Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More Franciscan Martyrs of the Recusant And Popish Plot Era

The blesseds honored on the Franciscan calendar today are:

Blessed Arthur (Francis) Bell (1590 – 1643): Arthur Bell was born at Temple Broughton in Worcestershire on 13th August 1590 and brought up in a Catholic family. After beginning his education at his mother Dorothy's knee, he was sent for its continuation to his maternal uncle, a gentleman in Suffolk. At the age of 24 he went to Saint Omer to study with the Jesuits who then sent him on to Valladolid in Spain. There he was ordained a priest on 14th April 1618.
He discovered the Franciscans through a friend from Oxford who had joined the friars. Inspired by his life of penitence and simplicity, Arthur sought entry to the Franciscans and on 9th August 1618 was vested with the Franciscan habit, given the name Francis and sent to the newly erected College of St. Bonaventure in Douai to join his compatriots. There he became Guardian and later a Provincial Definitor. In 1632 he became Minister Provincial and attended the Toledo General Chapter in 1633, where the German and Belgian Provinces, including the newly restored Province of England, passed the strict General Constitutions that would govern them until the late 19th Century.
He returned to England in 1634 and spent nine years working to consolidate the presence of the friars and sustain the faith of his fellow Catholics. He was captured on 7th November 1643 in Hertford. He was tried before Parliament in a trial that lasted from 22nd November to the 8th December. Condemned, he was imprisoned in Newgate prison from where he was taken for execution at Tyburn just three days later. The serenity with which Arthur faced his death convinced his executioner to abjure his Anglicanism and reconcile to the Catholic Church.
Arthur Bell was beatified along with 129 other martyrs of England and Wales on 22nd November 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Blessed John (Martin) Woodcock (1603 – 1646): John Woodcock was born to a “Church Papist” Anglican Father in 1603 at Woodcock Hall in Lancashire. He was sent to Saint Omer to study with the Jesuits there and after finishing his humanities studies he was sent to Rome to complete his theological formation. There he no doubt met the Irish Franciscans who took over at the College of St. Isidore in the same year. He asked to enter the Capuchins but was dismissed from their novitiate after a few months, perhaps because of precarious health. He wandered around Europe aimlessly for three years until he arrived in Douai. There his desire to be a Franciscan was realised when he entered the novitiate of the Friars Minor in 1631. He was given the name Martin of St. Felix and made great progress both in his studies and in sanctity. He was ordained a priest just four years later in 1635. he went to England on the mission but, after a few years, was forced to return on account of his ill health.
His medics sent him to the baths at Spa to recuperate and he there met the Observant General Commissary. He begged permission to return to England where his co-religionists were suffering renewed persecution in the Puritan-led Commonwealth. The Commissary gave him permission and John set out, landing in Newcastle in 1644. He went to his paternal home, but his father, scared for the safety of his son since many would have known that he had spent years abroad and studied for the priesthood, sent him away. The soldiers of the local garrison had, however, already been informed of his arrival and he was arrested immediately and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle, where he lived for two years. He was martyred on 7th August 1646, hanged at Bomber-Bridge while he exhorted the crowd to understand why he had been condemned. John Woodcock was beatified along with 129 other martyrs of England and Wales on 22nd November 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Blessed Charles Meehan-Mahoney (1639 – 1679): Charles was born in Ireland between 1639 and 1640. It is not known when he joined the Irish Province but, like several other Irish friars of the time, he completed his formation with the English friars in their college at Douai. In 1679 he was aboard a ship bound for Ireland which was forced to put into port in Wales. He came ashore at precisely the wrong time, since England and Wales were engulfed in the anti-Catholic hysteria aroused by Titus Oates's invented Papist Plot. Charles searched for a passage to Ireland, but, suspected of being a Catholic and a priest, he was arrested and in June 1678, imprisoned in Denbigh gaol. He was tried in Spring 1679 and was condemned to be killed at Ruthin. The sentence was carried out on 12th August. He died saying: “Since God has pleased to give me the grace of martyrdom, blessed be his Holy Name.”
Charles Meehan was beatified along with 129 other martyrs of England and Wales on 22nd November 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

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