Monday, 6 October 2014

'Martyrs to the Catholic Faith' by Bishop Challoner


Extract from ‘Martyrs to the Catholic Faith’, Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholics of both Sexes’ by Bishop Challoner V.A.L. (first published in 1741)
 
 
 
                                                             Bishop Richard Challoner
 
         ‘Our memoirs of the sufferings of our English Catholics begin with the year 1577, the nineteenth of Queen Elizabeth; because from this year  may properly date the beginning of the great persecution, but little blood having been shed by her before, at least for matters purely religious. 
         
          And it is very remarkable that this same year, a few months before the execution of the proto-martyr of the seminaries, Mr Cuthbert Maine, God Almighty seems to have warned the nation against this spirit of persecution, by a judgment (for I can call it nothing else) which can scarce be paralleled in all history; and as to the substance of the matter of fact, is attested by all kinds of records, and acknowledged by Protestants as well as Catholics.

           This was in the case of the memorable trial of Roland Jenks, a Catholic bookseller in Oxford, who, for speaking some words against the Queen’s religion, was condemned, in the Assizes held at Oxford in July 1577, to have his ears nailed to the pillory, and to deliver himself by cutting them off with his own hands.  Which sentence was no sooner passed, when immediately upon the spot, a strange mortal distemper, the like of which, as to symptoms, has never been heard of before or since, seized upon the judges, justices on the bench, sheriffs, jurymen, and hundreds of others that were present at the trial, and carried them off in a very short time. Let us hear Mr Wood, the Protestant historian of the University of Oxford, in his account of this history, in his ‘Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis'.

His words translated from the Latin, are as follows:-
           

          ‘It was ordered therefore, in the convocation held on 1st of May 1577, that the criminal Roland Jenks, should immediately be apprehended, and being put into irons, should be sent up in order to be examined before the Chancellor of the University and the Queen’s Council. In the meantime, all his goods are seized, and in his house are found bulls of Popes and libels reflecting upon her Majesty.
          He was examined at London, in presence of the persons aforesaid, and then was sent back to Oxford, there to be kept in prison until the next assizes, which began on the 4th of July, in the Old Hall in the Castle Yard, and lasted for two days.
          ‘He was brought to the bar, and was arraigned for high crimes and misdemeanours; and being found guilty, was condemned by a sentence in some manner
capital; for he was to lose his ears. 
          At which time (though my soul dreads almost to relate it), so sudden a plague invaded the men that were present (the great crowd of people, the violent heat of the summer, and the stench of the prisoners all conspiring together, and perhaps also a poisonous exhalation breaking suddenly at the same time out of the earth), that you might say Death itself sat on the Bench, and, by her definitive sentence, put an end to all the causes. For great numbers immediately died in the spot; others, struck with death, hastened out of the Court as fast as they could, to die within a very few hours. 
       

          It may not be amiss to set down the names of the persons of greatest note who were seized by that plague, and breathed out their souls. These were Sir Robert Bell, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and Nicholas Barham, sergeant-at-law, both great enemies of the Popish religion; which perhaps the Romanists will lay hold on as an argument for their cause; but I desire them to remember not to search too narrowly into the secret judgments of God, when we are at a loss to account even for those things which the Almighty has revealed in Holy Writ. 
          To the above named must be added Sir Robert Doyley, the High Sheriff of Oxford, Mr Hart his deputy; Sir William Babington; Messieurs Doyley, Wenman, Danvers, Fettyplace, and Harcourt, Justices of the Peace; Kirley, Greenwood, Nash, and Foster, gentlemen: to whom are to be joined, to say nothing of others, almost all the jurymen, who died within two days.’
         

          He adds out of the register of Merton College, the following account of the symptoms of this strange disease:-
         

          ‘Some getting out of bed (agitated with I know not what fury from their distemper and pain), beat and drive from them their keepers with sticks; others run about the yards and streets like madmen; others jump head foremost into deep waters.  The sick labour with a most violent pain, both of the head and stomach; they are taken
with a phrenzy; are deprived of their understanding, memory, sight, hearing, and other senses. As the disease increases, they take nothing; they get no sleep; they suffer none to tend or keep them; they are always wonderfully strong and robust, even in death itself. No complexion or constitution is spared, but the choleric are more
particularly attacked by this evil, of which the physicians can neither find the cause nor cure. The stronger the person is, the sooner he dies. Women are not seized by it, nor the poor, neither does any one catch it that takes care of the sick or visits them.  But as this disease was strangely violent, so it was but of a short continuance; for within a month it was over.’
               


                                       Oxford Castle and Prison in 15th century.

The substance of this history may be found also in Sir Richard Baker’s ‘Chronicle’, and in Fuller’s ‘Church History’, as well as reports by Catholic writers.  Ypez, Bishop of Taracona, in his ‘Spanish History of the Persecution’ relates similar examples of like judgements upon the persecutors.
              

           Mr Jenks himself survived his punishment many years, for I find by the same diary he was at Rheims in 1587. But neither this remarkable warning, nor any other ensuing judgements, hindered the unhappy politicians of those days from beginning and carrying on the intended tragedy, which afforded the nation so many scenes of blood for the remaining years of that long reign; and all for fear lest ‘the Romans should come and take away their place and nation’.                                                    
                                                       ****************


                                  
                                                           Queen Elizabeth (c.1575)

It seems appropriate to remind ourselves of just a few of those many Catholic martyrs who gave their lives for their faith. These mentioned were all executed in early October, 1588, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, at different locations throughout England.  Although occurring over four hundred and twenty years ago, reading of these events has the curious effect of minimising the time scale to the extent that we could be reading of contemporary events. Human nature does not change, only the scenario.

Further extracts from ‘Martyrs to the Catholic Faith’ by Bishop Challoner  V.A.L.
 
         ‘Ralph Crokett was born at Barton-upon-the-Hill, in Cheshire, performed his studies at Rheims, and was an aluminus and Priest of the College then residing in that city, from whence he was sent upon the English mission in 1585. The particulars of his missionary labours, or of his apprehension and trial, I have not found, only that he was prosecuted and condemned upon the penal statute of 27th Elizabeth, and had sentence to die as in cases of high treason, barely upon account of his priestly character and functions. He was drawn, hanged, bowelled, and quartered at Chichester, October 1, 1588.'
           

           'Edward James was born at Braiston, in Derbyshire, and was for some time student in the college of Rheims, from whence he was sent to Rome, 1588.  Here he was made priest, and from hence he was sent upon the English mission. He was apprehended, prosecuted, and condemned, barely upon account of his priestly
character, and was hanged, bowelled, and quartered on the same day and at the same place with Mr Crokett.'
          
          Their quarters were set upon poles over the gates of the city, through one of which a Catholic man passing early in the morning, found one of these quarters which had fallen down, which, by the size, was judged to be Mr Crockett’s (he having been a tall man, whereas Mr James was of low stature). This quarter was carried off
and sent over to Douay, where I have seen it.’
                                                                                                   
           Mr Robinson was born at Fernsby, in the North Riding of Yorkshire.  His character in  Dr Champney, is that he was a man of extraordinary Christian simplicity and sincerity; in a word, a true Israelite, in whom there was no guile. After having lived some time in the world in a married state, becoming a widower by the death of his wife, he went over to Rheims, where the College then was; and thereto applying himself to his studies, was at length made priest, and sent upon the mission.
              He no sooner came to England than he was apprehended in the very port, and sent up to London, where, after some months imprisonment, he was brought to the bar, and condemned to die upon account of his priestly character.  Dr Champney relates of him that he was used to say that if he could not dispute for his faith as well as some others, he could die for it as well as the best. 
            He was sent down to suffer at Ipswich in Suffolk, where he was hanged, bowelled, and quartered, October 1, 1588.
          

           Concerning him thus writes the Rev Mr Haynes:-  ‘Mr John Robinson, a secular priest, being in the year 1588 prisoner in the Clink at London, when the rest that had been there prisoners with him (whom he called his bairns, and they, for his age and sincerity, called him father) were for the Catholic faith sent into divers parts of the kingdom to be executed, the good old man, being left alone, lamented for divers days together exceedingly, until at last a warrant was sent from the Council to execute him also;  the news whereof did much revive him and to him that brought the warrant he gave his purse and all his money, and fell down on his knees and gave God thanks. 
            Being to set forward in his journey, they willed him to put on boots, for it was in winter, and as far as Ipswich in Suffolk where he was to suffer.  ‘Nay’, said the good man, ‘these legs had never boot on yet since they were mine, and now surely they shall perform this journey without boots, for they shall be well paid for their pains.’ 
          He left behind him a son, Francis Robinson, who was also a priest, and a true heir of his father’s virtue.
       
                                             ***********


                                        ......to be hanged, bowelled, and quartered

The next that occur in the catalogues of those that suffered this year, 1588, are Mr Hartley and Mr Weldon, of whom Mr Stow in his Chronicle writes thus:- ‘The 5th October, J Weldon and W Hartley, made priests at Paris, and remaining here contrary to the Statute, were hanged, the one at the Mile’s End, the other nigh the theatre; and Robert Sutton, for being reconciled to the See of Rome, was hanged at Clerkenwell.’
           

          William Hartley was born in the diocese of Lichfield, performed his higher studies in the College of Rheims, from whence he was sent priest upon the English mission, anno 1580.  Mr Stow says he was ordained at Paris, which may very well be, for the superiors at the College had an indult from the Pope to present their alumni for holy-orders to any of the bishops of the province of Rheims or Sens, one of which the Bishop of Paris was at that time.
          Mr Hartley had not laboured above a twelvemonth in the vineyard of his Lord before he was apprehended in the house of the Lady Stonor, and carried prisoner to the Tower, the 13th August 1581, together with Mr John Stonor and Mr Steven Brinkley, lay gentlemen. Here he was confined till September 16, 1582, and then was translated from the Tower to another prison, where he remained till January 1585, when with about twenty other priests, he was shipped off into banishment.
          Upon this occasion he returned to Rheims to the College; but after some short stay there, set out again for England, being more afraid of being wanting to the cause of God and the salvation of souls than of a cruel death, which he was certain to look for if he fell again, as most probably he would, into the hands of the persecutors. In effect, he was again apprehended some time in or before the year 1588, and then brought upon his trial, and condemned to die upon account of his priestly character. 
          He was executed near the theatre, October 5, 1588, his mother looking on, as Raissius relates, and rejoicing exceedingly that she had brought forth a son to glorify God by such a death.
          

          On the same day John Weldon, priest of the College of Douay, according to Champney and Molanus, condemned for the same cause, was drawn to Mile’s End Green, and there executed.          
         
          About the same time, some say the same day, Richard Williams, a venerable priest who had been ordained in England before the change of religion, was also for religious matters hanged at Holloway, near London.
          

          Robert Sutton, layman, suffered on the same day at Clerkenwell. The cause of his death was purely his religion, viz. because he had been reconciled to the Church of Rome. His life was offered him at the gallows if he would acknowledge the Queen’s ecclesiastical supremacy, as I learn from the copy of a letter which I have in my hands, written by Mr William Naylor, who was an eye-witness of his death. ‘I saw’ says he, ‘one Mr Sutton, a layman and a schoolmaster, put to death at Clerkenwell
in London, to whom the Sheriff promised to procure his pardon if he would but pronounce absolutely the word all; for he would that he should acknowledge the Queen to be supreme head in all causes without any restriction; but he, ‘Mr Sutton’ would acknowledge her to be supreme head only in all causes temporal; and for that he would not pronounce the word all without any restriction, he was executed. This I heard and saw.’
 
Ack. ‘Martyrs to the Catholic Faith’ by Bishop Challoner V.A.L.

 

               Execution of Fr Garnett S.J.(1606) at St Paul's, London.

‘Holy English Martyrs pray for us, and for the conversion of England’

'Holy Mary, Seat of Wisdom, guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Francis.'


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