St. John of Gorkum

Stained glass window from St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C. Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
Stained glass window from St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C. Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

The following reflection is part of an ongoing series about the life of St. Dominic & the Order of Friars Preachers.

John of Gorkum (d. 1572), a Dominican priest, was one of nineteen religious who were hanged by militant Calvinists in Holland for defending Church teaching. In 1572 the town of Gorkum had just been captured by the Gueux, an extremist group of Dutch Calvinists who had continued a war of independence from Spain through acts of piracy. Hearing of the local priests’ plight, John left the safety of his parish and went to Gorkum in disguise to give whatever assistance he could. Several times he entered the town to administer the Sacrament to priests who were being cruelly tortured. Eventually he too was taken prisoner and tortured. Although the priests had been offered their freedom in return for denying Catholic teaching on Eucharistic and papal primacy, they refused to do so. The site of their martyrdom soon became a place of pilgrimage.

Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (a member of the English Province) was invited by the Dominican Foundation to take pictures of some of the locations where our friars serve throughout the Northeast. During his time in Washington, D.C., Fr. Lew photographed the interior of the Church of St. Dominic. St. Dominic’s has been the church where our friars are ordained to the priesthood each May. Surrounding the church, is a collection of beautiful stained glass windows that chronicle the life of St. Dominic & the foundation of the Order of Preachers. Fr. Lew accomplished a great work by capturing the splendor of these windows, and in the process, the life of a towering saint.