Visit the Bookshop

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bishop TUNSTALL of DURHAM, 1559


Erasmus described him as a man of most exquisite judgment both in Greek and Latin literature, but at the same time of incredible modesty and of sweet and joyful manner. B. Thomas More, who had been educated with him, declared that “ the world scarce contained anv one of greater learning, prudence, or goodness." Yet he failed where More stood firm, and under Henry VIII took the oath of Supremacy, and defended himself to Pole on the ground that the Pope’s supremacy was not so certain a matter as to die for. Pole replied, Your friends Fisher and More were of not so vile a mind as not to know why they died. God send you a livelier spirit in His honour.” He atoned, how-ever, for his weakness under Edward VI by his Opposition to the new Protestanttsm, and was sent to the Tower. Restored to his See of Durham under Mary, and strengthened and pardoned by the blessing of Christ's vicar, he ardently repaired the havoc caused by schism in his diocese. Summoned by Elizabeth to take the oath, he refused, and on his arrival in London, after a week’s journey, was deposed, and died imprisoned under Clark at the age of eighty-five, November 18, 1559.

To depart from iniquity pleaseth the Lord, and to depart from injustice is an entreaty for sin ECCLUS. xxxv. 8.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The good old times of England!

Ere in her evil day,

From their Holy Faith and their ancient rites her people fell away;

When her gentlemen had lands to give, and her yeomen hearts to feel;

And they raised full many a bead-house, but never a bastille;

And the poor they honoured, for they knew that He, Who for us bled.

Had seldom, when He came on earth, whereon to lay His Head;

And by the poor man’s dying bed the Holy Pastor stood,

To fortify the parting soul with that celestial Food;

And in the mortal agony the Priest ye might behold,

Commending to his Father's hands a sheep of His own fold;

And when the soul was fled from earth, the Church could do yet more;

For the Chaunting Priests came slow in front, and the Cross went on before;

And o'er the poor man’s pall they bade the sacred banner wave,

To teach her sons that Holy Church hath victory o’er the grave.

But times and things are altered now:

and Englishmen begin to class the beggar with the knave, and poverty with sin :

We shut them up from tree and flower, and from the blessed sun:

We tear in twain the hearts that God in wedlock had made one,

The hearts that beat so faithfully, reposing side by side;

For fifty years of weal and woe from eve till morning tide;

No gentle Nun with her comfort sweet, no friar standeth nigh, With ghostly strength and holy love to close the poor man’s eye:

But the corpse is thrown into the ground, when the prayers are hurried o’er,

To rest in peace a little while, and then make way for more !

We mourn not for our abbey-lands ; e’en pass they as they may !

But we mourn because the tyrant found a richer spoil than they:

He cast away, as a thing defiled, the remembrance of the just;

And the relics of our martyrs he scattered to the dust:

Yet two at least, in their holy shrines, escaped the spoiler's hand,

And S. Cuthbert and S. Kdward might alone redeem a land.

And still our Litanies ascend like incense, as before;

And still we hold the one full faith Nicea taught of yore;

And still our children, duly plunged in the baptismal flood,

“Of water and the Holy Ghost, are born the sons of God ”;

And still our solemn festivals from age to age endure;

And wedded troth remains as firm, and wedded love as pure;

And many an earnest prayer ascends from many a hidden spot:

And England's Church is Catholic, though England’s self be not!

England of Saints! the hour is nigh far nigher may it

Than yet I deem, albeit that day I may not live to see,— When all thy commerce, all thy arts, and wealth, and power, and fame,

Shall melt away—at thy most need—like wax before the flame;

Then shalt thou find thy truest strength thy martyrs’ prayers always;

Then shalt thou find thy truest wealth their holy deeds of love;

And thy Church, awaking from Her sleep, come glorious forth at length,

And in sight of angels and of men display her hidden strength:

Again shall long processions sweep through Lincoln’s minster pile;

Again shall banner, cross, and cope gleam thro’ the incensed aisle :

And the faithful dead shall claim their part in the Church’s thoughtful prayer,

And the daily sacrifice to God be duly offered there;

And tierce, and nones, and matins, shall have each their holy lay ; And the Angelus at compline shall sweetly close the dav.

England of Saints! the peace will dawn- but not without the fight;

So, come the contest when it may,- and God defend thy right!

From Hierologus, or The Church Tourists, by the Rev J M Neale, DD London, James Burns, 1843.

Friday, January 11, 2013



IN October 1536, from the Scottish Borders to the Humber, the good staunch Catholics of the North flocked to the banners of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Second in command under Aske, leading the vanguard of six thousand men under the banner of St. Cuthbert, rode Sir Thomas Percy, brother of the Earl of Northumberland. They marched, some forty thousand strong, into Yorkshire, and Henry quailed before the pilgrims, though his forces were large. By deceitfully promising the redress of their grievances he cajoled them into dispersing and returning home. But in the next spring, on their re-assembling, he despatched more numerous troops to the Duke of Norfolk (The Third Duke, Thomas), his lieutenant, who succeeded in securing their leaders. Sir Thomas, though he surrendered, was taken to Westminster, tried, and hanged with, amongst other supposed leaders, the Abbot of Jervaulx and the Dominican Friar John Pickering of York Priory. They suffered "because, as false traitors, they conspired to deprive the King of his royal dignity, viz. of being on earth the Supreme Head of the Church in England." Thus, though not among the Beatified, they died for the faith.

"For whom do you stay? I will not obey the commandment of the King, but the commandment of God which was given by Moses." —2 MACH. vii. 30.


Thursday, January 10, 2013



HE was of an old Yorkshire family, and was the chief leader in the Pilgrimage of Grace, as he had been in the Lincolnshire rising. The following is his proclamation, October 1536: "Simple and evil-disposed persons being of the King's Council have incensed his Grace with many inductions contrary to the faith of God, the honour of the King, and the weal of the Realm. They intend to destroy the Church in England and her ministers ; they have robbed and spoiled, and further they intend to rob and spoil, the whole body of this realm. We have now taken this Pilgrimage for the preservation of Christ's Church, of the Realm, of the King : to the intent of making petition to the King for the reformation of that which is amiss, and for the punishment of heretics and subverters of the laws; and neither for money, malice, nor displeasure of any person, but such as be unworthy to remain about the King. Come with us, Lords, Knights, Masters, Kinsmen, and friends ! If ye fight against us and defeat, ye will but put both us and you into bondage for ever; if we overcome you, ye shall be at your will. We will fight and die against all who shall be about to stop us in this pilgrimage, and God shall judge between us."

"What wouldest thou ask of us ? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of God received from our fathers." 2 MACH.vii. 2.


Composed by Sir Robert Aske
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, January 05, 2013




SPEECH in the House of Lords : " My good Lords, when in Queen Mary's days your honour do know right well how the people of this realm did live in order and under law. There was no spoiling of Churches, pulling down of Altars, and most blasphemous treading down of The Sacrament under their feet, and hanging up the knave of clubs in the place thereof. There was no knocking or cutting of the face and legs of the Crucifix, and of the image of Christ. There was no open flesh-eating or shambles-keeping in the Lent and days prohibited. The subjects of this realm, and especially such as were of the honourable council in Queen Mary's days, knew the way to Church or Chapel, and to begin their daily work by calling for help and grace by humble prayer. But now since the coming of our most sovereign and dear lady Queen Elizabeth, by the only preachers and scaffold-players of this new religion all things are changed and turned upside down. Obedience is gone, humility and meekness clean abolished, virtuous, chaste, and straight living abandoned."

" Her priests have despised my law and have defiled my sanctuaries. Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood and destroy souls."—EZEK. xxii. 26, 27.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Blessed THOMAS PLUMTREE, Priest, 1572



BORN in the Diocese of Lincoln, a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1546, he was made Rector of Stubton in his native county. He resigned his benefice on the change of religion under Elizabeth, and became a schoolmaster at Lincoln, but was obliged to resign the post on account of his faith. But it is as chief chaplain and priest of the army of the Northern Rising that he won the martyr's palm. His voice seems to have been like the Baptist's and to have stirred high and low alike. His call to abandon heresy and to rally to the standard of the faith ran through the northern counties, and hundreds came in response to his summons. He appears to have been celebrant of the Mass in Durham Cathedral immediately preceding F. Holmes' sermon and the public Absolution which followed. On his capture after the failure of the Rising, he was singled out as a notable example of the priests who had officiated. On the gibbet in the market-place at Durham 

he was offered his life if he would embrace heresy, but he refused, and dying to this world received eternal life from Christ. He suffered January 4 1572, and was buried in the market-place.

Wherein I labour even unto bands, but the word of God is not bound.—2 TIM. ii. 9.

Thursday, January 03, 2013



JOHN HOWMAN was born at Feckenham in Worcestershire, and is known by the name of his birthplace. As a Benedictine monk he became chaplain to Bishop Bonner, and was imprisoned in the reign of Edward VI for his defence of the Faith. Under Mary he became Dean of St. Paul's, and, later, Abbot of the restored Abbey of Westminster. In spite of its late dissolution, he received the Queen on- St.Thomas' Eve, December 20, 1556, with twenty-eight other monks, all men of mature age, the youngest being upwards of forty, and all pious and learned. Some three years later, when he met Elizabeth for the opening of her first Parliament at the Abbey door, he in his pontifical robes and his monks in procession with their lighted candles, the Queen cried out, " Away with these lights ! We see very well." The Litany was sung in English, and Dr. Cox, a married priest and bitter heretic, preached against the Catholic religion and the monks, and urged the Queen to destroy them- The Abbot then knew that his fate was sealed. On July 12, 1559, Feckenham and his monks were ejected for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy. He was imprisoned, and died at Wisbeach, 1585. His abbey was destroyed, but the stones live.

" Be ye also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God-"—1 PETER ii. 5.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Squire William BLUNDELL, 1600


THE time hath been men would live chaste, And so could maid that vows had past; The time is now that gift has gone, New gospellers such gifts have none.

Sweet Jesu, with thy mother mild, Sweet Virgin mother, with thy child ; Angels and Saints of each degree Redress our country's misery.

The time hath been that Saints could see, Could hear and help our misery ; The time is now that fiends alone Have leave to range—saints must be gone.

The time hath been fear made us quake To sin, lest God should us forsake ; The time is now the vilest knave Is sure (he'll say) God will him save.

The time hath been to fast and pray, And do alms deeds was thought the way ; The time is now, men say indeed, Such stuff with God hath little meed.

The time hath been, within this land, One's word as good as was his bond ; The time is now, all men may see, New faiths have killed old honesty.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Squire William BLUNDELL, 1600


THE time hath been we had one faith, And strode aright one ancient path ; The time is now that each man may See new Religions coin'd each day.

Sweet Jesu, with thy mother mild. Sweet Virgin mother, with thy child, Angels and Saints of each degree, Redress our country's misery.

The time hath been priests did accord In exposition of God's word; The time is now, like shipman's hose, It's turn'd by each fond preacher's glose.

The time hath been that sheep obeyed Their pastors, doing as they said ; The time is now that sheep will preach, And th' ancient pastors seem to teach.

The time hath been the prelate's door Was seldom shut against the poor; The time is now, so wives go fine, They take not thought the beggar kine.

The time hath been men did believe God's sacraments his grace did give ; The time is now men say they are Uncertain signs and tokens bare.

Crosby Hall, Lancashire, home of William Blundell

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saint RALPH SHERWIN, Priest, 1581


A NATIVE of Rodesby, Derbyshire, as a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, he was accounted as an acute philosopher and an excellent Greek and Hebrew scholar. But grace called him to yet higher distinction. He became a Catholic, entered the English College, Rome, (also here for more history) and returned a priest to England in August 1580. After some months' zealous work he was apprehended while preaching in Mr. Roscarrock's house, and imprisoned, first in the Marshalsea and then in the Tower. He was there nearly a year, and in divers conferences with ministers won the admiration of his audience. After his first racking he was set out in great snow, and Mr. Roscarrock was kept in a dark corner hard by to hear his pitiful groans. After his second racking he lay five days and nights without food and in silence. All this time he slept, as he thought, before our Saviour on the Cross, and on coming round found himself free from pain. Tortures unavailing, the Bishops of Canterbury and London offered him the second Bishopric in England if he would but go to St. Paul's Church. After B. Campion was executed, the hangman took hold of Sherwin with his hand all bloody to terrify him, but the martyr reverently kissed the martyr's blood, and then shed his own, December 1, 1581.

"When He shall give His beloved sleep."— Ps. cxxvi. 2.

Feast of Our Lady Vulnerata

The image of Our Lady Vulnerata (the Wounded One), is venerated at the Royal English College of St. Alban in Valladolid, Spain. Originally a beautiful medieval image of Our Lady and the Christ Child, it was horribly mutilated in 1596 by the swords of English soldiers during the 16th century persecution of the Catholic Church. Many of the English martyrs prayed in reparation before this image before returning to their hidden ministry and death in England. Today, the image continues to be venerated with great love, pity and devotion in a spirit of spiritual reparation for all insults to the Mother of God and her Divine Son, and for the courage of missionary evangelization.

The Feast Day is on the Sunday after today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

"She shall crush thy head" GEN iii. 15

Friday, December 07, 2012

Venerable JOHN ALMOND, Priest, 1612



AT the scaffold one of the preachers urged that the Catholic Church taught that good works justified faith. Almond answered that faith and good works justified together. The minister said that faith alone justified. He asked what faith an infant could have ere he had the use of reason ? The minister left that question and reason and talked of something else. On the scaffold, kneeling down, he humbly begged God's mercy, not doubting that, many as his sins were, Christ, by His death and the shedding of His blood, would remit and pardon, and that He would now accept his willingness to shed his blood for His greater glory. " What," said a minister, " can you match and compare Christ's bloodshedding with yours? Cannot Christ by Himself work your salvation?" "You mistake me," replied the martyr; "my sins, though venial, deserve Christ's wrath and punishment. It is His death alone, and the shedding of His blood alone, that is not only efficient but also sufficient to save us all. I have not much more to say, one hour overtaketh another, and though never so long at last cometh death, and yet not death, for death is the gate of life unto us, whereby we enter into life everlasting, and life is death to those who do not provide for death."

" Faith without works is death."—JAS. ii. 20.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


The Beginnings
The first official movement for the canonization of the 'great cloud of witnesses' (cf. Hebrews 12:1) who gave their lives in defence of the Catholic religion, from the time of the schism under Henry VIII (1534) until the end of the seventeenth century, began during the pontificate of Urban VIII (1623-44). In 1643, at the request of the English Benedictines in exile, the Pope appointed the Archbishop of Cambrai in northern France (in default of the existence of Catholic Bishops in England and Wales) to set up an official process to collect and examine the evidence for the cause, fact and constancy of martyrdom of all those who were known to have suffered for the faith up to that time. Unfortunately, all attempts to collect the evidence were thwarted by the English authorities and the task had to be postponed. All the time, however, the victims of the long drawn-out persecution continued to be regarded and venerated as true martyrs, abroad as well as in secret at home (cf. Bishop Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests, first published 1741-42, most recent edition 1924). When England's Catholic Hierarchy was at last restored in 1850, work on the cause of the martyrs began in earnest. The devotion and knowledge of men like Fr John Morris, Dom Bede Camm, Fr John H. Pollen and others, led to successive petitions to the Holy See by the restored English and Welsh Hierarchy, in 1859, 1866 and 1874, requesting the authorization of a process that would lead to the beatification and canonization of the martyrs. The necessary permission was eventually given, and a process was held at Westminster in 1874, to investigate the causes of 353 servants of God, to which another eight were later added. On examination of the evidence by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome, forty-three of these were almost immediately postponed on the ground that the proof of martyrdom was not sufficiently cogent, while the cause of the others was further investigated.

The 'Equipollents'
During the ensuing discussions in Rome (called the 'Apostolic Process') special attention was given to the frescoes painted in 1583 in the Venerable English College, Rome, which were patently inspired by the veneration contemporaneously paid to sixty-three martyrs who had suffered in England during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I up to that time (1535-1583): a devotion which had endured through the centuries to the extent that such veneration was judged by Pope Leo XIII to constitute a legitimate and immemorial cult. In accord with the legislation established by Urban VIII, such a confirmation of cult was the equivalent of papal approval of the fact of martyrdom;1 it resulted in the beatification of sixty-three martyrs (fifty-four on 29 December 1886, and nine more on 13 May 1895) equipollently or per viam cultus.

Two of those equipollently beatified in 1886, John Fisher and Thomas More, were perhaps the best known of all the martyrs of the Reformation because of their consistent mention in the history of the time as men of special eminence: the one a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, the other Lord Chancellor of England. After the beatifications of 1929, a massive petition from the Catholic Church in England and Wales persuaded Pius XI to authorize an exhaustive examination into the fact and cause of their martyrdom; the outcome was the canonization of these two martyrs on 19 May 1935.

Beatification of 136 Martyrs (1929)
In the light of numerous publications and intensive historical work in the first two decades of the present century, the Sacred

Congregation of Rites authorized Cardinal Francis Bourne, then Archbishop of Westminster, to resume the Apostolic Process (begun in Rome in 1880) on 15 June 1923. The process took six years to complete; and although 234 martyrs were finally cleared for formal beatification by the Promoter of the Faith (popularly known as the Devil's Advocate), only 136 were beatified. That left 116 martyrs, whose causes, the Apostolic Letter declared needed further study 'in order that their martyrdom might be more clearly manifested.'

The Canonization of Forty Martyrs (1970)
(Cf. The Canonization of the Forty English and Welsh Martyrs: Commemoration presented by the Postulators of the Cause (127 pp., with photographs of the Canonization Ceremony, Office of the Vic Postulation, London, 1971).
The outbreak of the Second World War, and the many difficulties experienced in giving fresh impetus to the historical study of the lives of the great number of the Blessed Martyrs, and stimulating devotion to them, caused a hiatus in the normal progress from beatification to canonization. Eventually the Hierarchy decide to petition the Holy See for the reassumption of the cause of small group of martyrs, according to specific criteria: firstly, the extent and quality of the devotion to certain beati amongst the whole group; and secondly, their representative nature with regard to place of origin, state in life, and so on. In 1960, the Holy See agreed that this group, when it was eventually draw up, should form one cause. From the historical point of view, was judged necessary to present documentary proof of martyrdom of those equipollently beatified (the first eleven of the forty This proved to be a very sizeable task: a fact confirmed by the publication in 1968, by the Historical Section of the newly established Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, of volume of more than four hundred pages.( Cause of the Canonization of the Blessed Martyrs John Houghton, etc Official Presentation of Documents on Martyrdom and Cult (xliii -379 pp. Vatican Polyglot Press, Rome, 1968).In addition to the historical research, the Holy See required proof of widespread devotion to the group of forty, and also the presentation of two authentic miraculous interventions through the martyrs' intercession. After preliminary enquiries into a great number of alleged cures, two cases were eventually selected on the advice of the medical panel of the Sacred Congregation. Special tribunals were set up in the dioceses where they took place, and the exhaustive examination of one of the cases proved positive: it was declared to be miraculous in the strict sense. By the gracious intervention of Pope Paul VI, further investigation into the second cure was dispensed with, and in May 1970 the Pope announced that the canonization of these martyrs would take place in St Peter's on Sunday, 25 October 1970.
Extensive section removed on ecumenical aspects
(The reality of their sanctity and their intercession in the heavenly courts could not be affected by ecumenical considerations, despite the reservations of the British Council of Churches which were waived on 17 December 1969 with the statement which can be judged for itself that all Christians share in “the martyr tradition as one in which all have shared and which all may draw strength”. Subsequent decisions by the Anglican Church have rendered the passage entirely redundant)

The Resumption of the Cause of Beatification of eighty-five Venerable Martyrs
(Since the rescript of St Pius X (26 August 1913), the title 'Venerable applies only to those servants of God whose virtue has been declared heroic, but are not yet beatified. Formerly, the title was conferred soon as the cause was formally introduced in Rome (the opening of Apostolic Process). It still applies to those whose causes were thus introduced before 1913, but who have not yet been beatified.)

When the cause of the Forty Martyrs was resumed, the Hierarchy simultaneously decided that the directive of the Holy See concerning these martyrs whose causes of beatification were postponed in 1929 should be implemented. This was especially opportune, seeing that the resumption of the cause of the forty was accompanied by a renewed interest in the whole field 'recusant history'. The first task was to discover whether contemporaneous documentation on the fact of martyrdom of the 116 martyrs who were not beatified in 1929 was still extant. It soon became clear that there was little hope of establishing sufficient evidence of martyrdom for ten Venerable martyrs who had suffered during the reign of Henry VIII; and gradually, as the research went forward, others had to be eliminated, either for a similar lack of documentary evidence, or because it became impossible to disentangle the true motive of martyrdom from the political involvement of the individuals concerned.

The documents concerning the cause, fact and constancy of the martyrdom of the Venerable George Haydock and his eighty-three companion martyrs, which were declared authentic by Cardinal Hume, the present Archbishop of Westminster, on September 1978, were received by the Historical Section of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the beginning of October. Those on Venerable George Douglas were added later (see p. 44). More accurate versions of the pertinent documents already submitted in the processes of 1874 and 1923-29 were provided, and many new documents added; whilst all likely sources in public and private archives and libraries at home and abroad— especially in Rome, Brussels, Madrid, and Valladolid—have been searched, in order to render the documentation as complete as possible.

The documentation submitted deals substantially with the martyrs' arrest, examination, trial, sentence and execution; and though official trial records are extant only in relatively few cases, equivalents have been discovered and presented. These are mainly contemporary or early accounts of martyrdom, establishing the charge on which the various martyrs were condemned, and also frequently recording the sentiments with which they received their sentence, their edifying words and courageous bearing in the scaffold.

Seventy-five of them were condemned under the statute of Elizabeth I passed in 1585, 'against Jesuits, seminary priests and such other like disobedient persons.' According to this law, Catholic priests returning to England after ordination abroad committed high treason by their very presence on English soil, whilst those who assisted them in any way were guilty of felony: the sentence in the first case was death by hanging, drawing and quartering; in the second by hanging only.

Of the ten remaining martyrs, Haydock the priest and Carter the layman were hanged, drawn and quartered for allege committing high treason under the ancient statute of 1352 (Edward III). A priest and six laymen were condemned for being reconciled or persuading others to be reconciled to the ancient Faith: acts declared to be treasonable under the Elizabeth statute of 1581. Finally the layman, John Bretton, was arraingned for allegedly uttering 'seditious words and rumours against Queen's Majesty': a felony punished by hanging.

All these eighty-five men, priests and laity, were regarded from the time of their death onwards by their fellow Catholics at home and abroad as martyrs for the Faith.
James Walsh, S.J.
Vice Postulator

Feast of St Edmund Campion and his fellow-martyrs, 1978

The Eight-Five were subsquently beatified on 22nd November 1987

Feast of All Martyrs of Oxford University

There are about 70 beatified or canonised Catholic martyrs associated with Oxford. Five of these were killed in Oxford and their stories are presented below. Out of the seventy, 4 were born in Oxford. Many of the martyrs studied at various colleges in Oxford:
St John's (8)
Trinity (7)
Brasenose (6)
Gloucester Hall [now Worcester] (5)
New College (4)
Exeter (3)
Oriel (3)
Corpus Christi (3)
Lincoln (2)
Hart Hall [now Hertford] (2)
St Mary Hall [now Oriel] (2)
Queen's (2)
Broadgates Hall [now Pembroke] (2)
Magdalen (2)
Christ Church (2)
Jesus (1)
St Edmund (1)
Balliol (1)
and Canterbury Hall [now Christ Church] (1)

Eight others are known to have studied in Oxford, but the exact colleges are unknown.

1. Bl Thomas Belson, layman; hanged 5 July 1589
The younger son of a well-known Catholic landowner of Buckinghamshire, Augustine Belson. Born in 1565 at Brill. His recusant father, when summoned to answer for his non-attendance at Anglican services, pleaded that he had no property to pay for fines although in the previous ten years he had defrayed the cost of sending Thomas to Exeter College, Oxford and Douai College, Rheims, to complete his education. Thomas returned to England in 1584. By June 1585 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London charged with 'conveying intelligence' for a Catholic priest, but he was released five months later on condition that he leave the country. Some time before 1589 Belson returned to Oxford, joining Fr George Nichols.

2. Bl George Nichols, Seminary priest; hanged, drawn and quartered 5 July 1589
A graduate of Brasenose College (1573), Nichols then taught at St Paul's School, London. After contacts with some Catholics in London, he was received into the Church. He went overseas, and enrolled at Douai College in 1581. Because he was known to be a pious, learned man already over thirty, he was ordained to the priesthood in September 1583, less than six months after his ordination to the diaconate. He studied for a further year at Rheims before returning on a mission to Oxford. The number of Catholics in Oxford was increasing rapidly. When a notorious highwayman, Robert Harcourt, expressed penitence, Nichols went in disguise to the prison garden on the morning appointed for Harcourt's execution and received him into the Church.

3. Bl Humphrey Pritchard, layman; hanged 5 July 1589
Humphrey Pritchard was a Welsh serving man who, by 1589, had been for twelve years in the employ of a Catholic widow, the proprietor of the Catherine Wheel Inn on St Giles', Oxford. The date and place of his birth are unknown, as is the name of the brave woman he served.

4. Bl Richard Yaxley, Seminary priest; hanged, drawn and quartered 5 July 1589 Yaxley was born in 1560 at Boston, Lincolnshire. He was enrolled at Rheims as a student on 29 August 1582 and ordained there in 1586, shortly before returning to England. He made his way to Oxford, stopping briefly at Denham to visit his college friend Bl Robert Dibdale, who was chaplain to a Catholic family until his own martyrdom at Tyburn in 1586.

Capture and martyrdomAll four men were apprehended at the Catherine Wheel Inn on St Giles', in Oxford (directly opposite the altar dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria in the north-east corner of St Mary Magdalen church), which is now part of Balliol College. Spies had reported it to be the headquarters of Catholic activity in Oxford. Their pursuers first searched a house at Stanton St John belonging to Henry Rooke, a known priest-harbourer. Finding nothing, they returned to Oxford and at midnight, battered on the door of the Inn on St Giles', demanding admittance. The servant Pritchard was arrested when he unbarred the door, so the innkeeper requested a few minutes to dress and used the time to warn Belson, Nichols and Yaxley.

As there was no way for them to leave without being seen, they faced the intruders and answered their questions without giving grounds for suspicion. Not satisfied, the spy insisted on a search, and vestments were found. It was assumed that at least one of them must be a priest, so all three were arrested. The mistress of the inn and her servant Pritchard were also placed under arrest. By that time, friends and neighbours had congregated and obstructed the searchers by destroying some of the evidence.

The next day the five captives were interrogated by Martin Heton, Vice-Chancellor of the University, with other officials, including Lillie, Master of Balliol College, and Willis, President of St John's College. Nichols and Yaxley refused to admit their priesthood, hoping to protect their lay helpers from a charge of harbouring. When this failed, Nichols admitted his priesthood to shield the younger priest Yaxley. The lay people were confined in Oxford Castle and the priests in the old Bocardo prison at the north gate, where they were visited by Anglican clergymen who sought to engage them in theological argument. They were later taken in irons to Christ Church where they were questioned about other Catholics. When all refused to answer, the woman was bailed and the men were sent bound to London.
Pritchard was badly injured when his horse threw him, but the escort merely laughed and forced him to ride on. People living along the route came to see 'the monsters' they had been told to expect, but were amazed by their gentleness. A Magdalen postgraduate, Ellis, was so impressed by the cheerful behaviour of the prisoners that he rode beside them all the way to London. For this, and to prevent him from reporting the escort's cruelty, he was declared insane and committed to a madhouse for the rest of his life, even though many people confirmed that he was in his right mind.

Accused of being a traitor by the Privy Council, Nichols responded, 'I am here to teach the law of God, not to seduce people from their allegiance to the Queen.' He admitted his priesthood before the Council; Yaxley and Belson said only that they were gentlemen. The priests were then tortured in the Bridewell, being suspended from their hands for fifteen hours. During that time, they were identified as priests by two apostate priests.

To terrify Catholics and their sympathisers, the Council decided that the four men should be tried and executed in Oxford. They were transferred there by Sir Francis Knollys. On his arrival, Knollys summoned the innkeeper of the St Catherine's Wheel to answer her bail. She asked to be tried with the men, but he refused. Instead he confiscated all her property and sent her to prison for life. A carefully selected jury of convinced Protestants found the accused men guilty of treason. A scaffold was erected in the Town Ditch, where Broad Street now runs. On 5 July, Belson and Pritchard walked to it, but the two priests were dragged through the crowded streets tied to horse-drawn hurdles.

Fr Nichols was the first to be hanged, and was not allowed to speak. Silently he made the sign of the cross, mounted the ladder, raising the rope to his lips at each step and blessing it. Fr Yaxley, whose youth, good looks and noble bearing deeply moved the onlookers, did the same, kissed his friend's corpse and asked for his prayers. Belson followed, and lovingly clasped the two bodies before the ladder was taken away from under him.

Finally Pritchard mounted the scaffold and addressed the crowd, 'I beg all the people here present to bear witness, in this world and on the Day of Judgement, that I die because I am a Catholic, that is, a faithful Christian of Holy Church'. An Anglican minister exclaimed, 'Poor wretch, you say you die a Catholic, though in your ignorance you do not know what a Catholic means.' Pritchard replied, 'Though I may not be able to tell you in words what it means to be a Catholic, God knows my heart, and he knows that I believe all that the Holy Roman Church believes, and that which I am unable to explain in words I am here to explain and attest with my blood.'

When all four were dead, the priests' limbs were hacked off and exposed on the castle walls, where they were further mutilated with knives before being fixed to the town gates.

5. Bl George Napper, Seminary priest; hanged, drawn and quartered 9 November, 1610 Napper (or Napier) was born at Holywell Manor (now an annexe of Balliol College), Oxford in 1550, to Edward Napper (a Fellow of All Souls' College) and Anne Peto, the niece of William, Cardinal Peto. He entered Corpus Christi College in 1566, but was ejected in 1568 as a Catholic recusant. He visited Douai College eleven years later, but by December 1580 he had been arrested and imprisoned at Wood Street Counter, London. He was released in June 1589 when he acknowledged the Royal Supremacy. Napper entered Douai College in 1596, was ordained, and sent on a mission in 1603. On his return he lived for a time with his brother William at Holywell.

Early on the morning of 19 July 1610, he was arrested at Kirtlington, and a small reliquary and a pyx containing two unconsecrated altar breads were found on him. Napper was brought before Sir Francis Eure at Upper Heyford and searched thoroughly, and this further yielded a breviary, holy oils and a needle case. The possession of oils was held to be conclusive of his priesthood and he was condemned, but reprieved. Held at Oxford Castle, he reconciled a fellow prisoner named Falkner, and this was held to aggravate his crime. As he refused the Oath of Allegiance, he was condemned to death.

On 9 November, he celebrated Mass in the morning, and between one and two in the afternoon, he was hanged, drawn and quartered. His head was placed on the Tom Gateway at Christ Church, and his quarters on the four city gates. Some of the remains were removed secretly by his brother and buried in the chapel (later the barn) of Sanford Manor.

Some of the other martyrs associated with Oxford are:

Bl John Forest, priest, Franciscan o{ Greet avich Observant Friary. Studied at Greyfriars, Oxford.
Confessor to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Burned to death at Smithfield, London, 22 May 1538.

Bl Adrian Fortescue, layman, lay Dominica::. From Stonor Park, Oxford. Condemned by Bill of Attainder, untried. Beheaded at Tower Hill, London, 9 July 1539.
St Edmund Campion, priest, Jesuit. Born in London. Educated at Bluecoat School; scholar and fellow of St John's College, Oxford. After conversion, studied at Douai. Admitted to Society of Jesus at Rome in 1573. Ordained priest at Prague, 1578. Worked on the English mission June 1580-August 1581. Condemned for the fictitious plot at Rome, Rheims and elsewhere. Hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, London, I December 1581.

Bl Thomas Pilcher, seminary priest. Born at Battle, Sussex. Studied at Balliol College. Converted, and studied at Rheims. Ordained priest at Laon m 1583. Worked on the mission in Hampshire and Dorset, 1583. Condemned for priesthood. Han/ed, drawn and quartered (aged 30) at Dorchester, 21 March 1587. No executioner could be found, so a butcher was persuaded to disembowel him, but stopped halfway, alarmed. The martyr (still conscious) asked gently, 'Is this your justice?'

Bl Stephen Rowsham (alias Rouse), seminary priest. Born in Oxfordshire. Studied at Oriel College, Oxford. Vicar of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. L.onverted, and studied at Rheims. Ordained priest in 1582 at Soissons. Imprisoned soon after his return to England and banished; returned, and arrested again. Condemned for priesthood. Hanged, draw., and quartered at Gloucester, March 1587.

Bl Robert Sutton, seminary priest. Born at Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Educated at Burton Grammar School and Christ Church College. Anglican minister of Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Apologised to his parishioners for having misled them for over five years, and declared his intention of becoming a Catholic. Converted, and studied at Douai and was ordained there in 1578. Worked on the mission in Staffordshire for nine years. Condemned for priesthood. Hanged, drawn and quartered at Stafford, 27 July 1588.

Bl William Davies, seminary priest. Born at Croes-yn-Eirias, Denbighshire. Studied at St Edmund Hall and Rheims, where he was ordained priest in 1585. Worked on the mission in North Wales. Condemned for priesthood. Compelled to attend Evensong during which he recited Vespers loudly and protested to the crowd that he 'would rather die than take part in an heretical service.' Hanged, drawn and quartered at Beaumaris, Anglesey, 27 July 1593.

Bl John Sugar {alias Cox), seminary priest. Born at Wombourne, near Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. Educated at St Mary Hall, Oxford. Left without taking the degree, not wishing to take the Oath of Supremacy. Convert Anglican minister of Cannock. Studied at Douai, where he was ordained priest in 1601. Worked on the mission in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. Condemned for priesthood. Hanged, drawn and quartered at Warwick, 16 July 1604. On the scaffold, he reminded an attendant Anglican minister that the Catholic Faith was ancient but 'the new religion crept into the country in the time of Henry VIII'.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

+ Saint CUTHBERT MAYNE Priest, 1577



WHEN Protestant chaplain at St. John's College, Oxford, he was nearly arrested on account of an intercepted letter from Douay urging him to go there. After an interval of three years he arrived there in 1573, and in 1576 was welcomed as a priest in Mr. Tregian's house in Cornwall, where he passed as his steward. On June 8, 1577, High Sheriff Greville surrounded the house with some hundred men, and in seizing the martyr struck his hand against something hard, and asked him if he wore a coat of mail. On tearing open his clothes an Agnus Dei was discovered hanging from his neck in a case of silver and crystal. In his indictment the fourth article charged him with having brought into the Kingdom a vain and superstitious thing called an Agnus Dei, blessed, as they say, by the Bishop of Rome, and having delivered the same to Mr. Francis Tregian. There was no proof in support of any of the charges against him, but he was nevertheless sentenced to death. After five months' imprisonment amongst the lowest criminals, he suffered at Launceston, November 29, 1577. On the eve of his execution a bright light filled his cell, as a harbinger of the Proto-martyr of Douay on receiving his crown.

"The first fruits to God and the Lamb."— Apoc. xiv. 4.

Shrine in Lauceston

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blessed James Thomson, Priest, 1582


BORN in or near York, he was a devout Catholic, and was deprived of a pension which he had, owing to his fidelity to the old religion. With the desire of consecrating his life to God he went over to Rheims in the summer of 1580, but fell so ill that his life was despaired of. He, however, begged Dr. Allen to allow him to be ordained without delay, as he believed God intended to empfoy him on the English Mission. A dispensation was therefore obtained from Rome, and he received all the Sacred Orders within twelve days, in May 1581, though he was so ill that he could scarcely stand. He regained sufficient strength to proceed to England, but was arrested in the city of York, August 11, 1582, after scarcely a year's apostolate. He confessed that he was a priest, and refused the oath of Supremacy or to fight against the Pope. He was led to the Castle prison in double irons on November 25, was tried and condemned, and on November 28 suffered at York Tyburn. In her visits to his grave and that of the other martyrs under the gallows, Margaret Clitheroe found strength for her own passion.

"And she rendered to the just the wages of their labours and conducted them in a wonderful way, and was to them" for a covert by day and for the light of the stars by night."— WISDOM x. 17.

Popular Posts