Layman and martyr, b. at Flacsted, Hants, England, early in the sixteenth century; suffered at Winchester, July 7, 1591
Milner, RALPH, VENERABLE, layman and martyr, b at Flacsted, Hants, England, early in the sixteenth century; suffered at Winchester, July 7, 1591. The greater part of his life was probably passed in his native village, where, being practically illiterate, he supported his wife and eight children by manual labor. He was brought up an Anglican, but, struck by the contrast between the lives of Catholics and Protestants of his acquaintance, he determined to embrace the old religion, and, after the usual course of instruction, was received into the Church. On the very day of his first Communion, however, he was arrested for changing his religion and committed to Winchester jail. Here his good behavior during the years of his imprisonment won him the jailer's confidence to such a degree that he was frequently allowed out on parole, and was even trusted with the keys of the prison. This leniency enabled him to render valuable service to the other Catholic prisoners and to introduce priests to administer the sacraments. Soon, extending the sphere of his charitable activity, he acted as escort first to Father Thomas Stanney, and later to his successor at Winchester, Father Roger Dicconson, conducting them to the different villages to minister to the spiritual needs of the scattered and persecuted flock. Finally seized with Father Dicconson, Milner was with him placed under close confinement in Winchester jail pending the approaching sessions. Probably moved with compassion for the aged man, the judge urged Milner to attend even once the Protestant church and thus escape the gallows. The latter refused, however, "to embrace a counsel so disagreeable to the maxims of the Gospel", and began immediately to prepare for death. Every effort was made to persuade him to change his purpose and renounce the Faith, and, when he was approaching the gallows with Father Dicconson, his children were conducted to him in the hope that he might even then relent. Unshaken in his resolution, Milner gave his children his last blessing, declared that "he could wish them no greater happiness than to die for the like cause", and then met his death with the utmost courage and calm.