Oates plot. They were imprisoned in the same cell in Cardiff castle and executed on the same day, 22nd July 1679. John Lloyd had to watch whilst his friend and fellow martyr was hanged, drawn and quartered knowing that this would be his own fate too. Speaking of the witness of Philip Evans, he said to the gathered crowd:
“My fellow sufferer has declared the cause of our death, therefore I need not repeat it. Besides, I was never a good speaker in my life. I shall only say that I die in the true catholic and apostolic faith, according to these words in the Creed: I believe in the Holy Catholic Church; And with these three virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity”.
Actions speak louder than words. St. John Lloyd may not have been a good speaker, however his action, and that of his companion St. Philip Evans, in laying down their lives for the faith went far beyond words, far deeper than words. Their heroic witness echoes down the ages and speaks to us loudly today.