Blessed David Gunston / Gonson / Gunson

Martyr of the Order of Malta

Memorial: 12 July

Sir David Gunston was a member of an English naval family who was received into the Order at the English Auberge in Malta on 20 October 1533.
He served on the ships of the Order in the Mediterranean until 1540 when he returned to England.
Henry VIII had suppressed the Order in his kingdom by an Act of Parliament of 10 May 1540.
David Gunston was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1540 and was condemned to death by an Act of Parliament in 1541 for denying the authority of the King in spiritual matters.
He was hanged, drawn and quartered at St. Thomas' Waterings, Southwark on 12 July 1541.
Pius XI declared him Blessed on 15 December 1929.

Prayer:

O God, who made of blessed David a notable champion of the Catholic faith whose martyrdom shed glory on our Order, grant that he may stimulate us to defend the unity of your holy Church. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(From: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997)


VEN. DAVID GONSON (GUNSTON), KNIGHT OF ST. JOHN

MARTYRED AT ST. THOMAS WATERINGS, SOUTHWARK, 12TH JULY, 1541.

At Malta, against the name of Sir David Gonson in the register of the Knights of St. John, a subsequent hand has written "The Good Knight": and there is little doubt that the comment was added to indicate the fact that he died in the cause of religion at the time when the Order was suppressed in England by Henry VIII.

The Order of St. John of Jerusalem was a religious body, the members of which lived under the patronage of St. John Baptist _ and according to the rule of St. Augustine. It extended through the different nations of Europe, was divided into eight " tongues " (nations), and owned considerable property in each country. All the brethren were under the authority of the Grand Master who acknowledged the spiritual allegiance due by- himself and by all his brethren to the Pope. Their preoccupation was the defence of Christian Europe against the Turks.

Henry VIII had his eye upon the possessions of the Order in England as early as 1527. Between the loss of Rhodes to the Turks in 1522 and the grant of Malta by the Emperor Charles V, in 1530, the head-quarters (Conventus) of the Knights had no permanent abode. Henry seized on this fact for an attempt to form the knights of the English tongue into a body, independent of the Grand Master, for the defence of Calais and district. The cost to the Crown of holding Calais was great, and Henry proposed that the English knights should form its permanent garrison and the revenues of their tongue finance his project. Many protests came from the Grand Master, but the danger was averted by Sir William Weston, Prior of the Order in England, who bought off the king by paying him a "benevolence" of 4,000 sterling, paid out of the Common Treasury.

In 1530, Malta became the head-quarters of the Order, the island was converted into a fortress, and from it as a base the war galleys of the knights issued forth to harass the Turks.

David Gonson was received into the English Auberge at Malta - on 20th October, 1533, and submitted his " proofs of nobility"; for each applicant for admission as a Knight of justice must produce proofs of gentle birth, of legitimacy, of good health, and of good character. David could prove his right to bear the arms of Gonson quartering Tussell, Walter, Beckett, Young and Colfax. He was the fourth son of William Gonson by his marriage with Bennet Walter, sister and heiress of John Walter. William Gonson was a Gentleman Usher of the King's Chamber and later became responsible for the naval administration of this country. In one contemporary record he is called Vice-Admiral and Paymaster of the Navy. He did at one time command ships but his principal work was covered by the later title " Treasurer of Marine Causes," and he is so described in the Gonson pedigree. David's eldest brother Benjamin was " Surveyor of all our Shippes" in 1546 and " Treasurer of Marine Causes " in 1549. Benjamin's Daughter Katherine married Sir John Hawkins, the famous sea captain. The name Gonson was pronounced as if Goonson, and was sometimes written Gunston. It is as Sir David Gunston that the knight is found in the list of English Martyrs.

According to the regulations of the Order the first year was spent in the Auberge of the Tongue at Malta, during which period the knight was inured to the hardships of a soldier's life-" to learn frugality, discipline and benificence." This was followed by at least three years general service, and general service included a number of " caravans " or fixed periods of service aboard the galleys of the Order. Sir David remained at Malta from his reception in 1533 until 22nd April, 1540, except for two periods of absence, granted 2nd September; 1534 and 13th July, 1536: in 1536 he was still on caravan duty-. The discipline at Malta was very strict, and in 1535 a fracas with a fellow knight, Sir Philip Babington, led to a short term of imprisonment for Sir David and a loss of seniority-, a common punishment in the Order which affected the order of appointment to Commanderies. He was restored to his original place in the seniority list in 1,536. Presently we shall see Sir Philip Babington as the informer who sent Sir David to his Martyrdom.

Meanwhile things were changing in England under Henry's religious policy. The king had declared himself Head of the Church in England and had repudiated its spiritual allegiance to the Pope. The suppression and spoliation of the Religious Orders followed, but the Knights of St. John were not at first included in the general ruin. In 1539, two knights of the English Tongue, Blessed Adrian Fortescue and Ven. Thomas Dingley, a nephew of Sir William Weston, Grand Prior of England, were martyred on Tower Hill for denying the Royal Supremacy. By Letters Patent 7th July, 1539, Henry reminded the knights of the English Tongue that he was a Protector of the Order : and it was his will that in future every appointment must be confirmed by him, and that he was to receive the first year's revenue of the office. By Section 4. he orders that in the granting of dignities and commanderies the authority of the Pope must be ignored ("shall not recognise, support or promote the jurisdiction, authority, rank or title of the Bishop of Rome ") The General Chapter raised its protest against this subversive constitution and declared it impossible for the Order to accept it.

It was while the affairs of the Order were in this dangerous condition that Sir David Gonson obtained leave of absence (granted 22nd April, 1540) to proceed to England. The English State Papers contain a letter from Sir Giles Russell, Turcopolier, and three from Sir Nicholas Upton dated from Malta, April, 1540, and in all of them the recipients are told that Master Gunston is coming to England and will inform them how affairs stand at Malta. One letter of Sir Nicholas Upton contains the information "Sir Philip Babington has left the galeys . . . and forsoke the banner of your religion and without the licence of the Grand Master.”

Before Gonson arrived home, Henry had determined to suppress the Order in England and confiscate its property. A servile parliament passed the necessary bill on 10th May, 1540. the reasons put forward for the suppression being " that the friars of the order drew large sums yearly out of the kingdom : they maintained the usurped power of the Church of Rome : they defamed and slandered the king and his subjects.' . . . . Thus fell that ancient and pious order, not without much scandal abroad both to the king and the government " (Lord Herbert).

Sir David arrived in England, and on 8th October was accused of treason. The Privy Council minute of that date states " John Story who put in articles of treason against Davy Gunston, which seemed to depend on the sayings of one Philip Babington : commanded to appear on the seventeenth and bring Babington with him." On their evidence Gunston was arrested and confined in the Tower. He had no trial but was prosecuted b%- attainder in the Trinity term of 1541. This new form of procedure had been introduced by Henry- in 1539. Having asked the judges whether_ anyone could be attainted of treason in his absence without being called upon to defend himself, Henry was told that it was a very dangerous question, but that parliament could do anything and the attainder would be good in law. This was good enough for the Tudor tyrant : he had a servile parliament, thanks to Thomas Cromwell, and he acted at once on the judges' opinion.

Henry no doubt thought it necessary to find a victim among the knights to stifle the agitation against his suppression of the Order. The General Chapter issued a strong protest and the Grand blaster wrote to Henry (15th September, 1540) declaring the impossibility of accepting the conditions. Two commanders, Enrico Pereyra and L. de Vallee, were sent as envoys to Henry to solicit the restoration of their rights, but in view of the imprisonment of Gunston and Tyrrell, and the execution of Fortescue and Dingley, they remained at the French Court until they could obtain a safe conduct from Henry. It is very doubtful whether they ever came to England. They were still at Fontainebleau in January, 1541.

Sir David, as we have said, was condemned by a bill of attainder in the Trinity term of 1541. That he died for denying the Royal Supremacy of Henry in spiritual matters cannot be doubted. Fortunately the official statement of his offence and his sentence is preserved in the Public Record Office (Coram Rege de Termino Sanctae Trinitatis anno 33 Regis Henrici VIII, it. 130, rot xiii). The- document is in Latin except for the words said to have been spoken by Gonson, these. are in English. The accusation against him was-that while living in parts outside the kingdom, viz : from 10th July, 28 Henry VIII to 20th August, 31 Henry VIII, he persistently during that time, at Malta and elsewhere, publicly and distinctly, denied and opposed, falsely and traitorously, that the aforesaid King (Henry) was Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England1. That he had called the king a heretic1 and all those who upheld the patent of the king, heretics. Also that the afore- said David Gunston as part of his aforesaid wickedness against the duty of his allegiance, on 1st Ma}-, 29 Henry VIII, before and after, at Malta and at other places, did use, among other traitorous words, the following.

"That no person might appeale unto the Byssope of Rome on earth under God and they that would maynteyn the appellation to the king for good were worse than Turks and Lutheryans." Wherefore, continues the document, David Gunston is to be handed to the King's Marshall, confined in the Marshalsea, and thence to be draw n to the usual place of execution, where he shall be hanged, out 'it down while still alive, be eviscerated, his body quartered and the quarters exhibited where the king pleases.

Henry had forbidden any appeal to Rome by the "Act in Restraint of Appeals," 1533 and Gonson's words mean " No person is; allowed by the king to appeal to the Bishop of Rome, God's Vicar on earth and therefore supreme in spiritual matters." This Was an assertion of Papal Supremacy. " That they who maintain an appeal (in spiritual matters) to the king to be valid are worse than Turks and Lutherans." Not only a denial of the Royal Supremacy but by implication calling the king a heretic.

Gonson after his condemnation was confined in the King's Bench prison, Southwark, whence on 12th July, 1541, he was dragged on a hurdle to St. Thomas Waterings, at the second milestone from the city, and there hanged, drawn and quartered.

The Martyrologies and Catholic writers generally give the 1st July as the date of the execution. In this they follow Stow, who wrote in his Chronicles under the year 1541 : " The first of July .... Sir David Genson, Knight of Rhodes2 was drawn through Southwarke to St. Thomas of Waterings and there executed for the Supremacy." Stow wrote 40 years after the event. On the other hand Wriothesley, who was a contemporary of Gonson, has in his Chronicle-" 1541. The 12th daie of Julie, one of Mr. Gunston's Sonnes which was a Knight of Rodes, was drawen from the Kinges Bench to Sainct Thomas Wateringes and there hanged and quartered for treason."

That Stow was wrong the following minute of the Privy Council is proof. " 7th July, 1541. Upon advertisement from the Lord Chancellor of the attainder of David Gunston . . . Tyrrell, and Robert Harvy, commissary of Calais, a letter was written to him that Tyrrell should be reprieved and the other two suffer at London."

JOHN FLETCHER.

1 Made treason by the Act of 1534
2 Although the knights had been at Malta since 1530 the old name "Knights of Rhodes" was still commonly used.

OPPORTUNITY.

Our London Readers that have the leisure are exhorted to pay a visit to the Tower on Wednesday, July 6th - the anniversary of the Martyrdom there of Blessed Thomas More - and to pray for the Intention of the Bishop.


WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL CHRONICLE (July 1949)

SIR DAVID GONSON

KNIGHT OF MALTA

EXECUTED AT ST THOMAS WATERINGS, JULY 12, 1541.
By THE REVEREND L. E. WHATMORE M.A., F.R.H.S.

Among those who were beatified by Pope Pius XI on December 14, 1929, was Sir David Gonson, Knight of Malta. He was executed under King Henry VIII on July 12, 1541, at St Thomas Waterings, Southwark, then forming part of the county of Surrey. No biography of :him has hitherto been written, and it is hoped that these notes will fill in that gap.

When the Knights Hospitallers were expelled from Rhodes in 1522 they were given the island of Malta by the Emperor Charles V at the request of the Pope. Here each country had its headquarters. The knights took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and their training included patrol duty against Mohammedan pirates, garrisoning, and the care of the sick. They then qualified for benefices in their respective countries.

The 'Book of Assemblies', recording the doings of the English knights, commences in 1523. From it we learn that David Gonson arrived at Malta on October 20, 1533, when his proofs of nobility (for good family was essential for entry) were 'admitted and allowed for good'. On September 2, 1534, he obtained leave of absence; but was back at Malta on February 1 following, when he attended an assembly. On May 25, 1535, he was admitted a full member of the order, Sir Thomas Dingley, who was also a victim of Henry VIII, being one of the knights then present.

Sir David Gonson's next appearance is in the 'block book' or book of punishments, preserved at the Chancery of Malta, which records that 'Sir Christopher Myres, David Gonson, and Philip Babington fought to the shedding of blood'. All three were deprived of the religious habit and for a period of nine months sentenced to a rigorous imprisonment on the island of Gozo. On July 13, 1536, the sentence having expired, Gonson received leave of absence and his seniority, notwithstanding the protest of Sir Oswald Massingberd, was restored.

Myres, according to Monsignor A. Mifsud1, who is our authority for Sir David Gonson's career in Malta, was later expelled from the order for murdering a woman; while Babington, as will be' shown, seems to have been the occasion of Gonson's death. The remainder of the year he was on 'caravan', that is, service on the galleys. In 1540 he was Lieutenant2 of the Turcopolier, or assistant to the chief English knight on the island. On March the 30th however, Sir David Gonson quitted Malta, having been granted permission eight days previously to do so. He was not to return.

Already on July 7, 1539, Henry VIII had unsuccessfully required the English knights in Malta to disavow the authority of the Pope. By the time Sir David Gonson reached England the Act dissolving the order had become law. The reason given in .the Act was that the members 'sustained and maintained the usurped power and authority of the Bishop of Rome ... untruly upholding, knowledging and affirming maliciously and traitorously the same Bishop to be the Supreme Head of Christ's Church'3. On October 21 following Gonson received £44 in part payment of the pension of £10 per annum assigned to him; but unknown to himself probably, he was already in danger. The minutes of the Privy Council for October 8 read: 'John Story, who put in articles of treason against Davy Gunston, which seemed to depend on the sayings of one Philip Babington, was commanded to appear again on the 17th and bring Babington with him'5.

A subsequent minute says: 'Upon advertisement from the Lord Chancellor of the attainder of David Gunston, [William] Tyrrell, and Robert Harvy, Commissary of Calais, a letter was written to him that Tyrrell should be reprieved, and the other two suffer at London'6. Tyrrel's reprieve (he had accompanied Gonson from Malta) is an indication that his companion, too, might have purchased his life at the expense of his convictions. Instead, on July 12,1541, he was drawn from the prison of the King's Bench to St Thomas Waterings and there hanged and quartered for treason.7 Stow says 'for the Supremacy' (which was treason from 1534) and that the execution took place on July 1. Wriothesley's date is to be preferred, since he was an exact contemporary.

It is strange that Sir Adrian Fortescue, who was only a 'donatus' or honorary knight, should have become the object of a religious cultus in Malta in preference to both Sir David Gonson and Sir Thomas Dingley. After the names of Sir David Gonson and Sir William Salisbury in the minutes of an assembly held on April 1, 1539, however, the qualifying remark has been added - 'the good knight'. This suggests that the cause of his death was remembered. St Thomas Waterings, mentioned by Chaucer, was a stream which then formed the boundary between Camberwell and Newington. The winding course of Albany Road marks the direction of this now dried up stream, and a public house at the junction of the Albany and Old Kent Roads is appropriately named the 'Thomas Beckett'. The place of execution and the place of crossing stood, however, some distance apart.8 John Senex's map of London, dated 1729, shows by a gallows sign that hangings took place at what is now the branching off point of Peckham Park Road - somewhat further on than is generally supposed.

The French Ambassador, Marillac, in a letter to Francis I refers to the death of a knight of Malta, whom he describes as 'the son of this King's Vice-Admiral'.9 The martyr's father, in fact, was William Gonson, captain of the 'Mary Grace' in 1513 and subsequently Paymaster of the Royal Navy. William Gonson's correspondence is plentifully scattered up and down among the state papers of the reign of Henry VIII. A letter to Cromwell mentions his wife in 1536. She died in 1544. Apart from this and his friendship with Cromwell10, Lord Lisle and other important officials, there is nothing personal that can be gathered from these letters.

The death of his son did not affect William Gonson's position. He obtained a grant of arms11 under Henry VIII. His profession is portrayed by the symbolism of a gun between two anchors. A few words concerning the Admiral's parents may be here included.

A brass was erected in the church of Melton Mowbray, Leics., to the memory of Christopher Gonson and his wife Elizabeth in 1543 by Bartholomew, Rector of the same church, his son. The inscription states that they had another son William, who was Esquire of the Body to King Henry VIII12. He was, of course, the father of the subject of our enquiry. He named one of the King's ships the 'Christopher Gonson' - doubtless after his own father. Elizabeth Gonson of this brass was the daughter and heir of Roger Trussell of Essex.

The pedigree of Gonson in the Visitations of Essex13 mentions no other son as born to her and her husband than William Gonson the Admiral. He married Bennett, the daughter and coheir together with her brother John of Richard Walter of Essex. It is to be noted that Wriothesley refers to the martyr as 'one of Mr Gunston's sons'. His accuracy is endorsed by the pedigree which assigns to him four brothers and three sisters. They were: -

  1. Thomasina, who married Sir Henry Tyrel. He became Sheriff of Essex and Herts in 1551. (The last male representative of this family was Sir John T. Tyrrel, Bart., of Boreham House, near Chelmsford, who died in 1877.)14
  2. Anthony, who died without issue.
  3. David.
  4. Benjamin, who settled at Much Badow in Essex. He succeeded his father as Treasurer of Marine Causes and married Ursula, daughter of Anthony Hussey, Judge of the Admiralty under Queen Mary. His eldest daughter Thornasina, married as her first husband Captain Edward Fenton of` Deptford, the famous voyager; another daughter married Sir John Hawkins, the navigator.15
  5. Christopher, who is stated to have been the second son.
  6. Elizabeth, who married Anthony Marler. Their eldest surviving son with issue was Anthony Marler of Crayford, Kent.16
  7. Avice, who married Thomas Mildmay of Moulsham, Essex, and is buried with her husband in Chelmsford parish church. Her brother-in-law, Sir Walter Mildmay, was Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth and founded Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

1 Knights Hospitallers of the Venerable Tongue of England (Valetta, 1914) passim.
2 W. Winthrop in Notes and Queries (1853) p. 189-93.
3 Letters and Papers of Henry VIII for 1540, XV, p. 209.
4 Ib. XVI, p. 355.
5 Ib. p. 64.
6 Ib. p. 472.
7 Chronicle by Charles Wriothesley, ed. D.W. Hamilton (Camdon Soc., 1875) I, p. 126.
8 Art. St Thomas Waterings by the Rev. J. H. Pollen, S.J. (Month, CXI), p 262-71.
9 L. & P. 1540-1 (XVI), p. 483.
10 Ib. 1537 (Pt II), No. 236, 51.
11
Ib. (Pt. I), No. 483.
12 'Argent 3 bars wavy saltire, on each 9 plates, on a chief gules a gun between 2 anchors or' (Archaeologia, 1920, XIX, p. 90).
13 A List of Monumental Brasses in the British Isles by Mill Stephenson, F.S.A. (1926), p. 276).
14 Part I, ed. W. C. Metcalf (Harleian Soc., 1878), p. 360-1.
15 Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. (VII, 1900); p. 8.
16 Visitation of Kent 1619 ed. Rob. Hovenden (Harleian Soc., 1898), p. 165, It is this pedigree of Marler which states that William Gonson of London, Esq., was Treasurer of Marine Causes.


THE KINDRED OF BLESSED DAVID GUNSON

NEWSLETTER 1

WHO WAS BLESSED DAVID GUNSON

Sir David Gunson, posthumously designated 'the good knight' and beatified in 1929 as Blessed David Gunson, was a martyr for religious principles. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Southwark (London) on 12 July 1541 under the English Act of Supremacy. Blessed David was one of the older sons of Admiral William Gunson, sometime Treasurer of the Navy and Esquire of the Body to King Henry VIII. Through his grandmother, Elizabeth Trussell, he was a kinsman to Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and 'divers of the English nobility'. His grandfather, Christopher Gunson, was born in Cumbria, probably at Wasdale, and became a merchant of the staple at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. His Gunson ancestors had been yeoman sheep farmers in the Cumbrian fells for many generations.

Through his noble connexions (both his parents were armigerous) David Gunson was admitted to the prestigious Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in 1533 and became a Knight of Rhodes, as the Knights of Malta were still known. His spirited career in that Order is documented in The Book of Deliberations of the Venerable Tongue of England 1523-1567... published in Malta in 1949 by Hannibal P. Scicluna. His bete noir in the Order was his fellow knight Sir Philip Babington with whom he quarrelled in 1535, and suffered imprisonment as a result. On a visit to England in 1540 it was Babington who informed on him, declaring that Gunson denied that Henry VIII was the Supreme Head of the Church of England and that the king and his supporters were in effect heretics. Gunson was Confined to the Tower, had no trial, and was condemned to death under a bill of attainder. He was removed to the King's Bench prison, Southwark, and on 12 July 1541 he was dragged on a hurdle to St Thomas Waterings, the second milestone from the city, where he suffered a traitor's death. The event was chronicled by Charles Wriothesley as follows:

1541. The 12th daie of Julie, one of Mr. Gunston's Sonnes which was a Knight of Rodes, was drawen from the Kinges Bench to Sainct Thomas Wateringes and there hanged and quartered for treason.

The Order, however, saw David Gunson in an exemplary light, one who was true to his conscience and his oaths to the Order, and he was honoured as 'the good knight' in their annals.

Blessed David's family were placed in a dilemma. They were good public servants, loyal to the Crown, yet they understood tender consciences. The private piety inherent in the family was equally at home in old Catholic and Puritan forms. It was Blessed David's niece, Dame Katherine Hawkins, who named her stepson's ship The Repentance, a fact which displeased Queen Elizabeth I who objected to the Puritan name and had Sir Richard Hawkins' ship rechristened The Dainty. David's brother Benjamin, a clerk in holy orders, resigned from the priesthood and his benefice in the Church of England, and joined his father in the Navy Office. He shortly afterwards married and succeeded his father who took his own life, in 1544, probably in morbid depression as a result of the ignoble treatment meted out to his high-spirited and noble son.

REFERENCES TO BLESSED DAVID GUNSON

SPELLING OF THE GUNSON NAME

Most Catholic martyrologies list Blessed David as David Gonson (or Gunston). Certainly Gonson was the more usual spelling in southern England in Tudor times though Gunson, Gonston and Gunstone also appear in contemporary records. The northern English form was usually Gunson although the inscription on the communion cup of Wasdale Church illustrates both the erratic nature of 16th century spelling and the correct pronunciation:

This is the gift of Robart Gunsone sone of Antonie Gonsone of Toshtorne [Tosh Tarn] Free mane of Londone. This is the Communion cup of Wastell Church. R.G. 1597.

While the more modern lists tend to prefer the Gonson spelling (e.g., The Book of Saints... compiled by the Benedictine Monks of St Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate), the Calendar of the English Martyrs of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries compiled by Thomas Graves Law and published in 1876, lists the Martyr as Sir David Gunston (or Genson) Knight of St John, the two spellings given in the original chronicles of Wriothesley and Stow.

The curious statement by John Fletcher that the name was 'pronounced as if Goonson' is irrelevant if not misleading. It probably was pronounced in the north country way at first., but that would not have caused any confusion over the spelling. As the communion cup inscription illustrates U was often replaced by 0 by printers and engravers in words where there were a series of uprights. That the pronunciation was the same is preserved in the amusing matrimonial jingle from the pen of the poet Donne: 'John Donne, Ann Donne, Undone'.

WHO ARE THE KINDRED

The kindred of Blessed David Gunson are the descendants of Christopher Gunson of Melton Mowbray, formerly of Cumbria, who are kin of the first and second degree, and all other Gunsons and their descendants who are regarded as indeterminate kin. The kindred are invited to join a Society formed in their name and establish branch societies on a voluntary basis to promote the aims of that Society.

WHAT IS THE SOCIETY AND ITS AIMS

The Society is a philanthropic organisation designed to commemorate Blessed David Gunson by assisting all who are prisoners for conscience', sake, particularly those who are imprisoned or persecuted for the sake of religion. All members, whether Catholic, Protestant or Humanist, are asked to be inspired by the devotion of Blessed David and give their full moral and spiritual support to such prisoners. Those who feel inclined are asked to intercede with Blessed David in their prayers that the lot of particular prisoners may be made more bearable, or that the miracle of Paul's escape may be repeated for those in dire need. All members are asked to make personal representations to the diplomatic representatives of those governments who have such prisoners, and to work quietly and confidently for the release of the same.

Membership of the Society is open to all the Kindred whether kindred of the Blood or Indeterminate Kin. Friends of the Kindred may hold associate membership.

The Society will adopt a particular person, and work for that person's release. All members are asked to concentrate on that one prisoner and give him or her their full support until something positive is achieved. Only then will another prisoner be adopted. In 1986 it was decided that the first person to be adopted by the Society would be the Russian Orthodox Christian, Alexander Ogorodnikov, who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union in 1980. Barely had this nomination been accepted when it was learnt that Alexander Ogorodnikov had been released. We hope that this is a good omen.

Members are asked to address letters to the relevant Ambassadors or Consuls in their country pleading for the release of the prisoner, requesting that religious prisoners have access to their scriptures and the rites of their denominations, and asking that they should not be locked up with thieves and murderers.

PRAYER AND PLEDGE

In the life and heroic death of Blessed David Gunson we find a noble example of readiness to accept and to hold true to deeply felt beliefs. Inspired by this example, and deploring the violation of his freedom to believe we invoke the memory of Blessed David in the hope that it may lead us to develop the same honesty and courage, and may teach us to respect and defend the right of all people freely, and without prejudice to the rights of others, to hold, teach and act upon their cherished beliefs.

As an expression of this hope we are [I am] pleased to ally ourselves [myself] with ... and to urge that he [she] be set free from the restraints which at present prevent him [her] from witnessing freely to the beliefs he [she] holds and values.

MEDITATION FOR ALEXANDER OGORODNIKOV 1986.

We remember each day the sufferings of Alexander Ogorodnikov. We appeal to the human feelings and sense of justice of his gaolers that they may respect his integrity of conscience and his right as a law-abiding citizen of the world to live according to his beliefs. We look forward to the day when it will no longer be possible for men to be imprisoned, tortured or otherwise persecuted, for holding religious doctrines.

COLLECTS FOR 12 JULY

Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that we, who celebrate the heavenly birthday of Blessed David Gunson Thy martyr, may by his intercession, be strengthened in the love of Thy name. Through our Lord. Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that through the intercession of blessed David Gunson, Thy martyr, that all who are in bondage for conscience sake be delivered from all adversities to the greater glory of Thy name. Through our Lord.


A special note of thanks to Niel Gunson, who kindly povided most of the information used and quoted above!


You are visitor No. on the BBG website since 22 June 1996.
This page was created on 15 June 1998 and last updated on Saturday, 15 March 2014 16:12:32


Back to the SMOM Page of the
x963114.gif (1941 bytes)

Blessed Gérard Sovereign Military Order of Malta The Maltese Cross Relief Organisations of the Order of Malta The Order of Malta in Africa Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard