Follow Us!

NWICatholic Count your Blessings! With Thanksgiving approaching, our minds are focused on gratitude. Tell us what you are thank… https://t.co/t9JpXzJVCc
NWICatholic The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will host a virtual rosary event today on Oct. 7, the Memorial of O… https://t.co/91lU3vcBwG
NWICatholic Bishop McClory encourages Catholics to embrace the Pope's new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. “Our love of God, and His… https://t.co/ADpIyxwfy9
NWICatholic Do you have a faith-filled father? Tell us about him in 75 words or less, and your comment may be included in the N… https://t.co/YvaGzmSF9U
NWICatholic Friends, please set a reminder to join Bishop McClory via livestream at 12:30 p.m. this Sunday for Mother's Day Fam… https://t.co/qHqq3rqfM8
NWICatholic Bishop letter regarding the reopening of public Masses ... https://t.co/bZnNszIgSS
NWICatholic Bishop Letter to the Faithful: Current protocols for worship remain the same... https://t.co/zJpCYiPF8E

Passionist priest, relative of English princes, takes step closer to sainthood

022221BRITAIN-SPENCER-VENERABLE 

Father Ignatius Spencer is pictured in an undated portrait. On Feb. 21, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of Father Spencer, a 19th-century Passionist priest and a relative of Princes William and Harry through their mother, Princess Diana. (CNS photo/courtesy Passionists) Editors: best quality available.

 

By Simon Caldwell

Catholic News Service

 

        MANCHESTER, England (CNS) - A priest related to Princes William and Harry took a major step closer to sainthood when Pope Francis declared him venerable.

        Like St. John Henry Newman, Passionist Father Ignatius Spencer is considered one of the towering figures of the 19th-century revival of English Catholicism, often referred to by church historians as the "Second Spring." The Feb. 21 announcement means the Catholic Church is satisfied that Father Spencer lived a life of heroic virtue.

        The search will now begin for two inexplicable healings at the intercession of the priest - one to declare him as blessed and the other to recognize him as a saint.

        Father Spencer is related to Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, and to Harry, the sixth in the line of succession, through their mother, Princess Diana.

        The Passionist was a great-great-great uncle of Princess Diana, and a great-uncle of Sir Winston Churchill.

        A former Anglican clergyman who became a Catholic, he raised money to bring Blessed Dominic Barberi - the priest who would receive St. John Henry Newman into the Church - to England and petitioned the Passionists to send him.

        He also helped found the Passionist Sisters with Mother Elizabeth Prout, whom Pope Francis declared venerable in January.

        Father Spencer's grave is located beside both Mother Prout and Blessed Dominic in the Church of St. Anne and Blessed Dominic in St. Helens, a town in the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

        Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool said he welcomed the pope's announcement with "great happiness," adding that it was a "remarkable grace" for the archdiocese to have both Father Spencer and Mother Prout declared venerable within weeks of each other.

        "These two Victorian Catholics are as relevant to the mission of the church today as they were in their lifetimes. They show us how to reach out beyond ourselves and respond to suffering due to poverty and deprivation," the archbishop said.

        His prayer, he said, was that their shrine "will increase as a center of devotion and prayer in the archdiocese."

        "All three of these great disciples loved the poor and worked tirelessly for their bodily and spiritual well-being," he added.

        He noted that Father Spencer "left behind a life of privilege, devoted himself tirelessly to visiting the poor, giving food and all his personal possessions to those in need."

        "His preaching and writings showed him to be a true disciple of Jesus, and in his daily life he lived out the passion of Our Lord in heroic fashion. His life of service is a true example to his living relatives, Prince William and Prince Harry, and is to be emulated by us all."

        George Spencer grew up at the family home at Althorp, where Princess Diana was buried after she was killed in a Paris car crash in August 1997.

        He was educated at Eton and Cambridge but turned his back on a life of immense wealth by converting to the Catholic faith a decade after he was shocked by a scene in the Mozart opera "Don Giovanni," which sees the eponymous anti-hero conveyed to hell by a troop of devils.

        Father Spencer interpreted his experience as a holy warning, and he went to Rome to train as a priest, eventually joining the Passionist order, taking Ignatius as his religious name.

        On his return to England, the priest worked among some of the poorest people in the country, including migrants from the Irish Potato Famine, who were living in caves dug out of mining slag heaps.

        He started the Movement for Christian Unity and has been credited for laying the groundwork of the ecumenical movement of northern Europe of the late 20th century.

        He contracted tuberculosis from a workhouse in Staffordshire, but he died from a heart attack in 1864 near Carstairs, Scotland, while traveling to visit his godson.

Join The Flock

Flock Note