In the first of a series of Lenten reflections, Bobby Taylor considers St John Ogilvie as a model for Christians in Lent.

Tasked with the job of writing the reflection for the First Sunday of Lent, it struck me that today also marks the 414th anniversary of the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie: the man who was raised a Calvinist in the north of Scotland and converted to Catholicism during his studies in Europe, and who eventually returned to his homeland – mainly because of his own pleadings – to preach the faith, for which he would give his life on the gallows in Glasgow.

At the start of Lent, John Ogilvie is a fitting character to study. Although we will never know exactly what happened behind closed doors, I think it is probable that he would have been offered freedom, the opportunity to walk away with his life, if he’d done as the torturers had asked; had he caved, one can imagine that the authorities would have used him as an example of their success. The similarities with the temptations of the Lord in today’s Gospel are not difficult to see.

john oglivie

An important theme in this Gospel is one that we should be mindful of during Lent. We are all dependent on God for everything that we are and all that we have, a fact that the Jesuit martyr was aware of too.  That which leads us to deny our dependency on God is from the devil and as Jesus did, so should we refuse it.

At the end of Luke’s Gospel account, there is an ominous note: the devil will return at the appointed time. St John Ogilvie faced serious temptation during his imprisonment and we too will face temptation again and again. We will be challenged often, as was the case for the Lord and St John. That temptation will often come at times when we are at our weakest. And yet, in the two examples set before us, we can see that to trust in God is key to rejecting the evil of temptation.

Jesus responding to the devil and John’s response to his torturers teaches us how to respond to temptations in our lives and especially during this season of Lent. We must have confidence in the goodness of God’s Word to feed us, trust in his protection during those times of weakness and failure, and knowledge that he is our loving and merciful God.


Bobby Taylor is a seminarian of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. He is in his fifth year of formation at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome.