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Venerable John Duckett

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A Martyr, probably a grandson of Venerable James Duckett , born at Underwinder, in the parish of Sedbergh, Yorkshire, in 1603; died 7 September, 1644. He was ordained priest in 1639 and afterwards went to Paris where he studied three years in the College of Arras. He had an extraordinary gift of prayer, and while yet a student would spend whole nights in contemplation. On his way to the English mission, he spent two months in spiritual exercises, under the direction of his uncle, the Carthusian prior at Nieuport. He laboured for about a year in Durham and was taken near Whisingham on his way to baptize two children, 2 July, 1644. The place which tradition declares to be that of his arrest is now marked by a tall stone cross. Carried to Sunderland, he was examined by a Parliamentary Committee of sequestrators, and placed in irons. He confessed his priesthood and was thereupon sent up to London with Father Ralph Corbie, S.J., who had been arrested about the same time near Newcastle-on-Tyne. They were committed to Newgate, and edified the crowds of Catholics who flocked to see them by their joyousness, their sanctity, and their longing to suffer for Christ. A reprieve for one of them having been obtained, each refused to take it for himself. On his way to execution, Duckett astonished all by his supernatural joy ; comforting those who wept for him, he said smiling: "Why weep you for me who am glad at heart of this happy day?" His jailers even were so struck by his gladness that they exclaimed "assuredly this man dies for a good cause". He suffered with Father Corbie, at Tyburn. In a farewell letter to the Bishop of Chalcedon, he wrote on the eve of his martyrdom : "I fear not death, nor I contemn not life. If life were my lot, I would endure it patiently; but if death, I shall receive it joyfully, for that Christ is my life, and death is my gain. Never since my receiving of Holy Orders did I so much fear death as I did life, and now, when it approacheth can I faint?"

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