The Martyrs of Gorcum

The 9th July commemorates the Martyrs of Gorcum, amongst whom were two priests of our Order, Adrian and James.

Adrian Jansen and James LaCoupe were both Norbertine canons from the Dutch Abbey of Middleburg. Adrian was born in 1529 at Hilvarenbeck (whence the Latinized surname “Becan”, which is sometimes used to avoid confusion with other Jansens). Around Eastertime, 1572, he was appointed pastor at Munster, a village on the North Sea. Here, as in former parish assignments, he distinguished himself for his pastoral zeal. Tensions with the Calvinists were very pronounced at Munster, but Adrian was not intimidated. He went about openly in his white habit, preaching and proclaiming the good news. The associate pastor at Munster during this period was the young Father James LaCoupe. James was born in Audenarde, Belgium, in 1542, and made his solemn profession in the Abbey of Middleburg in 1561. He was well-liked by the brethren of the abbey for his friendly and open personality. But, led astray by the writings of the Protestant reformers, James left the abbey to embrace the doctrins of the Reformation. He went so far as to write a scathing tract against the Catholic Church. Largely through the tearful entreaties and prayers of his father, James was eventually moved to seek readmittance into the Catholic Church and the Order. He was sent to the Abbey of Marienhof where he submitted himself to an extended period of penance and wrote tracts in defense of the Catholic faith. In 1567 he was appointed associate pastor at Munster. Frs. Adrian and James found themselves at Munster during the height of Protestant animosity. As the summer of 1572 arrived, the nearby villages of Dordrecht and Gorcum were captured by Calvinist pirates, and a dozen religious were being held in Gorcum with little hope of release. The parish priests of Munster were warned not to leave their rectory. In July there was an urgent call for help at the rectory door. Fooled into believing he was to administer the last sacraments to a dying man, Adrian opened the bolted door and was captured along with James. The two were dragged to a prison cell at Brielle where they joined nineteen priests and religious awaiting their fate. After repeated offers to renounce their Catholic faith, the priests and religious were finally led to an abandoned monastery near Gorcum on July 9. Two religious renounced their faith at the last minute and were spared. The others, including Fathers Adrian and James, were hung from the rafters and then horribly mutilated. Adrian and James are pictured with the hangman’s rope around their necks and the palm of martyrdom in their hands. Adrian holds the papal crown and keys, symbolizing his defense of the Roman Pontiff. James holds the chalice, symbolizing his defense of the doctrine of the Eucharist. (from the Order’s web-site)

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