Lady Di’s great-great-great-uncle on his way to the altars. In other words, William and Harry, great-great-great nephews of a future blessed. An acknowledgment that could lead them to St. Peter’s Square to participate in a Catholic celebration as their father, Prince Charles, did at the canonization of John Henry Newman in 2019. The Anglican Spencer family tree has since Saturday a venerable relative for Rome: Father Ignacio. Pope Francis signed the decree by which he recognized the heroic virtues of eight Catholics, including the Passionist priest Ignacio de San Pablo (1799-1864), a consecrated name that George Spencer chose after his conversion. In addition, this Catholic priest would also be directly related to the former British prime minister in wartime, Churchill, of whom he was a great-uncle.
Such are the blood ties between George and Diana of Wales, who both grew up on Althorp, the 1,500 hectare estate located 120 kilometers from London, which has been in the family for more than five centuries. In fact, its current owner is Charles, 9th Earl of Spencer and brother of the late princess, who at 56 bears a more than reasonable resemblance to his ancestor. George’s bond with the historic mansion was not limited to childhood alone, but when he became a priest of the Church of England, common among the younger sons of British nobles, he was in charge of pastoral care in the villages of the area.
So the Spencers were upset when George decided at the age of 31 to switch to Catholicism and just two years later, on May 26, 1832, he was ordained a faithful priest in Rome. From that moment and, wrapped in an unquestionable intellectual baggage, he established himself as an apostle of Christian unity, with the awareness that Catholics and Anglicans should seek communion, prophet of that ecumenism that Pope Francis is now taking up. His poor health led him to reduce this evangelizing activity to serve as spiritual director of the students of Oscott College, near Birmingham. As a method of gaining the trust of the kids, he not only served as a spiritual advisor, but also taught them to play cricket, one of his personal passions, but also one of the sports linked to his lineage.
Shortly after, his vocation as a consecrated person was raised and in December 1846 he entered the Passionist novitiate house at Aston Hall. After professing as a religious “renamed” as Ignatius, he was posted in Ireland, Belgium and Holland. But, undoubtedly, his reputation for holiness grew when he returned to England, Ireland and Scotland, where he devoted himself to accompanying Irish migrants living below the poverty line. From his hand, conversions to Catholicism multiplied until his sudden death.
Since 1973, the Passionists –congregation founded in Italy in 1702 by Saint Paul of the Cross– have been working in the process so that the delivery of Ignatius of Saint Paul is recognized by Rome, an effort that has now been rewarded by proclaim him “venerable”. In fact, there are many saints and martyrs of the Congregation of the Passion, from Santa María Goretti to the blessed martyrs of Daimiel of the Civil War. Now, to take a further step in his beatification, it will be necessary for a miracle to be recognized through his intercession. And, to be holy, one more miracle.