Wednesday, 4 May 2011


It is happening across England and Wales and the Bishops, with one exception, sit on their hands and do nothing. Traditional vestments are disposed of, altars are replaced with tables, Catholic books burnt, the Bishops are described by a leading politician as "a weak clergy lacking in grace." The laity, for the most part, has caved in and accepted a replacement "Protestantised Mass" in the vernacular.

Welcome to England and Wales in the year of Our Lord, 1535 (it could have been 1969 for that matter). The only exception was that in 1535 those who refused to adopt the Sunday Service in English were either fined or brutally butchered for their beliefs. In 1969 they were just isolated and abused.
"Sweet Jesu, what will you do with my heart?"

It was St Thomas More (then already imprisoned in the Tower of London) who, earlier,  made the comment about a weak clergy lacking in grace and it was the great Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher who also stood up for his beliefs and paid the ultimate price.

The harvest of Catholic martyrs was an abundant one in 1535 and it bloomed with the stand taken by Abbot Houghton and his three fellow priests.

On May 4, 1535 the authorities sent to their death at Tyburn, London three leading English Carthusians, John Houghton, prior of the London house, Robert Lawrence and Augustine Webster, respectively priors of Beauvale and Axholme, along with a Bridgettine monk, Richard Reynolds of Syon Abbey in Isleworth.
More Carthusians were to follow a month later and more yet after that but the Abbot was in the forefront. It was, when one considers it, a pathetically small number of priests and one Bishop who stayed in place and faced up to a dissolute and degenerate King.
Out of all the clergy of England and Wales, probably less than 100 stood up to be counted. (I am excluding the Jesuit priests who returned to England and Wales on the Mission).

On May 4th the three Carthusians and the Bridgettine, St Richard Reynolds were taken from the Tower and crudely tied to hurdles drawn by horses. Their heads were positioned under the horse's tails so that they received faeces from the animals directly. The streets of London were ankle deep in human and animal ordure and the state of these holy men when they arrived at Tyburn can only be imagined.

St Thomas More spied them being transferred to Tyburn from his cell window and remarked to his daughter:

"Look, Meg," he said, "these blessed Fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage!"

Abbot John was the first to be executed and was swiftly cut down from the gallows whilst still conscious. As his body was being slit open he exclaimed: "Sweet Jesu, what will you do with my heart?" A most moving exclamation.
Finally, his body was hacked into portions which were then distributed around the pikes and high places of London as an example to all.

More and Fisher were to follow these brave men to their execution a matter of eight or so weeks later.



  1. Amen!

    A magnificent post about magnificent martyrs. Thank you.

    And thank God for them!

  2. I always think too, of the unsung martyrs,such as those at Walsingham,the sub-prior and I believe eleven others who rebelled at the ransacking of the monasteries.Executed outside the walls of the priory.

  3. The English liturgy and the despoliation of altars didn't come until 1549, during the infelicitous reign of Edward VI. All Henry VIII did was strike out the name of the Pope in the Canon of the Mass.

    Interesting quote about the clergy though.

  4. Foshoucha - many thanks for your comment and I understand your meaning but the monastery churches were ransacked from 1535 onwards. According to Cobbett's History of the Protestant Reformation of those years he writes:
    "The ruffians of Cromwell entered the convents, they tore down the altars to get away the gold and the silver, ransacked the chests and drawers of the monks and nuns, tore off the covers of books...whole libraries were scattered abroad..."
    But I have used a little licence when it comes to the tables and the liturgy!

  5. So, why the vernacular Mass? Will this vernacular Mass ever raise saints? Or is it a given that all the future saints will come from those who go - or try their best - to attend the Latin Mass? There is no denying the validity of VCII. But whatever the future holds, may God provides abundant and sufficient graces to those who will be invited to join the Hall of Martyrs for the Faith.

  6. When I read the first paragraph I thought this was happening now in 2011.

  7. Lena - it is in Great Britain! Although those being martyred today have their good name killed rather than their actual self.

  8. What would have history have recorded had all the people, the laymen, stood up to the English brutality? We can only imagine! Or in 1969, if our laymen had stood up...Patricia, St. Louis, MO

  9. Patricia....we would have not had the inspiration of many martyrs!
    God bless.