Yesterday was the memorial of St. John Southworth, executed on June 28, 1654. The sergeant wept at his trial, regretting his condemnation. Before he died (being hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn Tree), he told the people, “Good people, I was born in Lancashire. My faith is my crime; hither was I sent to preach Christ’s faith.”
Born in Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire in 1592, Southworth was raised in a Catholic family who paid the recusancy fines rather than attend Church of England services. He attended the Catholic college at Douai and was ordained a priest and returned in England in 1619. From 1627 to 1640 he was in and out of prisons in Lancashire and in London. In 1630, however, he was exiled through the efforts of Queen Henrietta Maria, who arranged his custody with the Ambassador of France--but he returned to England with St. Henry Morse, SJ, serving the 1636 plague victims.
Arrested again in 1640 he was held in prison for 14 years until his execution was ordered during the Commonwealth Interregnum. At his execution he was hung until dead--then quartered and beheaded. The Spanish ambassador smuggled his (re-assembled) body out of England. After exile on the Continent until the French Revolution attacked the Church and monasteries his body was brought back to England to Westminster parish and eventually placed in Westminster Cathedral in the Chapel of St. George and the English Martyrs. He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. According to this story, his relics have been on display in the nave of the cathedral since last Monday in anticipation of the commemoration of his execution--on June 27 since St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr already has dibs on the June 28! More from The Catholic Herald here.