George Gervase was born in Sussex, England, in 1569. After
serving as a soldier in Flanders and with the Spanish army, he
entered the English College at Douai, France, to study for the
priesthood. Ordained a secular priest at Cambrai in 1603, he was
sent to serve as a missionary to England's persecuted Catholic
communities the following year.
Banished from England after two years of ministry, he made a
pilgrimage to Rome, where he decided to become a religious. George
entered the newly established Benedictine Priory of Saint Gregory at Douai
and, following his novitiate, he returned to England. He was
arrested after only two months of ministry and imprisoned in the
Gatehouse at Westminster and tried at the "Old Bailey."
Blessed George freely admitted he was a priest, for which reason
he was condemned to death. It is likely that he solemnly professed
as a Benedictine monk shortly before being hanged, drawn, and
quartered at Tyburn on April 11, 1608. Blessed George Gervase was
beatified in 1929 and he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on April 11, the
anniversary of his death.
In the rule of life he composed for his monks, St. Benedict described the monastery as a
"school of the Lord's service" where his monks would live out their
commitment to Christ by fulfilling three vows: obedience (a spirit
of attentive listening to the abbot, the community, and the
Church),conversatio (a commitment to monastic customs and growing
in virtues), and the uniquely Benedictine vow of stability.
Stabilitas,the vow of "place," is not necessarily about
geography or buildings. To be committed to stability means to
commit oneself to both a community and a way of life. However, as
Dom David Knowles observed in The Benedictines,
"exceptional circumstances, in the past or present, have caused the
highest authorities of the Church to call upon such priests as
existed anywhere to aid in spreading or maintaining religion in
This was the work to which Blessed George Gervase,
monk-missionary in Reformation-era England, was called and it is in
this mission that we discover another facet of our commitment to
stability - working to provide for future generations.
Whether our stability manifests itself in buildings of brick and
mortar, in fidelity to the monastic tradition or, as in the case of
Blessed George, working for the survival of the Faith itself, our
ultimate end must be the greater glory of God and service to the
Stability is not about finding comfort and convenience for
contemplation. We create communities and build up the Church
because we believe that what we do here and now impacts and shapes
the faith and freedom of those who will come after us.
A Prayer in Honor of Blessed George Gervase +
Almighty and merciful God, Who brought your Martyr blessed George
to overcome the torments of his passion,
grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph,
may remain invincible under your protection
against the snares of the enemy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.