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, Saint 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 certain districts.” 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 Church. 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 Gervase
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 Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen