Walter Ogilvie was a Scottish noble who raised his son John in the state religion of Scotland, Calvinism. John converted to Catholicism at age 17 at Louvain, Belgium, and then attended several Catholic educational institutions. He joined the Jesuits soon after in 1597, and was ordained in Paris, France in 1610. Sent to work in Rouen, France.
It was a time of great persecution of Catholicism in Scotland. “Send only those,” wrote the Earl of Angus to the Jesuit General, “who wish for this mission and are strong enough to bear the heat of the day, for they will be in exceeding danger.” Wholesale massacres of Catholics had taken place in the past, but by this point the hunters concentrated on priests and those who attended Mass. The Jesuits were determined to minister to the oppressed Catholic laity, but when captured, they were tortured for information, then hanged, drawn, and quartered.
Ogilvie repeatedly requested assignment to his home Scotland, and it was finally granted; he returned in November 1613. He worked as an underground missionary in Edinburgh and Glasgow, dodging the Queen‘s priest-hunters, disguised as a soldier named Watson. After 11 months in the field (and on the run), John was betrayed by a phony Catholic, imprisoned, interrogated, then tortured for the names of active Catholics. He gave no information. “Your threats cheer me; I mind them no more than the cackling of geese,” he told his captors. Asked if he feared to die Father John replied, “No more than you do to dine.”
- “Saint John Ogilvie“. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 March 2016. Web. 6 May 2016. <>